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Thursday, December 17, 2015

5 Ways to Attract Prospective Students through Social Media

You believe in your school -- that’s why you work there. You just wish that you could get prospective students to see what you see. That’s where social media comes in. You get to entertain them, engage them on their turf and paint the picture for the school that you know and love. These five best practices will help prospective students see what you see.

1) Know Your Audience

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 5.47.38 PM.pngYou’re reaching people, not robots. These people have real stories and they’re going to be more attracted to their interests, not yours. This will take some thorough research from your school’s admissions history. Where are your students from? What are the most popular majors? What sorts of things do they like to do? Why did they choose your university? Once you’ve established some key characteristics, create a few prospective student personas -- these are profiles designed to help you put a face to the students you’re trying to reach. Take some time to read up on social media habits of your target audience. This will help you gear where to place your content. According to the Pew Research article “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015”, your best bet is to use Facebook or Instagram to reach your prospective students.

2) Make Content Purposeful

It’s gotta be fun, of course. But if there isn’t a purpose to it, why post it? According to US News and World Report, the biggest reasons why prospective students land on a college is for reputation, job prospects upon graduation and financial feasibility.

Harvard Insta Purpose.png
Harvard Engaging Students via Instagram
So don’t just post fluff. Teens can go anywhere online for that. But they’re going to follow or engage with you because you can create content with a purpose without sacrificing entertainment. How can you do this? By using something timely like Harvard did during Thanksgiving, they’re able to remain playful but are also able to share a unique aspect of their culture.


3) Engage Prospective Students

UMich Insta Engage.png
University of Michigan kids Cheer!
Social media is a perfect medium for entertaining, so if you’re not already doing that, then you need to start. This is especially true if you’re a smaller school. Entertaining social media posts can help get your school recognized and get your name out there. First impressions are key, and entertaining a prospective student is the first step. It helps to build rapport and trust. Here’s a great example from University of Michigan’s Instagram: Who wouldn’t want to go to your school with cute kids cheering for you?

4) Make Your Social Media Relevant

Harvard uses Social Media to Engage Students
"The World According to Star Wars" on Harvard's Facebook Page 
Teens are always online. According to Pew Research Center, 92% of teens go online daily, 24% of whom describe themselves as “constantly online”. That’s a lot of time and opportunity to come across your school! The only problem is that there’s so much to look at, and teens are easily swayed. They need to be convinced that whatever they’re looking at is relevant to their lives right now. So you’ve got to be creative. Harvard knows it’s audience and they can have a little fun. When prospective students see Star Wars characters in the classroom, you’ve got their attention. Check out another great example from Harvard’s Facebook:

5) Highlight Real People Doing Big Things

UPenn FB People.pngProspective students have big dreams. Sure, culture tells them to go to college so they can get a good job and become successful -- the American dream. But entrepreneurship and research are on the rise and college students are leading the charge. The best way to sell your school is to show your prospective students what they could become and what they could accomplish. Everyone can connect with a story. When stories are told about current students and/or alumni doing big things in the world, prospective students start dreaming.

So you can sell them on the nuts and bolts of your school all day long, which is important, but if they don’t see the big picture, they’re not going to be convinced.
This post from the University of Pennsylvania’s Facebook is a great example:

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