How to Use Social Media to Build an Aspirational College Brand

woman following her aspirations

Your students aspire to be great. They aspire to have careers, to have fulfilling lives. Those aspirations are powerful and driven by a multitude of motivators.  Many find motivation in their children, money, stability or any number of the benefits an education can provide, but most have the same aspirational goal – the feeling of success, of achieving their dreams.

Dreams aren’t usually filled with thoughts of learning code or memorizing anatomy vocabulary; people don’t fantasize about the perfect score on their final exam or listening to a charismatic instructor’s lecture. These steps are all important and surely tasks your school uses to help students achieve. In fact, they can be great motivators on the path to achievement – they just aren’t the ultimate goal (and not the primary reason for enrollment). So, why focus an entire social media strategy around completing these singular steps and small short-lived motivational quotes?

Be an aspirational brand and show your students how to be great – show them how to succeed. Tell them a story.

Here are a few stepping stones to consider:

1. Know Your Audience

Before you can develop a successful social media strategy you must truly know your audience. Learn who they are, where they’re from, why the want to go to school and what their dreams are. An aspirational strategy is all about developing a story that matches the dreams your audience members have for their futures.

2. Paint the Story of Those Who Have Come Before Them

Highlight successful graduates and what they’ve achieved in their lives – and not just in their careers. Focus on the lives they have realized including work-life balance and how happy they are with where they are and where they are going.

3. Speak to Their Emotions

Being aspirational is all about emotions and how a college or brand makes people feel. Is a large portion of your student body single parents? Speak to their drive to provide for their family and the pride of setting a great example for their children. Or, maybe you have a lot of veterans in your community? Speak to their desire for a smooth transition to a civilian career, while still maintaining camaraderie with the rest of the military community at your institution. Ask them to share their dreams and their stories – make your social presence a two-way communication.

4. Give Them a Closer Look at Their Dreams

You know the career dreams of your students and you know those careers they’re entering, so show that you’re an authority on the subject. Give your students insight about what a day in the life of a professional looks like. Share a video showcasing a local business with which you have an externship or internship program. Have a photoshoot showcasing your successful graduates in the workplace or externship location. Give your audience a vivid image of their future – their dream.


We know your curriculum was carefully crafted by professionals and that you offer a full list of services, but does your student truly feel like they’re on their path to success? Can they see their success? Very few students enroll in college with the singular goal of a fancy piece of paper to hang on their wall. They want something more – they have a desire within themselves to find success; to find stability for themselves and their families. Embrace those ambitions; feed those ambitions.

Now, while your social media strategy should be about an entire vision of long-term success for your school and your student, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some short motivational posts. Sometimes students do need a small boost to get them over the hump and through their late-night cram session. We love Motivational Monday posts and inspirational sayings but use them wisely and sparingly. Don’t be cliché; be authentic.


If you need help developing an authentic and aspirational social media strategy for your school, connect with our social media specialists at ESM Digital today.

~Marcy Ansley