Engaging with the tomorrow's best and brightest – Using social media to attract new students

January 13, 2016
By Rich

The most recent university admission statistics from UCAS are astounding. In December 2015 the application body published data that shows there is a wide gender gap beginning to open up amongst university entrants. 18-year-old women are an astonishing 35 per cent more likely to start a degree course than males of the same age.

As a side note to this blog high net worth leads are as active – possibly even more-so – than your average internet user. Especially younger, millennial success stories; they communicate through social media and use search engines to discover new opportunities, too. So, if you want to find them then you need to check out our blog “3 secrets to high net worth lead generation”

Effectively that means around 36,000 fewer men are starting a degree course, with the overall gulf doubling since 2007. The men have been labelled as ‘missing’, while Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook saying that there is a “deafening policy silence” on the issue and that the gap is “unacceptably large”.

Despite that it’s good news on the admissions front. 532,300 entered higher education over 2015, a 3.1 per cent jump from 2014, which is just over 16,000 people. The tale we can tell from Ucas is that while more people are applying and being accepted into higher education universities need to do more to address a growing imbalance whilst also getting the brightest minds possible through their doors.

Competition is fierce, and universities can’t afford to sit around and wait for pupils to approach them. With the right creative strategy, universities can use social media to great effect to reach out to millennials. Not all millennials use social media in the same ways, though, and research by Pew suggests that 90 per cent of young adults aged between 18-29 use social media.

For universities looking to attract new students and convince them that theirs is a much better option than another institute they’d be wise to dip into social media to engage with them on a personal level. As diverse as social usage is amongst millennials though (woman are more likely to use the highly visual pinterest) each platform has its own targeting features allowing you to get right in front of the next generation of pupils hungry to learn.

Savvy social students

It’s fair to say that the social generation began with a millennial audience and is only set to grow further with what some are coining as the iGeneration. That’s an enormous market to reach out to, and exactly the reason why businesses of all shapes and sizes need to take social seriously when it comes to inbound marketing.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat… There are a huge amount of social networks out there; more if you count the likes of Medium and Quora as bonafide social channels, too. Each with their own unique selling point and ways of getting in front of audiences, whether through organic curation or biddable means.

We don’t want to talk to you about selling stuff to them, though. We want to talk about harnessing their energy and recruiting them, turning them into your next generation of students and alumni.

They can be reached naturally, but for some serious targeting and finding people with specific interests and likes in certain locations biddable media’s the way to go. Each social network has its own targeting software to make use of, with the majority doing a very good job at reaching highly-targeted individuals and groups of people.

Generalising a generation

We’ve talked before about how incredibly effective biddable social targeting is at targeting specific groups of people. But we’ve also mentioned how essential getting your short- and long-term strategies down to communicate with audiences effectively. In this case we’re talking about a tech-savvy young audience highly engaged with a huge variety of different social channels.

And the biggest way to turn off such an audience would be to patronise it and generalise it. (But that’s never a good idea anyway, which is why it’s so important to research the market and bring in psychographic information.) So how do your target not just millennials, but the right young talent for your school, college, or university?

The thing to remember about millennials is that it’s a very connected and knowledgeable audience. They have a world of information at their fingertips, supplied by fast internet and a range of interactive media content about any and every subject; articles, podcasts, video reviews, photo journalism, breaking news over social media, and much more.

Spoiled for choice, maybe; but you could argue that people in the 90s had greater musical libraries and sound clarity than ever before when CDs hit the market. It’s a sign of the times, and to get noticed by them it’d be advisable to create a content campaign that covers a lot of visual mediums that are creative and spread a consistent message across all social platforms you want to use.

Unique universities

That’s easy to suggest, though, isn’t it? If you’re worried about how that translates to you and your campaign then don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. Cambridge University, for example, made use of footage from across its departments to create a video called A Winter Waltz in Cambridge to great effect to show potential students its campus over YouTube, has been shared hundreds of times and nearly has 15,000 views.

Your campaigns can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them. The key component with these campaigns is to target the right millennials and give them something different, as the University of Salford did with its #SALFIE hashtag last year. User-generated content was the winner here, with the University encouraging students to upload photos of themselves inside polaroid-style frames with the hashtag.

Prizes were given out for the best photos, with all images collated and shared on the university’s Instagram account. It was a fun campaign that engaged with existing students and showed potential ones that Salford’s was a university that had a great sense of community, and that it listened and engaged with people on campus.

Engaging with millennials – or any group on social media – isn’t an exact science. In its most basic form it boils down to creating shareable content and setting out to talk and communicate with them. Being honest with them, offering them value, and giving them the answers they’re looking for when they’re weighing up their higher education choice.

Targeting true talent

Similarly when recruiting; a good biddable social campaign will help you target millennials to recruit, and also offers you the advantage of finding out more about who they are and whether they’d fit into your setup thanks to social media’s conversational nature. Professional sites like LinkedIn can also help you target and reach out to people with the skills you’re looking for.

And, as your social campaign starts to take hold, there’s no harm in making alterations and adding new elements to it. Social influencers, for instance, are a very ‘millennial’ thing. Partnering with one that millennials follow and give a lot of credence to can add a lot of authority to a campaign and help it spread faster around your targeted social audience.

One of the first things to learn about social media marketing, and something we like to push, is that you get out of social media what you put into it. If you just create profiles on the most popular sites and wait for people to find you expect to be waiting for a long time. If you’re actively using your channels to engage with and target millennials, though, then millennials will respond and come to you.

And, for universities looking to attract new students and businesses looking for future employees, they’ll be more likely to interact with you if you get into their heads, create relevant content around them and their likes, make it mobile-friendly, entertain and inform, and let them interact. Introducing biddable elements, too, will help that search go a lot quicker and increase your chances of success.

As a side note to this blog high net worth leads are as active – possibly even more-so – than your average internet user. Especially younger, millennial success stories; they communicate through social media and use search engines to discover new opportunities, too. So, if you want to find them then you need to check out our blog “3 secrets to high net worth lead generation”