Social Media for Higher Education: Tips and Examples

Learn How to Win at Social Media for Higher Education

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Two students at their graduation ceremony taking a selfie.

Strategizing social media for higher education has never been more important. With Zoomers attending college, the time for hopping on social media trends has come.

Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok have revolutionized how Gen Z-ers connect with each other and with brands and organizations. Therefore, higher education institutions must enhance their social media presence to communicate with prospective and current students, alums, and the wider community.

Lucky for you, this article comes packed with tips for succeeding at social media as a higher education institution. Additionally, you’ll get real-life examples of organizations that have paved the way in social media to engage and attract students with some help from social walls.

The power of social media for higher education

Social media marketing has the potential to significantly impact the success and growth of any organization, including higher education institutions. The benefits of creating a social media strategy are endless, but here the ones that will interest you most:

Enhance your institutions brand awareness

Social media allows your institution to showcase their unique offerings, values, and achievements. By crafting a compelling brand presence, you can capture the attention of potential students and set yourself apart from competitors.

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Recruit even more students 

Once potential students get to know your brand on social media, they’ll feel more comfortable to reach out and apply for a spot. Plus, social media platforms let you target the exact type of student you’re looking for. They allow you to reach specific demographics, geographic locations, and even individuals with particular interests. This enables you to attract and engage with prospective students who align with your institution’s values and academic programs.

Foster community engagement 

Have you ever read the comment section of a viral TikTok video? People are more likely to share their opinion in comments, which helps you create bonds among prospective students, alumni, faculty, and staff. By facilitating conversations, sharing insights, and celebrating achievements, you can nurture a strong community that enhances the overall student experience.

Amplify thought leadership 

Higher education institutions are home to experts across various fields. Social media platforms offer an opportunity to amplify your institution’s thought leadership by sharing research findings, expert opinions, and industry insights. Establishing your institution as a reputable source of knowledge can attract prospective students and build credibility within the academic community.

Tips and examples of social media for higher education

I can provide you with a detailed guide on creating a strategy, but you are more aware than I am of your institution’s current objectives, budget, and timeline. Therefore, I would rather offer you tips based on real campaigns and initiatives that various institutions have successfully implemented using a social wall.

Why consider a social wall? Well, as you’ll soon discover, many colleges and universities strive to foster a sense of community that extends beyond social media platforms while incorporating social media content. This is precisely where a social wall comes into play.

1. Address social and cultural topics in an authentic way

Talking about cultural and social issues isn’t an easy task. But you should address them and show your stance on social media (and beyond!). Gen Z is characterized by being aware of and involved in current social issues. This generation demands change and stands for what is right. Your institution should do the same to let them know they’ll be supported. 

Related: How to Market to Gen Z

Example: State University of New York addresses social issues   

Small crowd of people standing around and assembling comfort bags, some folks are wearing blue SUNY?s Got Your Back staff t-shirts. In the background, the SUNY?s Got Your Back social wall is displayed on a TV screen. (social media for higher education)

SUNY’s Got Your Back is a university-wide initiative launched in 2016 that aims to provide support for victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence. People who seek help from shelters, hospitals, and so forth, often arrive with little but their clothes on their backs. The idea behind SUNY’s Got Your Back is to assemble bags that provide the most important personal care items to those people.

SUNY’s Got Your Back has two goals: assemble comfort bags for victims and survivors of crime, and educate the community, including those who have been victims of crime, about available resources.

Elizabeth Brady

Elizabeth Brady

SUNY’s Got Your Back Program Director

Joseph Storch

Joseph Storch

SUNY’s Got Your Back Principal Investigator

“We use social media to raise excitement for our events, but more so we use it to engage students and community members in a positive way, both for information about the program, and information about the resources available to victims of crime.” 

Photo from a SUNY?s Got Your Back event. Two staff members in blue SUNY?s Got Your Back t-shirts are talking in front of a screen showing the SUNY?s Got Your Back social wall. Focus is on the social wall in the back.

“We use our social media wall at SUNY’s Got Your Back assembly events. Students and community members post photos and messages which are then rotated on the screens. This helps our attendees engage individually and collectively with the program in real time.”

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#2. Plan a hashtag campaign for important events

Hashtags are Zoomer’s native language. They grew up with the internet and know how to use a tag. Therefore, a hashtag campaign surrounding a particular event will guarantee engagement on social media. You can connect with students and alums by speaking their social media language. 

Related: Hashtag Campaign Guide for Marketers

Example: University of Michigan creates a Signing Day hashtag campaign

A close up of a merch sweater that says Michigan, with the logo of University of Michigan. (social media for higher education)

Choosing a graduate school is a big decision for students, especially for those attending universities in the U.S. On April 15, known as Signing Day, students have to make their final choice on where they will spend the majority of their next 3-6 years.

Rackham Graduate School, which is the graduate education center at the University of Michigan, has organized a campaign for Signing Day. They have encouraged incoming students to publicly declare their choice of #IChoseUMich on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Students are invited to post pictures, mention their hometown, and share what they will be studying.

The communications team at Rackham went all out for their Signing Day campaign. They created a special hashtag campaign, designed a GIF to promote the use of a map theme, and launched a dedicated microsite that serves as a central platform to welcome new students in a stylish manner.

Screenshot of the #IChoseUMich social wall embedded on the Rackham Graduate School website. The heading says ?Welcome to Racham? and encourages future students to share their acceptance story using the hashtag #IChoseUMich. The social wall is displayed using the Map theme which shows posts popping up on a map at the geographical location they have been posted from. The map shows a post by Instagram user @jmesagar from Colombia. The picture is a selfie, and the caption says ?Blessed and grateful #IChoseUMich #Rackham #GradSchool #GoBlue?.
The microsite features a map-themed social hub that showcases posts from UMich graduate students from all around the world.

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#3. Feature social media posts at in-person events

One great way to drive engagement at in-person events is to bring elements from social media into real life. Something as simple as a big screen with social media posts will have people talking and even adding their content

Example: Champlain College uses a social wall to drive engagement

Four graduates wearing their gowns and cap and face masks are giving the camera a thumbs up.

Champlain College featured a social wall at their virtual (2020), hybrid (2021), and in-person (2022) ceremonies. Their past experience with virtual and hybrid environments, let them transfer some of the virtual elements to in-person events. One of them was showcasing social media posts at their commencement ceremony.

Kaylee Sullivan

Kaylee Sullivan

Community Content & Communications Manager, Champlain College

“Our main use for the social wall right now is for Commencement, which happens every May. This year, we held the event in person again after having had virtual and hybrid ceremonies for a couple of years.

We did live-stream the event so people tuning in from home could watch, but this year was very much an in-person experience. So the social wall was back — and big — on the screens and looking great. And we got some really great engagement.”

A photo shot from the back of the Commencement ceremony, showing students in gowns walking down the aisle towards the stage while families look on. At the front, on the stage, 5 screens are up, three of which are showing the social wall. (social media for higher education)
Champlain College 2022 Commencement (source: Champlain College)

The wall is also embedded on the homepage of our Commencement website. It’s where people go to find information or watch the ceremony live, and the social wall is featured front and center.

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