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13 Nov 2012

Connecting With Students One Like at a Time

November 13, 2012Social Media

Connecting With Students One Like At A Time
One of the great things about working in internet marketing, or marketing in general, is the chance to learn more about your client’s industries. Here at Vertical Measures we’ve had the opportunity to become well versed in the world of higher education.

When putting together an online marketing campaign for a college or university that offers a very specialized degree program, such as golf, the need to become an expert in the field is essential. We’ve been working with a golf school for several years, and many of us can attest that we know more about the sport than we ever thought we would. When you’re in the specialized higher education sector, making your school stand out is key for your success online with today’s student demographics and a diverse knowledge of the industry is mandatory.

One platform that does well to make your school stand out in specialized higher education is Facebook. Building a community with students on Facebook requires a lot of time but is very rewarding, and we’ll present empirical evidence which shows just a few of those rewards.

It’s about more than just a Facebook Page and ad budget

A common complaint many of us may hear is how hard it is to connect with students these days on Facebook. Dedicating time to updating status messages regularly and paying money for ads to increase likes isn’t enough. Connecting with fans is about more than just a Facebook Page and ad budget. Don’t box yourself in a corner with your Facebook strategy, get creative! Sure, Facebook is one of the best display advertising deals on the internet, but don’t isolate your efforts on Facebook to paid advertising. Engage by asking questions, provide great information, entertain, be honest, be transparent – rinse and repeat.

Through our strategy to engage with students our efforts with our golf school client have garnered over 4,000 niche fans in a very crowded market with very little paid advertising.

Diversity of content is key

Golf Quote Gardner DickinsonYou’ve heard it before on our blog and we’ll say it again – content marketing is essential to your internet marketing strategy. Use content to connect with fans, to entertain them with funny cartoons, educate with industry news, announce events happening on campus, showcase student stories, interview industry experts, share webinars and more. We developed custom inspirational golf posters to give away to students which have worked very well for little investment.

We’ve found success in diversity of content with students. Our plan has grown Facebook to be the #2 referral traffic source for the golf school’s website. 

Offer something exclusive for fans

Teachers are the center of education, so make them the center of marketing initiatives for your school. Offer exclusive access to an instructor, in our case a PGA Pro, to help give advice and answer questions posted by fans. Who are the experts in your industry?

The key to offering exclusive information for fans is to streamline the process as much as possible. In the example we provided above, the need to have a process to gather answers to PGA pro questions was essential.

Not surprisingly, many students want to learn more about your specialized industry. Having access to a professional through a platform they use on a daily basis encourages much more engagement than we ever imagined. This is something that could have turned into a full time job for one individual – answering and responding to questions on Facebook. Instead, questions can be gathered and submitted to instructors on a regular basis and queued up for being answered.

Engagement improved tenfold when we started offering expert feedback for golf swing videos submitted to the school’s Facebook wall and access to PGA Pros to answer their advanced golf questions.

Tell a story through photos

Facebook album photosIn a crowded Facebook news feed it can take a bit of effort to make your status update stand out. Photos are a great way to attract more attention. On campus events, field trips, tournaments, volunteer events, and new student orientation are all great opportunities to snap a few photos.

Start telling your school’s story with photos on Facebook. Students today want to see what it’s really like on campus, and many are said to research a prospective school on Facebook. Give them something to look at! Be transparent, share photos of instructors and students, and show how exciting being a student can be.

If you’re wondering if fans even look at photos, they do. Our golf school’s Page averages over 2,500 views on just the photos we upload to Facebook alone. Not only that, but “other clicks” average over 1,200. Other clicks are clicks on names, timestamp or the number of likes (this is a good indicator of attention as reported by websitemagazine.com).

Try out promoted posts to increase engagement with your fans

Promote Facebook posts

Announced in July, Page administrators of Pages with more than 400 likes have the ability to promote Facebook posts to existing fans or friends of fans. This function is used to extend a Page’s reach so more fans are able to see a post deemed important.

We’ve tried out sponsored posts to help achieve more awareness around expert videos developed for students and extend our reach. By providing answers to questions asked on Facebook or tips to improve something they might be struggling with, we’ve used Facebook successfully to garner attention around these videos. One video reached 12,548 people, received 80 video plays from Facebook, 77 likes and 10 comments for a budget of $75.

Talk to students on their level

Students interested in higher education often have a wide age range and certain degree programs are very gender-specific, so targeting messaging to the intended audience should be a focus for maximum impact.

Segment your Facebook ads, sponsored posts and status updates to a targeted demographic. Making this small change can help achieve a higher reach. A weekly average reach for our page is well over 1.5 million – not bad for a page with 4,400 niche fans!

Make in person connections

Having someone on campus to engage with students offline has been very helpful for our social media efforts. The school we work with has a great on campus team who takes photos, instructors who provide excellent written content, main campus promoters that do a great job of cross promotion, and an organized method for sharing what’s happening on the main campus. Good communication to bridge the gap between online and offline has contributed to the school’s success online.

Use video!

College of Golf Facebook videoVideo marketing should be in your marketing arsenal. If it isn’t you should look to include at least some elements of video in 2013. A wide variety of video options are available and they don’t have to cost thousands of dollars either. From interviews and Q&A sessions recorded on Skype, to funny student videos and recordings of new student webinars, you can use video to generate engagement on Facebook.

The use of video has led to almost 80,000 video views on Youtube and several thousand video views on Facebook.

Involve students

Poll your students using Facebook, but don’t stop there – actually use the information they share with you! Asking questions about difficult aspects of their specialty can help you develop content and information that helps address their concerns. Think of all the questions you can ask that will help in your pursuit for increased engagement, more students and of course fans.

One question we asked, “what is the strangest thing that has happened to you on the golf course?” was seen by 1,262 fans and received over 15 responses. Imagine the content you can develop based on the stories shared, not to mention the relationships built by allowing your fans to have a voice on your Page.

Host webinars for new students

Education webinarWebinars for students in specialized higher education can be an inexpensive way to connect with your audience. Host an interesting webinar and record it so you can share for months to come with your Facebook fans. With some prep work, the investment in time for a webinar can be less than 5 hours if you’re efficient. Brainstorm to come up with interesting niche topics to present on, get instructors involved and have guest speakers. We’ve seen an average webinar in a niche industry get as many as 1,000 registrants!

Connecting with students using Facebook is a possibility, but as we’ve shared, it takes your full commitment. Use the recommendations and evidence we’ve provided to add life to your own school’s Facebook Page and start connecting with students one like at a time.