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3 Reasons Your School Isn’t Winning on Social Media

Posted by Don Crow on May 10, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Recently I had the good fortune to meet with a Senior Vice President at a small private college in a nearby state. Among the many things we found they were doing well was remarketing. I got bold and asked which agency they were working with because I wanted to position my agency in a head-to-head test.

“We’re not using an agency for our digital initiatives,” he responded.

That next one second felt like an eternity as I had to process, “Impossible!” and, “Does this guy think I’m that stupid?”


“Really? You must have some incredible in-house talent then?” I continued.

“Yes, between my own experience in agencies and brands prior to getting into [Higher Ed], we have another member of our Communications and Marketing team with prior roles in digital shops.”

At this point, I’m so impressed I’m considering asking if he had any openings. You see, it’s that rare in my experience that we find Higher Ed communications and marketing professionals with very much prior experience outside traditional educational settings. And don’t get me wrong, there’s still a ton of talent and expertise there, it’s just largely in areas where alumni and prospective students aren’t spending much time.

My conversation waxed a little philosophical with him at this point, but it did give me some great info to share with you on 3 reasons your school isn’t winning on social media:

  1. Fear. It may not be you per se, but someone in your organization is afraid of social media. They may be afraid that it is too wide open, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Or, they may be afraid because they don’t know how to use it, what to post, or how often. And it could just be that your boss, or their boss is old school. They’re stuck in their ways and therefore they think and make decisions for your alumni base and prospective students on how they feel about social media.

You can’t do your best work in fear. However, you should be uncomfortable, because being in the new and uncharted is where you learn and grow. Social Media has to be ‘social’ first and that’s scary to some folks, especially in academic environments where status quo and silos are the norm.

  1. You’ve tried and failed and quit. Or so you think. Let’s say your School, College or University decided to take the plunge back in 2010 and experiment with social media. You may have gone out and hired a flashy former agency social media person or pounced on the loudest self-proclaimed guru or ninja of the time to come in and transform your communications and marketing through social media. Or, you may have simply looked around the room at your communications and marketing office staff, found the youngest person in the room and said, “tag, you’re it!” In any case, you tried and didn’t get the results you want. Congratulations! You’re in the 90%! The number of organizations of any size, shape, level or other metric who have tried social media and not gotten the results they wanted is far larger than reported.

Not being alone in the underperforming category shouldn’t make you feel good. It should motivate you to get back into the arena and try again. Take stock of what you tried before, conduct an audit of your current online and social media platforms and audiences, talk to your alumni and current students and ask the question, “what would make you like, follow or otherwise engage with us online?”

BTW, we’ve got some really cool videos we produced about why you need to be patient with Inbound Marketing. It takes time, consistency and the right start (strategy) along with the proper touch (tactics).

  1. Lack of expertise. Let’s face it. The prevailing attitude with most decision makers is, “social media is free, therefore it must be easy.” Add to that, individual attitudes that follow, “I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, everyone loves me!” and “Nick Lachey once retweeted one of my Spring Break photos so I must be good at Twitter!” and you start seeing that using social media to sell your School, College or University and sharing your life experiences on social media don’t equal the same results.

The delta between the number of folks who read this type of post, watch this type of video content and that spend an insane amount of money on social media conferences, seminars, webinars and education every year versus the number of folks who are changing their game as a result is HUGE. It’s staggering how few people really know what they’re doing, what to measure, and how to report. It’s why guys like me left a pretty decent job in Higher Ed to go start a digital strategy and inbound marketing agency to help Higher Ed!

I recently spoke at a CASE district conference workshop* about how to calculate ROI with social media. The sad and unfortunate thing for me was before and after my 1-hour of, “The Don Crow Show” the speakers – while good! – were still talking about so many of the things I heard social media and marketing speakers talk about 5 years previously at my last CASE conference. That’s a sure sign that Higher Ed marketing and communications practitioners need to get out of the ‘normal’ Higher Ed conferences. Challenge yourself and go attend something like Inbound 2016, Digital Summit Atlanta or other for-profit conferences.

Go learn some new techniques sure, but first and foremost start asking:

  • What are we trying to achieve with our social media platforms?
  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What benefit (content and context) can we provide them so that we’re not just producing noise?
  • What metrics or key performance indicators will tell us if we’re on the right path?

There’s literally a ton of material on, “how to do this” or, “why to do it this way” when it comes to winning on social media. You may have to adapt some for-profit techniques, but that’s okay! You’re learning, you’re stretching, you’re challenging that Higher Ed status quo which drags 90% of your peers down into the average to horrible.

If you’re looking for some outside expertise to help propel you out of the underperforming category, hit the button below. We’d love to chat with you!

Get the Free Guide to Integrating Traditional & Inbound Marketing

photo credit: horse racing via photopin (license)

*I received an overall, “Top Speaker” rating with a perfect 5.0 in subject matter expertise. If you’d like me to come speak at your conference or seminar, feel free to hit our contact button and let me know!

Topics: higher ed marketing

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