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As part of our ongoing series looking at the colleges that are winning at social media marketing, we’re diving into the common features of the most successful university Facebook pages.
Universities are using Facebook to attract new enrollees, get more transfer students, and to communicate with their current student bodies.
And if you look at the schools that are on top of their Facebook games, you’ll see they’re doing even more than that — they use the platform to:
While Facebook alone is unlikely to sway students to attend your school, think of it as part of an overall digital marketing strategy to present a compelling case for why your university should be a top choice.
The way to measure success on Facebook is to look at real key performance indicators (KPIs), including increases in:
With these metrics in mind, let’s dive into common features shared by the best university Facebook profiles so you can get new ideas for chasing down more likes and higher engagement on your school’s Facebook page.
Hashtags are one of the most common tools we see used on university Facebook profiles to increase student engagement. And for good reason — they work!
The most effective way we see hashtags implemented is through specific campaigns aimed at getting students to share their college experience through photos, videos, and personal stories.
UC Berkeley invites incoming students to share their excitement with the hashtag #berkeleybound, This is an effective way for all new students to feel a part of a community with their peers.
George Washington University has seen high engagement numbers with their #PictureGW and #OnlyatGW hashtags. They’ve even changed their Facebook cover photo to highlight unique student submissions, like when a student posted about seeing a presidential motorcade on campus with #OnlyatGW.
One unique idea we loved was when Michigan State University created a virtual choir of students who posted video of themselves singing the school song with the hashtag #MSUFightSong.
But our favorite hashtag is probably Brigham Young University’s #byuhatsincoolplaces, which is exactly what it sounds like.
You’d think this would be an obvious one, but unfortunately some schools overlook a very basic rule of Marketing 101: consistency.
It’s important to know the identity of your school, and to speak to that in all your Facebook content. That means having a consistent brand voice in copy and videos, and using the same typefaces, color palettes, and logos across all your social platforms.
One example of how to do this well comes from The University of Texas at Austin, which overlays their key images with an orange hue, which also just happens to be their school color.
Take a look at the header image of their “About” note on their profile:
Emails, landing pages, and blogs should all use CTAs (calls to action) to get visitors to take action — whether that’s reading another blog, signing up for a newsletter, or buying a product.
A Facebook page is no exception. And the platform has the option for CTAs built right into it, in the form of a button on the top right of your profile.
The University of Texas at Austin is winning here, as well — they use a “Sign Up” CTA button to direct visitors to their newsletter subscription page.
McGill University is another great example. They use a “Contact Us” CTA button to send people to a landing page with contact information.
The built-in messaging function on Facebook is becoming more popular on university profiles. This shows up like a CTA on your profile, as a button labeled “Send Message.”
When a visitor clicks on the button, a messenger window opens in their browser, prompting them to write directly to the school and ask a question, share an experience, or whatever they like.
You can also set the Message window to open automatically when someone visits your school’s profile, and have pre-set questions for them to click on. Some of the prompts we like include “How much does this school cost?” and “Are you accepting new students?”
School staff respond directly in Facebook, usually within a few hours. The faster the better, so keep that in mind if you consider using this feature. You want to be able to respond quickly, otherwise the purpose of the direct messaging feature is undermined.
This is a bit of a catch-all, but the point is content. Not just in the form of posts on your Facebook feed, but in the form of whatever it is people might be looking for. Why send people to another website when you can keep them engaged with your Facebook profile for longer?
The University of New South Wales does a good job by keeping a full events calendar up-to-date.
Schools down under seem to be on top of their Facebook game, because we’re also in love with the creative integrations on the University of Southern Queensland Australia’s page, including their Pinterest board and Exam Care Packs.
Another example we like is using Facebook Milestones on the About age to give visitors an in-depth look at a school’s history and achievements over time.
MIT is also good at sharing this kind of content through posting about achievements of their professors and researchers.
Video is the most effective format for content on Facebook. It gets more views, more comments, more shares, and ultimately reaches more people.
The perfect college student marketing video is the one that gives prospective students what they’re looking for.
In the case of Boston University, this means showing what it’s like to be a BU student through videos highlighting unique student experiences, testimonials, and tips for incoming freshmen.
The University of Georgia takes another approach. They use high quality video to showcase their brand and reputation, making a strong case to potential enrollees.
If you know your school delivers top-notch educational experiences, then why not ask students and alumni to share their thoughts with Facebook Reviews?
This is a great way for prospective students to read first-hand reviews of your school. Of course, the danger here is ending up with a bunch of bad reviews. The onus is on you to give students a great education and overall beneficial experience, so if you feel confident that your reviews will generally be positive, this is a good thing to include in your Facebook page.
And when you do get the rare poor review, it can be an opportunity for you to directly address the student’s concerns and maybe even to improve the object of their criticism.
Groups are an effective way to create sub-communities within your Facebook community. A group is a page that people can either be invited to or request to be accepted to.
On a Facebook group page, members can share posts that are visible only to other members.
The University of California creates a new Facebook group for each new class of incoming students. Stanford has one specifically for alumni (who are important to engage with, as they can both help new grads find jobs and help bring new students to your university.
Princeton has a group just for parents of students, where they can ask questions, share concerns, and get information.
Universities are big operations, and each department has very different needs. For this reason, we see a lot of schools creating a Facebook page for the entire university as well as separate pages for each department.
Some schools opt to create individual pages for other parts of the university as well, like campus security or, in the case of University of Warwick, a page dedicated to post-grads.
One way to help keep all these pages knit together is by having them tag each other as much as possible. This helps people discover those pages, driving more likes and higher engagement on their posts.
Not every potential enrollee can travel to your university for a tour. Others aren’t so set on the idea of attending that they’re ready to commit the time and money to such a trip.
Facebook can help you to include these people by allowing you to host interactive campus tours right on the platform. The most common approach to this that we see is through Facebook Live videos.
With a smartphone and a couple of student guides, you can host an interactive walk-through of your campus in which people who are watching can ask questions about what they’re seeing, and you can answer them in real-time.
Many universities host such tours with much success, but we’ve got to say that the award in this category goes to Yale.
The ‘Virtual Experience’ tab on their Facebook profile directs visitors to a deeply immersive virtual tour app, where students can choose from different experiences and choose their own path through campus. Along the way, a student guide tells you about what you’re looking at.
Pretty cool, huh? There’s a reason their page has over 1.3 million likes.
Social media is critical for college student marketing in 2020, but it isn’t the only thing that matters.
From changing priorities in design to a revolution in print and streaming advertising, there are some important new trends every university marketing department should be keeping an eye on.