Higher Ed Social Media Trends for 2024

21 min read

Rama Eriksson

By 2024, it is estimated that 82.3% of global internet users will access a social network through any device at least once a month. The projection for 2025 suggests this figure will exceed 4.4 billion monthly. It is clear that social media is far from dead.

A meticulously developed social media strategy can enhance your brand awareness and draw in prospective students on a global scale. Staying updated on current trends is the first step toward ensuring your content strategy’s effectiveness.

Keep reading to learn what the top-ranking institutions know to stay on top.  We've pulled together a compilation of actionable tips to boost your social media content calendar and strategy in 2024. 


Top 5 Social Media Trends for Higher Ed 

Trend 1- Make the Most of Professional Photography

Trend 2 - Create with Generative AI Tools

Trend 3 - Lean into your Bragging Rights (Authentically) 

Trend 4 - Shake it Up with User-Generated Content (UGC)

Trend 5 - Grow Your YouTube Presence


Trend 1 - Make the Most of Professional Photography

The first trend is based on an analysis of over 700 college and university higher ed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter social media accounts by RivalIQ. In their extensive report, they identified "campus glamour shots" as one of the key trends the most successful institutional social media accounts follow.

The essence of this trend emphasizes the persuasiveness of striking campus photographs to generate support from various stakeholders, including current students, the local community, and alumni. The stunning professional photography evokes nostalgia and school pride. 

This Instagram Reel from Ohio State, for example, showcases views of its picturesque campus woven into a dynamic video. The compilation resonated exceptionally well, raking in a remarkable 202% engagement rate per follower and over 676,000 engagements.  

Showcasing this type of photography in this way has the added benefit of maximizing impact through making use of repurposed content, an excellent component of your content strategy. This Ohio State Reel is a simple compilation of captivating videos and photos that exemplifies this idea. 


Trend 2 - Create with Generative AI Tools

Creativity and AI tools are emerging as the great levelers of the social media playing field in the war for student awareness and engagement.

In fact, according to RivalIQ's analysis, institution size does not matter... and nor does location or affiliation. When it comes to an institution’s ability to engage students on social media, imagination and creative ability are the only limits. 

The use of ChatGPT in Higher Ed is evolving. Adopting AI tools to create or repurpose content will help social media teams focus on their creativity in 2024. Teams who utilize ChatGPT or other AI tools like Bing Chat will have an extra resource for coming up with content ideas, potential hashtags, posting schedules, audience engagement ideas, and even post-writing/editing. 

Leveraging AI tools, in other words, allows social media teams to streamline their tasks. Importantly, it frees up time to concentrate more effectively on strategy development, crafting engaging content, and injecting authenticity, humanity, and community into communication efforts.

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A Keystone poll of 157 universities in September 2023 found that 71.3% of institutions were not using AI in their marketing strategies. Those content creators who resist this evolution with AI will lag behind.

Remember, content from a generative AI needs to reflect your institution's tone of voice. Whether it's casual, informative, or matter-of-fact, be sure to include additional prompts to define your brand’s tone so your AI-generated content doesn’t sound artificial. 

Use our ready-made prompts to create, plan and refine your student marketing content. 


Trend 3 - Lean into your Bragging Rights (Authentically) 

This highlighted trend revolves around the concept of celebrating and amplifying the distinctive qualities that set each university apart.  

Sincerely acknowledging achievements by both current students and alumni is pivotal to this trend. Accomplishments should span a diverse spectrum, running the gamut from sports title successes to prestigious awards like Nobel Prizes.

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Actively recognizing and showcasing these milestones is not about boasting; rather, it reflects the substantive achievements made by the university's broader community.  

Moreover, utilizing an authentic approach in highlighting these accomplishments proves to be an effective method for achieving remarkable engagement rates.  

Let’s take a look at Fayetteville State University, an HBCU, which showcased its 2023 graduates celebrating with a unique twist on an Instagram Reel.

The footage captures graduates 'grooving' as they accept their diplomas. Despite its simplicity, the Reel achieved an outstanding 1400% engagement rate per follower and the comments section buzzed with activity from followers.   

Empowering your student content creators can generate some new excitement into your institution's most traditional and recurring events. These Gen Z student creators are invaluable for finding fun story angles and capturing unique vantage points that make social media posts resonate. 


Trend 4 - Shake it Up with User-Generated Content (UGC)

As per Semrush Social Media 2024 Trends report, social media users are expected to show greater interest in User-Generated Content (UGC) compared to polished and professional content.

The "shake up" trend takes empowering student creators to the next level by encouraging Gen Z students to get involved in the creative process.

Departing from the conventional approach of scripted content, this trend adopts a more spontaneous and authentic style. Quirky videos that prominently feature Gen Z students in unscripted, everyday scenarios emerge as powerful tools for garnering engagement from other students, as well as keeping posts up-to-the-minute on-trend. 

@umnduluth Taylor Swift or Shakespeare? Will these UMD students get it right? 👀 #UMNDuluth #UMDBulldogs #taylorswift #eras ♬ original sound - University of Minnesota Duluth

The University of Minnesota, Duluth highlights this theme well with their successful "person on the street" student creator videos. In this example, a student challenged her peers to distinguish between phrases from Taylor Swift and Shakespeare, in the process garnering over a million views and a 13.5% engagement rate per view on TikTok.  

TikTok, as a platform, will continue to gain ground in terms of users and importance worldwide. Prioritizing UGC is vital to leveraging this platform to its ability. 

User-generated student content breathes authenticity and gives a realistic insight into the true campus life. 


Trend 5 - Grow Your YouTube Presence

Brands across various industries are now utilizing short-form videos not only for advertising but also for storytelling and testimonials. YouTube is pivotal to this trend.

Over half (51%) of Gen Alphas first hear about brands through YouTube videos - underscoring the importance of a YouTube presence sooner rather than later. 

In fact, approximately 25% of worldwide mobile traffic is attributed to YouTube. By 2024, users are expected to reach 933.4 million and keep a similar pace of growth into 2025.

YouTube growth in India, in particular, is staggering and is forecast to continuously increase between 2024 and 2028 by in total 252.2 million users or 44%.


Understand Your Audience, Prioritize Quality  

Establishing a presence on various social media platforms with your potential students is crucial. However, merely sharing identical content across all channels is insufficient for increasing engagement. Ensuring you tap into the relevant trends of the day on the various platforms is key to getting noticed. 

A successful approach considers understanding your audience on each social channel and tailoring the content to best suit them. Prioritizing the quality of content over quantity is paramount. Following these tips for 2024 will contribute to achieving that quality. 

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