We explore to analyse what universities can do to most effectively engage their audience via social media channels…
If compared to the majority of businesses out there, universities and colleges have an advantage when it comes to social media: the student community.
For the majority of students, the years spent at university is usually one of the most important and remarkable times. This makes it a good start point for colleges in social media – when you have a happy community of consumers who like what you have to offer, things are much easier.
However, for colleges, the benefits of social media go beyond student and community engagement. Universities can use all their research structure to produce relevant, engaging and even viral content for the social networks world.
If you are a keen Edudemic reader, you know by now how infographics are popular. Infographics have the advantage of putting data and information together in a visually appealing format. No need to say that, when it comes to data and information, universities are definitely the best source. If universities want to bring more awareness to their research findings, infographics are the way forward.
Expanding Access to Education
It’s a little obvious, but it’s still worth it saying that one of the wonders of internet is its global reach. A video produced somewhere in Texas can easily be watched by thousands of people in Asia, or Africa, for example. This is a great opportunity for universities who want to break barriers and give people from different backgrounds the access to information and knowledge. Social media, especially Facebook, is an ideal platform for it. A good example of this is an app developed by the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), which gives everyone the chance to try out an MBA for free. The cool thing about it is that, unless the student wants to carry on with the online programme, there’s no commitment or exams. It’s a great tool for small-business owners who are looking to expand as they can learn about how to manage their accounts and employees without having to commit to a full MBA.
Career Services 2.0
Forget about the CV clinics and interview tips. With social media, the careers department of universities have all the necessary tools to give an extra support to students who are looking for placements in the job market. By using LinkedIn, for example, colleges can create groups to “showcase” their students and put them in touch with both employers and recruiters. Live video streaming can also be a fantastic option for a college with several campuses. And as we are talking about videos, why not create an exclusive playlist on YouTube with the best tips and practices for students who want to prepare for the job market?
Universities are, with no doubt, a place to share experience and knowledge. They offer a unique environment with the opportunity to host discussions and to bring hot topics to life. Why not bring all this exciting knowledge to the online world? The best (and probably the most cited) example of this is what Harvard does with their Harvard Business Review – a very reliable and trendy information source. Other universities have been following the same route and are trying out different options. The UK-based Warwick University last year launched their Knowledge Centre to promote access to research, learning materials and articles written by leading experts. A third option is what LSBF is doing on Facebook with the Prep Centre for ACCA, a learning centre for candidates to the accountancy body ACCA. The centre offers an app with video lectures plus exam tips, podcasts and discussion pages.
The main advantage of these centres comes with the opportunity to showcase what the institutions have to offer whilst potential students have a taste of what they would learn in classroom.
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention the potential social networks have when it comes to marketing. Some universities already know the benefits a Facebook ad can offer to increase the number of leads and boost the number of applications during recruitment period. However, the benefits are not limited to simple, straight forward marketing. When it comes to their own future, students usually have lots of questions and, with the newly-introduced direct messaging option, a Facebook page can work as a very good channel for customer service and calm down the minds of those potential applicants.
No matter what or where you studied, you are probably proud of your university. Universities are extremely important on the lives of students and usually play an important role on the shape of their careers. Now, with social media, the noise and the community spirit can break the physical barriers of the campus and go online. Colleges can feature their students in their posts, talk about their achievements, events, summits, conferences, interview with alumni, inspirational quotes, graduations… The list of possibilities is very long – you just have to be creative.
Alumni groups on LinkedIn are no longer an innovation but they’re still a powerful way for colleges to keep in touch with their former students and produce potential case studies, partnerships and even donations.
The Virtual Classroom
Some of the activities held in class or across the school also have the potential to reach bigger audiences. One of the things we have been doing at LSBF is a weekly online case study challenge. We produced a number of video case studies and are now inviting students to submit their solution. At the end of every week, the best answer wins a business-related book. And this is not only open to LSBF’s students but anyone interested in business and in solving case studies. This is great not just for engagement, but it’s also a fantastic brand association.
Debate competitions are also another great option if you are keen to start integrating your Facebook page with forums and other discussion applications – simple and low-cost ideas that can work really well with a community of students and young people.
Universities have a major role on everyone’s lives and they can indeed play an important role online by providing enriching, value-adding and relevant content.
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