As in every other industry, social media has become an indispensable tool in higher education marketing. A successful social media strategy can increase brand awareness and attract prospective students worldwide and knowing current trends is the first step in ensuring your content strategy is effective.
Here we offer some ideas on how to improve your content strategy:
Top social media trends for Higher Ed in 2022
RivalIQ’s 2022 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report saw organic engagement dropped last year, meaning brands might start depending on paid content promotion to keep reaching their audience. The report also showed brands posted more frequently than the previous year, increasing their presence across all social media channels.
Making good use of trends and popular hashtags has also proved efficient in driving traffic to your content. Brands from all sectors have had great success joining in on celebratory hashtags like #Halloween, #MayThe4thBeWithYou, #ValentinesDay, and #Pride. Participating in challenges and adding trending sounds to your posts are other great ways of making the algorithm work to your advantage.
While the explosive growth of platforms like TikTok and YouTube turned video into the most sought-after form of content, Instagram carousels are still one of the most engaging post types of all social media.
Still, according to RivalIQ, the higher education industry saw a boost in Facebook engagement in 2022, and, while Instagram dropped engagement rates around all industries, higher ed increased its Instagram engagement despite posting less often.
The report ranked the ten universities with the best social media performance in 2022, evaluating engagement rates on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Let’s look at four universities featured in the ranking and see what they do to stay on top…
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa has earned the #1 spot on RivalIQ’s social media standings for four consecutive years. Ranking #1 on Facebook, #3 on Instagram, and #8 on Twitter, UoI gets unique markings on nearly every major social media platform.
UoI draws most of its strength from the school’s popular sports teams, leaning heavily on sports-related posts and celebrations of student life - such as a birthday tribute to campus mascot Herky, which got over five thousand reactions.
Posts that appeal to nostalgia and empathy also do well on any social platform. A video featuring the university’s most beloved tradition - the Hawkeye Wave, when the crowd turns to the children’s hospital overlooking the stadium and waves to the pediatric patients and their families - was viewed nearly 100 thousand times on Facebook alone.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is another example that you don’t need to rely on videos to achieve great engagement rates on Instagram. While the occasional reel makes an appearance, UoC’s feed consists mainly of static pictures.
Their social media manager doesn’t waste the school’s beautiful location and architecture - many of the most popular posts feature gorgeous photos of the university’s charming landscape, making good use of carousels to share the best pictures taken by the community.
Another way of increasing interest in the school is by promoting campus events and sharing curiosities, such as this post recounting when one of the school’s libraries was featured in the famous 2014 film adaptation of the popular “Divergent” book series.
James Madison University
James Madison University ranked #1 on Instagram for the second consecutive year, achieving an engagement rate by followers of 7.59% and beating the average rate of 3.37% by more than 2x.
Going against the new notion that video is better than photos, the school performed best when posting pictures. It was no glitch in the algorithm, though: JMU’s Instagram account scored big hits with carousel posts, which have a chance of reappearing on followers’ feeds if they don’t interact with it the first time around, giving it a second life.
JMU’s social channels also use popular hashtags like #NationalDogDay, #VeteransDay, and #StPatricksDay to stay on top of current trends and increase reach.
TikTok has only recently arrived on the scene, but some universities have already mastered the art of the platform. Baylor University achieved a #3 ranking on TikTok by employing simple and effective content strategies and 2.5x the posting frequency compared to other schools.
The university account leaves much of its content up to its students - the simplest and most effective way of staying on top of the app’s trends. BU posts fun and lighthearted videos featuring trending audio tracks on TikTok, increasing the chance of higher engagement: a simple 8-second video of a student crossing campus to see the resident bears to a trending sound from Disney’s The Mandalorian got nearly 1 million views, and over 200 thousand likes.
Another way of engaging your audience is by posting educational and culturally relevant content. For example, this video about the history of step, a form of percussive dance traditional in African American fraternities, received over 300 thousand views and nearly two thousand comments praising the content.
University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne is another TikTok success, having amassed more than 41 thousand students since the school’s first TikTok video in late 2020.
Like many other popular higher education accounts, the University of Melbourne leans heavily on frequent student participation in most of its videos, ranging between “a day in the life” videos and campus tours. Most of the content on the school’s page shows glimpses of what student life looks like for UoM’s attendees, from the first day of orientation to the graduation ceremony.
Educational videos, where students share their research and discoveries, have also appealed to the TikTok audience. This video, where a student shows a dark matter research lab located one kilometer under the Earth, has been viewed over 300 thousand times, proving that TikTok users are as interested in learning something new as they are in comical, lighthearted challenges.
Knowing what your audience wants
Being present across the most popular social media channels with your prospective students is key, but simply reposting the same content on every platform isn’t enough to raise your engagement. Each platform works differently and requires different types of content. A successful strategy accounts for the audience in each social channel and what content is best suited to them.
The constant Evolution of social media makes it as exciting as it is challenging. However, paying attention to your followers’ feedback and understanding what they like to see is the best way to optimize your university’s online presence. Frequency is important, but quality beats quantity.
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