Social media has become a massive part of our lives worldwide.

People use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to connect with friends, share experiences, and discover new things.

As of 2024, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 143 minutes daily.

Through strategic social media marketing, educational institutions can increase their visibility, attract prospective students, and enable meaningful connections with their audience.

Social media helps universities showcase what everyday life would really be like and deliver authenticity via content, meaning real people posting real things.

Social media marketing for higher education has a lot of potential.

But it can be hard to know where to start.

In this blog, we will explore the 10 best strategies with examples to get started and leverage different channels to attract prospective students, boost engagement, and increase visibility.

What is Social Media Lead Generation?

Social media lead generation for colleges and universities involves finding people who are interested in what a school offers. These interested leads might not be ready to enroll later, but they could be in the future.

Social media lead generation aims to build a pipeline of qualified leads that can be nurtured and converted into enrollments.

It involves using various strategies, such as content marketing, advertising, and engagement tactics, to capture users’ interest and encourage them to provide their contact information or take further action, such as visiting a website or filling out a form. 

10 Social Media Marketing Strategies With Examples from Colleges & Universities

Here’s a closer look at the best social media marketing strategies with examples that colleges and universities can implement to attract more students and boost engagement.

1. Automate Your Messaging Channels With Social Media AI Chatbots

AI technologies have empowered universities with new tools to enable and drive student success by personalizing outreach and connecting with students.

The AI chatbot learns everything from data accumulated from human-to-human dialogues. The more data it is fed, the more effective it is.

Here’s an example of how the University of People integrated an AI chatbot with its higher education social media strategy to guide interested applicants through a series of content and answer any questions they might have about the University.

Before this, the University faced problems as students came to its Facebook page and asked questions.

Still, it would sometimes take multiple messages and a few hours to tell prospective students about its programs and guide them fully.

Facebook chatbot enabled the University to communicate instantly with the students to determine if a student met the required requirements to apply and to funnel for lead generation.

The University experienced a lower cost per application than its traditional Facebook lead generation campaigns.

Facebook chatbot examples

Source: UoPeople

2. Create a Content Marketing Strategy to Bring in the Right Students

There are tons of formats you can use for your social media content.

Once you start tracking which posts (text-based, link-bearing, video-based) get the most engagement, you must create more of them.

Facebook is an important platform for university social media strategy. With 3 billion active monthly users, it is the most used social network worldwide.

For example, the University of Iowa highlights job placement statistics for its College of Law graduates by sharing the statistics emphasizing the popularity of graduates staying within the state.

This post attracts prospective students and reinforces the institution’s reputation for producing successful graduates.

University of Iowa facebook example

Source: University of Iowa

Remember that stories are a great feature for creating content with 2 million global active users.

For example, Colorado State University posts high-quality photography, IGTV videos, reels, highlights, and stories on Instagram.

It includes informative reels showcasing study spots and captivating posts with beautiful photography directing users to their bio for more details.

Colorado State University  instagram example

Source: CSU

3. Boost Your Post Engagement With Branded Hashtags

Hashtags are an important part of social media strategy for educational institutions as they enhance visibility, engagement, and brand recognition.

Branded hashtags refer to the unique ones you create around your university brand.

They help boost brand awareness and user engagement on social media and are optimized with metrics tracking. They should be concise and align with brand values.

Moreover, to reach and engage Gen Z on social media, use hashtags to make it easier for them to discover your brand.

Here are some tips that can help you create a hashtag for your university:

  • Keep it short, simple, and memorable
  • Ensure relevance to your audience and university
  • Integrate your university name
  • Maintain consistency across all social media accounts
  • Research to ensure uniqueness and availability

For example, the University of Buffalo leverages hashtags consistently from all official UB accounts.

#UBuffalo is UB’s primary hashtag, and they use this hashtag on ALL posts to reach our UB community.

 University of Buffalo example of primary hashtag,

#UBhornsUP is UB’s spirit hashtag, and they use this for athletics posts or to convey pride.

University of Buffalo using hastag

#UBTrueBlue is our community hashtag, and they use it to convey pride as a member of the UB community.

University of Buffalo using hastag on social media

4. Feature UGC to Attract More Eyeballs to Your University

Utilizing user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful strategy for universities to showcase authentic campus life, engaging current and prospective students, faculty, parents, and alumni.

UGC makes content more authentic. It provides a glimpse of campus experiences, attracts prospective students, and creates an emotional appeal.

For example, Clemson University has an Instagram account, ‘ClemsonStudents,’ where current students and alumni post images and videos.

The University leverages user-generated content (UGC), showcasing authentic experiences and testimonials. These heartfelt captions from the students attract more eyeballs to the University.

Clemson University ugc content

Source: Clemson Students

The authenticity of the user-generated content at your social media marketing touchpoints makes campaigns more transparent and impactful, which cannot be created with paid promotions.

Here’s another example of the University of Albany TikTok; they have launched a social media ambassador program to generate positive buzz about the campus experience and serve as a valuable asset to our communication efforts.

University of Albany TikTok example

Source: University of Albany

5. Enhance Interaction & Experience With Live Events

Videos are appealing for showcasing your event’s vibe, theme, and excitement. 

Think of your event content as a story waiting to be told that captivates, intrigues, and resonates with your target audience.

During the live streaming events, it is important to be attentive to the audience’s comments.

Moreover, repurpose your live event recording into bite-sized video clips, blog posts, or social media snippets to extend the reach and maximize its value.

