The VPM Blog

7 Steps to Success in Higher Education Social Media Marketing

Posted by Don Crow on Aug 20, 2014 8:30:00 AM

7 steps to success in higher education social media marketing

There’s more to social media management in a large organization than just copy + paste into an expensive piece of management software, sitting back and watching the fans roll in. Marketing campaigns are critical to building an engaged following and give your University a ready-made story telling opportunity.

Further, the key to any successful campaign is in the nuts and bolts management of the day to day. Campaigns and content production can be time consuming and let’s face it: boring. The routine of end-to-end campaign planning and execution includes: planning, implementing, responding (good and bad), delivering on your word, reporting, analyzing, and then repeating what works. We've written a few specific tips in an earlier blog post here.

In this blog post, we’ll review 7 steps to success in higher education social media marketing we believe give you a competitive advantage when it comes to managing your day to day campaigns and overall social media marketing activity.

Step 1 - Set your goals. Here at Verge Pipe Media, we start our goal setting by asking, “Why are we doing this?” It helps us not only set better goals, it goes a long way towards helping answer Step 2 (below). It’s important too that your goals are manageable given the resources you have available. We like to use the SMART goals acronym and recommend our clients do so as well:

  • Specific – What exactly are you trying to accomplish (who, what, where, and why)?
  • Measureable – How will you demonstrate the goal(s) have been met?
  • Achievable – Set ‘stretch’ and ‘challenge’ goals within your ability and expertise to achieve the desired outcome. Copying what another University is a sure way to fail because you don’t know what amount of internal and external resources they applied.
  • Relevant – How does your goal match with your overall objectives?
  • Time-Bound – Set target dates (with an assigned point of contact) to guide your successful execution and timely completion.

Step 2 – Provide your followers a reason to engage. Or, as we say, “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM). You’ve got to answer what your followers are going to receive in exchange for their attention. For example, stories and updates that provide rare and exclusive interviews with key faculty, promising students, and even alumni networking opportunities.

Step 3 – Build in a ‘boost.’ You can have great content, genuine passion and authenticity, and the most well worded social update since Shakespeare first tweeted, but if no one shares it or otherwise engages, you’ve just, “socialed into the wind.”

This is why it is so important to know why you are doing this and what your audience wants. When those two are aligned, you earn the attention and the ability to ask for help. For example, you can set a threshold or issue a challenge such as, “if 150 people ‘like’ this post, the Dean will host an online town hall meeting,” or, “if 50 members of the class of 1987 share their throwback photos, we’ll host a class tailgate event on the quad at homecoming.”

Step 4 – Schedule your posts like chapters in a book. You can’t post once and cross your fingers for a favorable outcome. No, you’ve got write unique headlines and titles depending upon the social media platform you’re posting to, and schedule different posts on different days and times over a period of time. You want to keep people interested and engaging with your posts and you can’t do that by sharing the same content over and over again. We’ll talk about social media management software to help with scheduling and monitoring in later posts.

Step 5 – Respond! When organizations fall apart in a campaign and it has nothing to do with goal setting, it’s typically because they don’t manage responses and participate in conversations. You must follow through on your engaging posts and keep your fans and followers informed of outcomes. No one likes a one-way conversation, and social media puts a big spotlight on selfish promoters.

Step 6 – Study what worked, what didn’t, and what you’ll do next. It’s not beverage time just yet, but when your campaign concludes you’ve got to be prepared to analyze the results down into the likes, retweets, website referrals, and fundraising goals. It’s important too that your team keep accurate records, after action reviews, and use those to plan your upcoming social media campaigns.

Step 7 – Use the right mix of tools and talent. Okay, Step 7 may not be a ‘step’ in the traditional sense, but finding the right software and building the team required to execute Steps 1 – 6 is just as critical as each individual step in your success formula. If you’re a small team with expertise outside of social media, then your toolkit may include hiring an agency like Verge Pipe Media to manage both the tool and the content. If you’re a larger organization with some expertise in content, but not technology, your toolkit could still include Verge Pipe Media, but the execution would be a shared responsibility with clear lines of communication and expectations.

In closing, achieving success in higher education social media marketing isn’t simple, but it isn’t so daunting an undertaking that your university should stay away. Whether you test and learn using your own internal team, a mixture of free and paid tools, or invest in a more complex software solution and hire an agency, it’s important your University begin your steps to social media marketing success right away!

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photo credit: shannonkringen via photopin cc

Topics: social media marketing, higher education, Social Media Strategy