December 9, 2013 debbie.m

Beyond Facebook: Fresh Plays on Social Media

As our higher ed friends hunker down for finals, we’re looking ahead to 2014. One hot topic: What’s next for higher ed in social media. By now, most schools are firmly established on Facebook and Twitter. So we’re thinking of some of the up-and-coming networks.

Colleges and universities are always looking for fresh digital marketing ideas and social media offers opportunities to connect in fresh, unusual ways. For 2014, consider ramping up your school’s presence on fast-growing Instragram and Pinterest.

Instagram is enjoying explosive growth. In October, the photo-sharing site (owned by Facebook) counted 150 million users, up from 100 million in February. And younger users are its heaviest demographic — ¬†the audience that colleges and universities are marketing to online.

Many universities are using Instragram to showcase their campuses and activities. These images bring a campus to life online. Consider some fresh opportunities for Instragram campaigns:

  • Contests: Urge users to share photos and vote on the winners. Such campaigns keep your institution active with users and build awareness.
  • Fundraising. Select key fundraising campaigns and spotlight with photo postings. Track progress and share updates. Alums may be more willing to donate when they see a project and its progrss.
  • Gatherings. A great way to connect prospective students, current students and alumni is by showing them where and when they can connect. Share photos from events and use past pics to promote future gatherings.

Don’t think of Pinterest as just a social media site for DIY and crafting. Pinterest a gathering spot for users with common interests who “pin” what they like and share with friends. The site’s strong visual presentation engages users for long stretches of time. Pinterest has worked to expand its appeal with business pages, which is a good start for a school. Some other ways to be active on Pinterest:

  • Group boards: Create group boards for a common interest, such as an event or a department. Allow users to contribute to grow the content and the reach.
  • Tell stories: A key to digital marketing is creating an experience and then converting. With Pinterest, you can show campus life in detail, including housing, virtual tours and campus life. Pinterest creates visual storyboards of your school.
  • Connect with Students, Faculty and Alumni: A great way to showcase your dynamic community is by linking to other boards.
  • Drive traffic: Use your Pinterest boards to link to content on other social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. This can broaden your reach for existing campaigns.

Of course, we would never count out the “established” social media networks. One recent statistic that grabbed our attention: ¬†Twitter’s fastest-growing demographic is adults 55+. For colleges and universities, this is an opportunity to reach out to alumni. Consider adding Twitter feeds targeting alums by graduating class and key reunion groups. Hastags for those groups can also help gain exposure. These feeds can help connect with alums for reunion gatherings, networking events and fundraising initiatives.

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