Here’s an example of the University of Florida live streaming “Florida Gators Football Press Event,” on its Facebook page, engaging its audience in real-time and developing a sense of community among fans and followers. 

Engages its audience in real-time, providing access to exclusive content and fostering a sense of community among fans and followers.

This approach allows the university to extend beyond physical attendees and reach a broader audience.

University of Florida live streaming

Source: University of Florida

6. Increase Visibility & Reach With Live Campus Virtual Tour

Virtual campus tours and live-streaming amenities are important to social media marketing for educational institutions.

It helps universities showcase their campus facilities, academic programs, and student life experiences to a wider audience, including prospective students and their families who cannot visit in person.

Live tours provide an interactive and immersive way to interact with the audience in real-time, answering questions and providing personalized insights that help attract and retain students.

Moreover, sharing these tours on social media further amplifies their reach and impact.

For example, Grand Canyon University offers a live video stream that allows prospective students and parents to view the campus in real time, led by a dedicated tour guide.

It provides a 360-degree view of highlighted locations across campus.

Grand Canyon University offers a live video stream

Source: GCU

7. Collaborate With the Right Influencers For Maximum Impact

Influencers, who typically have a large following and influence within specific demographics or niches, help universities reach and engage with their target audience more effectively.

The type of influencer chosen should align with the university’s goals and audience, whether they are alumni, current students, faculty members, industry professionals, or social media personalities with interests relevant to the institution’s offerings.

Influencers have a dedicated following that trusts their recommendations. As a result, it helps universities tap into this existing trust and credibility and maximize reach.

Here’s an example of the University of Michigan Law School conducting an online podcast with Jon Stewart, comedian, talk show host, and political influencer, to discuss a certain topic.

It attracts attention and engages a wider audience, including prospective students and alumni.

University of Michigan Law School social media example

Source: UoM Law School

8. Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing Via Alumni

Alumni create a buzz that can inspire others by talking about their time at school, what they’ve achieved since graduating, and why they’re proud of their alma mater.

It’s like spreading the word about how great their university is and a great way to boost social media strategy for universities. These stories help show how unique the university is and why it’s worth being a part of.

So, when people see these posts, they get excited and may want to learn more or even join the university themselves.

For example, the University of New Hampshire has created UNHTales, which focuses on students sharing their experiences via images and videos.

They speak authentically about their university experiences, creating genuine narratives that resonate with prospective students and the wider community.

University of New Hampshire instagram example

Source: UNHStudents

9. Run Paid Social Media Ads to Drive Traffic & Generate Leads

Running paid ads on social media helps universities get more people to visit their websites and show interest in what they offer.

These ads can be pictures, videos, or forms people can fill out to learn more.

Universities can tell them about their programs, events, and deadlines by showing ads to specific groups of people, like students or parents.

It’s like putting up signs where the right people are most likely to see them, helping universities get noticed by those interested in what they offer.

For example, Imperial College London runs ads on Facebook to promote its MSc Advanced Material Sciences program 2024.

These ads appear on Facebook timelines and in users’ feeds, targeting individuals interested in pursuing advanced studies in material sciences. The ad encourages them to learn more about the program and apply.

Imperial College London runs ads on Facebook

Source: Facebook

10. Use Snapchat Filters for an Immersive Experience

Using Snapchat filters with AR and VR features can make university experiences more fun and interactive.

These filters let students explore campus virtually, try out different activities, or even “wear” university gear in their snaps.

It’s like bringing the university campus to life right on your phone, making it easier for students to feel connected and excited about their school.

With a mix of creativity and a love for their campus, the University of Michigan launched the ‘Let’s Go Blue Lens’ Snapchat filter to engage students in a fun way.

This filter is customized with university-themed graphics and slogans, reflecting the spirit and pride.

When students use this filter on their Snapchat photos or videos, they can show off their love for the university and share their campus experiences with friends.

snapchat example of the universities

Source: Snapchat

Challenges to Higher Education Social Media Marketing 

Although social media is being used as a marketing trend in higher education, there are certain challenges that restrict marketers from what they can achieve. Here is a list that marketers should plan for:

  • A decline in engagement and conversion rates of social media audiences 
  • The imperative needs to stand out from competing universities 
  • Engagement on a consistent basis causes time loses 
  • A constant need to develop creative content magnets for students 
  • Mitigating social media & PR disasters
  • Need to consistently improve social media marketing strategies 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What social media do university students use most?

University students often gravitate towards popular social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter. These platforms provide avenues for socializing, sharing experiences, and staying updated on news and trends.

How does social media help university students?

Social media helps university/college students in various ways. It facilitates communication and collaboration with peers and professors, provides access to educational resources and study groups, offers platforms for networking and career opportunities, and can serve as a source of support and inspiration.

What types of content perform well on social media for higher education marketing?

Content that performs well includes visually appealing images and videos, informative blog posts and articles, student and faculty spotlights, behind-the-scenes glimpses of campus life, event promotions, and relevant news and updates.

Conclusion 

We hope you now have a better understanding of social media marketing for higher education institutions.

Social enterprise marketing has fast become a major tool in the enrollment marketers’ arsenal, simply because of its massive global reach. 

However, for many institutions, creating and executing a successful marketing campaign can be a daunting task, requiring a significant investment of time and resources.

In such cases, one option to consider is partnering with a specialized higher-education marketing agency.

These agencies have the expertise and resources to help universities and colleges create and implement effective marketing campaigns that drive results.