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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

7 Ways to Engage Current Students through Social Media

Once you’ve gotten students to your university, you may think you’re in the clear. However, 1 in 3 students choose to transfer at least once during their time in college, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That means you need to be active in the process of making your students proud to be there.

In addition, if you don’t engage your current students, you could be missing your greatest opportunity to bring in prospective students. Peers still play a big role in the college decision process, according to research by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. So you’re not just increasing loyalty of your current students, but you could be creating a new trend among their younger friends.

With tactical social media content and strong loyalty from current students, you could even draw the 1 in 3 students that choose to transfer from another university! (For more ways to reach prospective students, check out “5 Ways to Attract Prospective Students through Social Media”).

Here are 7 ways to engage your current students:  

1. Share Interesting News
In the digital age, there is so much vying for your current students’ attention. The good news is that they’ll want to read your stuff because you are a trusted source -- these students already have a vested interest in what’s new at your school.

So how do you rise to the top? The same way that journalists do -- by using news values. It’s what makes your content interesting. It should contain elements of the Impact, Timeliness, Prominence, Proximity, Oddity, Human Interest and/or Conflict.

Like it or not, social media is a type of journalism. However, now you are the gatekeeper of the information that is shared. But your students aren’t going to read your posts if they aren’t interesting.

Since this is the foundational principle, I will share how it influences the other 6 tips.  

2. Talk about Famous People
As previously stated, talking about famous people (or prominence) is always a good way to get social engagement (i.e. likes, retweets, favorites, comments). People like to be associated with any type of celebrity and they’ll share about it, in person and through social media.

So, if you have famous alumni or special guests visiting your university, milk it for what it’s worth. Write a story, interview the guest/alumnus and promote it on social media! This will create great engagement with your students and it will create the kind of buzz you’re looking for.

Check out what the University of Wisconsin-Madison did to leverage Katie Couric’s birthday:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 8.13.27 PM.png

Couric wasn’t even a graduate from Wisconsin, but they leveraged this photo from graduation and got 2,577 likes and 38 shares -- it’s tough to beat that engagement!

Download the free social media prospecting workbook

3. Share Students’ Content
The average college student spends 8-10 hours on his/her phone, according to a study from Baylor University. Much of this time is spent on social media, Facebook being the second most recorded task behind texting.

One of the main reasons students check social media is to see if anyone has interacted with them. It’s a big deal -- so how much more so if they get a notification from their university?

If you retweet a student’s tweet, or share a student’s Instagram photo, it will likely impact their day and they will tell their friends. There’s that social influence again.

Check out how George Mason University has done this with some of its students.

By retweeting Bridget’s tweet, GMU is positively affirming her social connection with the university, and she’ll be more likely to incorporate her university into more of her tweets.  

4. Use Social Media as a Link
Social media is a natural connector. It’s connects your university with your current students, prospective students, former students and potential investors.

But it’s not just a social connector -- it’s a tech connector. You can use social media as a dynamic marketplace of ideas: news stories, updates and happenings. It’s where web content can be pumped in and potential website visitors can be pumped out.

When you use social media as a link and not just an individual platform, then you maximize its utility for resourcing your current students with information and bringing in more consumers of your web content.

Check out the way that the University of California Berkeley used social media as a link, sharing the same story across multiple platforms.

UC Berkeley tweets out their original content on alumni who are doing great things in the area. They are employing news values of interest to students (proximity, human interest) in order to garner new consumers for its news stories.
Here’s the original story on the website. The social sharing icons below the story allow it to be organically shared on social media by interested readers, allowing current readers to market to potential readers from their social circles.

5. Capitalize on Sports’ Success
As interesting as news stories and famous people might be, nothing seems to capture the attention of college students like sports success.

On the one hand, college students are young, active and probably interested in sports themselves. But something happens in college athletics that turns ordinary fans into obsessed fanatics, according to Eric Simons author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans.

Simons writes that there is a physiological science that affects the affinity of students and makes them physically and emotionally attached to their team. This creates a strong bond that is not easily broken. And you can capitalize on this strong bond by sharing and celebrating the successes of your sports teams.

See the way that Texas Christian University and the University of Virginia leverage their sports teams for social media success.

This TCU tweet capitalized on timeliness (tweeted in January), proximity and prominence. You can tell by the engagement (167 favorites, 44 retweets) how successful it was.


UVA used human interest by capitalizing on Brogdon’s success and his prominence through his interview with ESPN. Students want to be connected to someone like this and they’ll retweet it to show their support -- 64 times that is!

6. Use Social Campaigns & Trending Hashtags
Another way to drum up interactions and engagements with your current students is to use campaigns and trending hashtags. This allows your students to take part in something bigger than themselves and to buy into the vision that you have created.  Thus, you are able to organically create buzz surrounding your school by launching a platform for students to share and communicate about their experience.

Check out this campaign from the University of Maryland: #UMDinspires.

By changing their cover photo, they’ve informed their current students about the campaign #UMDinspires and integrated the goals and engagement across platforms.

Maryland is able to share its commitment to diversity and diverse student body through the lens of the campaign, inviting students to share their excitement for this, or other aspects of the university that inspire them.

7. Use Humor
At the end of the day, your current students want to have fun and that’s why they’re on social media. If you’re always gloating or sharing statistics, they’re going to tune out. You need to be professional and strategic, but if you neglect the entertainment piece than your efforts will reach a ceiling of engagement.

Check out how University of California Los Angeles balances humor, natural language and professionalism here:

UCLA capitalizes on its sports success and tries to engage the entertainment culture so prevalent amongst college students with this humorous, fitting video.

UCLA makes the best of a bad situation, combining oddity with humor in this tweet.

Download the free social media prospecting workbook

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