ESM Digital's Higher Ed Marketing Blog

Social Media for HigherEd: How to Get Buy-In From the Top

We recently spoke to an education executive who had been at her job nearly three decades. Charged with the foray into digital marketing for her department in the university, she let us know that it took a while for her to come around, but she now believed that this whole “social media thing” was here to stay.

Good news.

Or is that bad news? Why did it take so long for her to get on board?

If you’re having trouble convincing the higher-ups in higher education that social media is an important tool for student recruitment and retention, and even capital fundraising, you may not be alone. But here’s what you can do to get the buy-in your school deserves:

Know to whom you’re speaking. Are you trying to get Admissions to buy in? Or is it the fundraising arm of your institution? You can’t get them to believe in what you do unless you speak their language. Why will social media work for THEM? If you can’t answer the basics in a way that relates to them, you won’t convince them of anything.

Set some goals. If the first question is what can social media do for your institution? Your answer back should be a question. What do you want it to do? Schools that run Facebook campaigns targeting donors have been able to raise mega-money and awareness that has ripple effects that raise the bar even higher for the next big event. Likewise, students who are fully engaged are more likely to enroll, succeed, and stay at your institution. Social media can foster a sense of community on-campus and online.

Show some early wins. Even if your ultimate goal is increased enrollments, demonstrate how social media can be used to increase website traffic or campus visits. You probably know that you’re more likely to enroll a student who comes to campus than one who doesn’t bother to make the effort, so a campaign KPI could be those onsite visits. What Admission Director doesn’t love seeing full tours roaming the grounds of their campus day-in and day-out?

Measure and show the results. One of the best features of social media marketing is that you can connect action to results. Analytics allows you to see where traffic—and likely applicants—come from and what they do. Follow the journey of a single student from his first engagement on one of your platforms all the way to enrollment. Then, do a deep dive into what got you those results so you can repeat them.

Recruit your team. If you want the decision-makers to embrace social media, you won’t be able to convince them alone. You’ll need people to help you build out a strategy, and most importantly: implement it. Social media works because it doesn’t just build moments; it builds momentum. It’s people connecting to networks connecting to other networks. Audiences can grow exponentially.

Incentivize social media. While you certainly can’t bribe students to come on board your social media platforms, you can give internal stakeholders reasons to create, like, and share content on social media. Whether it’s a shout-out in the campus newsletter, some PTO, or gift cards, you can convince them that social media is worth something to your institution and them personally. Externally, the incentives may come in the form of barter. You tweet for me and I’ll tweet for you. Isn’t that sweet?

If you don’t know how to sell social to your team, we do! Contact us today and we’d be happy to share some insights. You have no idea what you’re missing.

~Linda Emma