Social media can play many important roles in your student prospecting efforts— from knowing what prospective students care about to recruitment to enrollment. Learn why social listening is important and how to find and use the influencers among prospective and existing students, alumni, and parents.
Social Listening – Tune into Your Audience
By listening to what your prospective students are saying on social media, you can better understand which issues resonate and why. See what topics, hashtags, images, and videos are trending among them. Tapping into social listening enables you to leverage your best social influencers to strengthen your online campaigns and ultimately build a stronger prospective student pipeline.
The Untapped Potential of Influencers
Your social media influencers are power users who represent your institution online. Influencers could be peers posting pictures help to turn prospects into new students, or they could be alumni or donors who use social networking to promote alumni relations activities or annual fund donations. Whether they’re bloggers, budding Instagram stars, or running Facebook groups for active alumni, influencers help you reach your prospective students and position your institution as a top choice online.
Find Your Influencers
When looking for which of your supporters who have the most sway across their social networks, first consider whose voice you trust. When it comes to student prospecting, engaging with one of your social media influencers might be their first “real” impression of your institution. Make sure potential students are hearing from a trusted, reliable source advocating on your behalf.
Remember, influencers are not just those with high follower counts but ones who engage consistently and inspire their audience to take action. There are many social listening tools that enable you to search, identify, and analyze the top influencers in your database. Additionally, many social media platforms offer advanced search options that allow you to reach specific audiences and find those who are engaging with your target audience. Once you know who these social powerhouses are, share your best content with them to drive clicks, generate interest, and keep your institution top of mind for students.
Approach Your Influencers
You’ve identified your top influencers, now it’s time to reach out and get your influencers interested in you. Don’t be shy but don’t come off like spam or an eager salesperson. Keep your messages and engagement with them genuine. For example, if you seem them posting about topics specific to your community, share an article or fun fact about how your institution is (positively) related. This creates an organic way to start a conversation. Keep an eye on Twitter chats – they are a great place to engage with social media influencers and potentially develop a strong rapport with them.
Getting Started with Your Influencers
When you’ve found your influencers, it’s time to start project planning together. Begin with your own goals but remember to consider how the partnership will help them as well. Here are examples of ways you can ask influencers to interact with your institution:
- Guest blogging
- Collaborate on an event
- Becoming an affiliate
Your influencers can help you craft a message that their audience actually wants to hear. While it can be unsettling, it’s important to give them creative control—ultimately, this will help you cut through the noise and make an impact.
When incorporating social media influencers in your student prospecting plans, remember that collaborating with them isn’t one-sided, so again, make sure you create goals that benefit you both. While your team may be working to increase enrollment numbers, their goal may be to improve their local partnership portfolio. When both parties are working together toward mutually beneficial goals, it’s a win-win.
Keep it Going!
After you’ve completed your first project together, think about your influencers as relationships for the long run. Map out each side’s goals and use this as direction for next steps and future joint initiatives. A collaborative partnership with influencers can strengthen your student prospecting plans and keep your institution top of mind for potential students.
Nicole Luper is the content marketing manager for Blackbaud Higher Education Solutions, where she creates compelling resources to help institutions advance their missions.