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McCauley on Building Enrollment: Using Social Media to Brand Your Program

We’ve already talked a bit about branding your program.  In short, your brand is how others perceive your program based on all of the many touch points they experience.  Branding is driven by your message, and your message is communicated in many ways.  (Don’t overlook the message sent to administrators and counselors as they look into your classroom when they walk by.)  It’s to control the message itself and to think carefully about how it’s delivered.  In this article we will discuss a few ways you can use social media in your branding efforts.

You can and should use social media even if these platforms are blocked in your school. Students will use these sites beyond the school day.

Get connected: The first step is to make sure you have the necessary accounts for your program—in most cases this should be different from your personal account. Get yourself set up with Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and with pages in Facebook and Google+. Personalize them to reflect the visual image of your program. Use your logo, colors, slogan, etc., so it is unmistakably yours. If you’re new to social media, the good news is that your kids already know how to do this; all you need to do is select a couple to help you get going.

Involve the kids:  How should you use these accounts?  My program Team Social Media will be comprised of a group of select students with both the access and permission to post on behalf of our program.  We will add to this team as additional students show interest during the year.  They will be encouraged to contribute to the sites at any appropriate time—including during my classes; any time is appropriate.  While each student will be responsible for a particular platform, they will be encouraged to post to other sites as well.

Post this:  The big question is "what should they post?”  The first discussion we have is focused on determining what is appropriate and what should be left off the social media sites. I tell them that, in general, if you have to ask, it’s probably not appropriate.  I want them to be positive, sincere, careful with humor, and to avoid anything that can appear as negative or controversial to someone who wasn’t there and doesn’t have the context of what was going on. Once we cover the judgment aspect of posting, we discuss specific types of posts.

Tips for Facebook: The following are the types of posts I want to see showing up on our Facebook page.

  • Everyone likes the pics: Posting pictures of fellow students in “action” is effective because images are attention-getting and we like to see other people we know while paging through Facebook. Students often take classes because their friend did.
  • Keep it short: Studies show that posts with 80 or fewer characters get the best traction.  Your students and their friends read enough at school; they don’t want a long commentary.  Get to the point.  Think like Twitter when using Facebook.
  • You’re invited: Invite readers to visit a website, click if you agree, share if you like, like it if you agree, etc.  The key is that people are more likely to take an action if they are asked to do so. If students feel a part of a class or program they are morel likely to take another class or invite their friends to do so.
  • Be timely: One of the best things about social media is that it is immediate.  Share and post about things that are current; that are happening now. Posts such as “just got an assignment,” “finished my project,” “remember to study for the quiz,” “we’re all meeting at Sugar Daisy Bakery for lunch,” etc. are timely. This type of post creates a sense of belonging with readers and future students.
  • Share more videos: This generation loves video. Share relevant and entertaining links to videos. Create your own and share them as well.

 

Twitter is different: Twitter presents different possibilities. For Twitter, I encourage students to tweet what they are doing, what they are planning to do, and what they just did. Under most circumstances this will be classroom related, but not always. Part of the branding effort is to create a personality for the program. The personality is not all business. Students are certainly influenced by what goes on in a class when they are making their course selections. (Yes, there’s some risk here, but if you are running a busy, focused, engaging, curriculum-based program, most postings will reflect positively on your program.)

Twitter is also a great place to share a link to something you find interesting.  It’s quick and easy.  Here are additional types of tweets that are encouraged.

  • Share content you like: If your students stumble across a great article, video, website, etc., encourage them to tweet the link.
  • Ask a question: Students are always answering questions from teachers. They will enjoy the opportunity to reply to other students. This creates a collaborative feel for both current and potential students.
  • Knowledge: If students have an expertise in a certain area or learned something that they found interesting, it makes a great tweet.
  • Tweet a quiz answer: I am not a big fan of tests and quizzes, but we still have a few. Every now and then I will have one of my social media gurus tweet an answer to one of the questions. Trust me, that keeps the students reading!

 

As you can see, these social media tools can help establish or enhance the brand for your program.  As you continue to attract followers and friends, social media will become a very powerful tool in building your enrollment.

In my next article I will explore ways to use Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ for building your program.

Jeff McCauley teaches Business Administration in the marketing cluster in Utah.