By Sari Wakefield, Manager, Digital Communications, AACSB International
In today's crowded collegiate education market, prospective students are "marketed to" from all angles, especially those in the 18–24 year-old demographic. With this age group's digital dependency, the Internet plays an important role in how prospective students find information on business programs. But, business schools cannot solely rely on their websites as their primary recruiting tools anymore—those days are completely over. For example, according to a study by UMass Dartmouth, "100% of colleges and universities are using some form of social media." However, during the rise of the social media phenomenon, many business schools rushed into this new wave of technology without establishing clear strategies. Even still today, many schools have no problem filling their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with the latest campus news and events, but have not taken their social media to the next level. Here are a few tips to help you think through evolving your social media outreach:
Utilize the Major Platforms Frequently
Even though it is difficult to manage multiple social media accounts, it is important that your school has more than one established platform. For instance, each year U.S. News releases its "Best Colleges" rankings. Mashable, the leading source for news, information, and resources for the connected generation, took this list to the next level by ranking a university's social media "connectedness." A common element among the universities on Mashable's list is the fact that they use not one, but all of the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and YouTube) to engage their audiences. The top schools also maintain several different accounts on each platform to cater to different audiences. Your school should have a Facebook page for all of its major programs. Create a page for your MBA program, executive MBA program, online MBA program, doctoral programs, and others. Also, create an alumni following. For example, AACSB has a Facebook page for management educators and prospective business students.
Personalize Your Social Media Accounts
Try personalizing your social media accounts with different personalities. For example, have a personal account for your admissions counselor. What makes your social media efforts real is being able to show that there are actual people working behind the scenes, not just RSS feeds. This can be done rather simply by including the names of the people managing your accounts or featuring their photos. Second, try adding "real-life" elements from current students, such as unique photos from around the campus. Also, try posting interesting topics that are relevant to your prospective audience (e.g., the U.S. News Facebook Tool that was created to discover where your friends went to college).
Stay Informed of Social Media Platforms
Your school should not be the last one to join a new network. Establishing an account, even if the social media network fails long-term, is a smart idea. For example, platforms like Quora and Pinterest, are networks where colleges and universities can increase their reach. Quora is a rapidly growing question and answer site that offers the potential for pitching your institution's academic strengths and getting your brand in front of the public eye. Pinterest is another rapidly growing social network, with some users spending as much time on the site per month as on Facebook. Pinterest uses a visual medium that allows you to easily create a set of "pinboards" to show what makes your institution unique. Infographics and videos also are great ways to get your information across through this platform.
Whether your institution is ahead of the curve or behind it, the rapidly changing social media world is here to stay and it is so important to stay ahead of these types of trends in technology. Remember, you can always delete a social media account if it doesn't turn out to be successful.
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