By Peter Cunningham

Social influencer marketing has really taken off in recent years and universities and colleges are finding their own advocates on campus to boost their student recruitment strategies.

There’s an emerging social media strategy of giving students some control over their institution’s channels as a marketing tool to encourage fresh enrolments.

After all, young people today are literate in Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter before they’ve sat an A Level, Higher, or SAT. It’s almost like they’re born knowing how it works – and understanding the pitfalls and pleasures.

As brand awareness advocates, students can be an excellent choice. They’ve chosen to commit years of their lives to a single institution. They understand what appeals about it and what works best – and know what would-be students are looking for.

For institutions to turn students into social influencers could be seen as risky but it makes what their young followers see appear to be much more authentic. It’s a real recommendation coming from a real person – not some safe corporate statement, but real engagement.

And that’s only going to boost your student recruitment strategies.

Social media strategy

At Syracuse University in New York State, the social media strategy didn’t involve handing over the official account, but the team did set up an official student account on Instagram to reach out online.

As the university’s assistant director of digital and social media, Maren Guse, said: “Students are living and breathing the Syracuse University experience, each with their own unique stories and perspectives that only they can truly capture.

“We hope followers of the account – whatever their connection to Syracuse may be – will learn more about Syracuse and feel more connected to our campus community.”

But extending that personal connection doesn’t have to go as far as surrendering the Snapchat passwords to undergraduates.

Getting them blogging about their experiences and sharing those posts on social media also drives engagement, as does using pertinent hashtags, which provide an easy way for people to join the conversation.

The University of Birmingham tasted success with this during its #hellobrum campaign. It sent a personalised video to every student they accepted through clearing. The footage featured a reporter announcing a special student’s arrival, with the successful applicant’s name written on a welcome banner. That led to happy new students sharing their videos on Facebook and Twitter, raising brand awareness.

Sharing with hashtags

There was a similar social media strategy at Loughborough University, with accepted students being sent a selfie frame and encouraged to take snaps and share them with the hashtags #IAMHERE and #WEAREHERE.

Of course, social media is open to abuse – that’s why you can’t leave it to monitor itself. And nor should you be lax in selecting a hashtag. You have to make sure it’s relevant, hasn’t been used before and can’t be easily subverted. Don’t undermine your student recruitment strategies by making easily preventable errors.

And the campaign can’t start and end at having a student-run social media channel – you have to give its followers something worth following.

So work on content, whether that’s a podcast about getting started in university life, a “how to” blog on writing that all-important personal statement for the application, or a video about the best places to head for a cheap meal off campus.

Adding value in the form of relevant content from your ambassadors will develop an engaged audience willing to listen to your brand. And that’s the first step towards securing new enrolments.

We are student recruitment specialists. Contact us now on 0800 612 9890.