Here’s How to Make Social Media Marketing for Colleges Work

college social media marketing team

Your school is on social media. Of course it is. But are you using social media strategically? Social media marketing for colleges can have a positive impact on your brand, community and enrollments. If you do it correctly.

Audit Your Social Media Marketing Presence

Before you can build a comprehensive social media marketing plan, you need to set a baseline. That means taking a critical look at what you already do and whether or not it works. Start with a social media audit. Especially for colleges and universities, this can be a significant undertaking. If you don’t have a centralized social media presence (who does?), it will be difficult to get control of every Facebook page, Instagram account or post to Twitter that’s ever been claimed under your school brand. Be realistic. You may need to forgo sports, clubs and activity groups and concentrate on colleges within the university. But also be methodical. Use a template or an excel spreadsheet and cover all the social media bases. Someone at some point in time may have started a Tumblr account with the best of intentions, but it’s lost out there in cyberspace, and could be harming your social media reputation. Time to rein it in.

Once you’ve rediscovered all that you have, take a critical look at the structure and performance of your channels. Some items you’ll want to consider include:

Posting Schedule

Look at how often you currently post to each of the channels you examine. Does it align with the best practices for the individual channel? While some of this is subjective, each channel needs to be considered as the individual it is. Twitter cries out for frequent tweets; LinkedIn definitely does not.



How are your social media channels currently being received? How many impressions does your content get, but more importantly, how engaged is your audience? If you receive a ton of likes and shares on Facebook but absolutely nothing on Pinterest, it may be time to deactivate the latter.



Assess the kind of content that is posted and whether it aligns with your school brand. Does it send the kind of messaging you want? Does it fit the channel? Most importantly, analyze what kind of engagement you receive from what kinds of content. If videos are watched all the way through, but blog posts never get clicked, listen to what your users are saying.


Channel Alignment

If it isn’t already clear, many of your audit items will overlap. And they should. If you have great content that just doesn’t fit the channel, you’re unlikely to get engagement. If you post that content too much or too little for the channel, it will be ignored. Make sure the content you produce fits the channel.



You have a target audience. But is the engagement you receive coming from it—or are you generating engagement from potential students who will never visit your school or enroll in your programs? For example, you may have a blog that generates lots of traffic for your site through your Facebook page. But if your programs are all on-campus, that traffic isn’t going to convert into enrollments unless your audience is local to your campus.


Analyze Your Social Media Data

Once you’ve gathered the data, it’s time to take a close look at what works and what doesn’t. This is an enlightening exercise for many schools. Sometimes, it’s merely the discovery of that errant Tumblr account and its zero engagement. But the numbers usually reveal even more. Understanding what kind of content receives what kind of engagement, on which platforms and from whom, will help you form a clearer picture of what’s going on with your social media presence—and help you rethink your strategy (if there ever was one).

Set Goals for Social Media Marketing

Your data will tell a story. As a first step, you may want to deactivate channels from which you receive no engagement or brand lift. But all your current data also serve the baseline stated above. This is where you start. Now, what do you want to do? It’s critical that you integrate your social media marketing with all your university’s marketing efforts. Whether it’s a television spot, a billboard, or a post on Facebook, your school brand needs to be consistent and true to its core mission.

Then, go back to Business 101 and set some smart goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. How does this work on social media? Let’s say your Facebook page has 500 likes. With a concerted effort to improve that number, you may realistically set a goal to increase it by 25, 50 or even 100 percent in just six months. Such a goal will depend on several factors. The number of students, alumni, faculty, staff and the power of your brand will all need to be considered.

Next? How will you achieve your goal? Sometimes the first step is the most obvious, yet often overlooked. Is there an easy means for users to like your page? In addition to the like button on your Facebook page, make sure to include an invitation to like your Facebook page on your website. Then consider campaigns that could effectively boost your numbers. Maybe an email outreach or posts on the page urging your followers to invite their friends to like the page. And be sure to let users know what you’re doing and how you’re doing along the way.

Facebook Likes example

Measure Your Results

Even when the data aren’t what you want or expect, they are your friend. That’s because they tell a story. You just need to pay attention. And with all that data, you can adjust, optimize, improve.


If you’d like help building a sound social media strategy for your college, contact the experts at ESM Digital. We’ve been doing this since social media became a thing.


~Linda Emma