As a college senior, I’ve seen quite a variety of digital marketing, particularly in my search for the right school. I have noticed the trend of using social media advertising as a means for recruiting purposes, and can vouch for the power that social media holds in the college decision-making process.
So, I’ve created a few tips to share what students such as myself look for in a social media ad, and in digital marketing in general.
People (especially teens and young adults) rarely get on social media to read long posts, articles, or statistics. Websites such as Instagram and Facebook have a “see more” button for posts lasting more than one or two sentences, and Twitter won’t even allow posts exceeding 140 characters! So, make your post as short as possible.
If you want to include lots of information, attach a link for people to learn more or use a visual to get your main point across. The visual will grab the attention of your followers, and then they’ll read what you wrote in the post.
One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Watson Jr., and it perfectly sums up my feelings towards social media posts – “good design is good business.”
Whether it’s a poster, picture, or advertisement, nothing is worse for advertising than a visually unappealing post. You’ve seen the ones – they were probably poorly created in a word processor, using a random font and color that someone decided would stand out. These visuals might have been successful in the early 2000’s, but now do more harm than good. Potential college students can create posts that look more impressive in a matter of seconds with the apps and technology available to them…so do the same thing!
There are many good design apps and websites out there. One of my personal favorites is Canva.
Canva is a free design program available as an app or as a website at canva.com. It has hundreds (if not thousands) of free templates to use, complete with fonts, colors, and numerous features to make your advertisements stand out. It even allows you to choose what platform you’ll be posting the design to so the program can adjust the dimensions of the post. Canva is user friendly and the creative layouts they offer can instantly change the impact of your promotional materials.
Videos can be a great tool! People love to use social media to watch short videos, so it can be a great way to show potential students what your school is all about! However, make sure your videos include a few key components.
First, and possibly most important, take the time to create captions on your videos before you post them. Not only is this a courtesy to the deaf community, but it will immediately increase the viewership. Why? Oftentimes, social media is used in public places as a means of passing time and users don’t turn on the sound on their videos. I frequently find myself skipping videos that require sound, but I watch captioned videos all the time. It allows me to fully understand the video without using sound.
Second (I’ll say it again), keep it short and sweet! To have the best impact, videos should be between 15-60 seconds, and certainly no longer than 2-3 minutes.
Be aware, social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram know that users don’t watch long videos, and as a result, they enforce time limits on video posts. Facebook does not have these restrictions, but don’t take that as an invitation to post a 10 minute video! No one will watch it. Trust me.
Make your videos fun, exciting, sentimental, hilarious – anything that will engage the viewer. If your video is well made, it could significantly increase a student’s interest in your school.
In all the talk about social media platforms, many people forget that YouTube is an incredibly powerful means of advertising. Ads play before the majority of videos. YouTube also has a unique payment plan for advertisements – if viewers watch the entire ad, you pay; if they skip the ad, you don’t pay. This is a low risk, high reward means of advertising.
Five second ads usually can’t be skipped (which means you’ll have to pay for each view), but they are a good way to make sure your name is seen. Maybe flash up a picture or two, followed by the school name and logo. You could even customize the ad depending on what video it plays in front of! A science video could be preceded by an ad for your school’s science program; a musical instrument tutorial could be preceded by an ad for your fine arts department. This is a unique way to target specific groups of students and show what your school can offer them.
One last note: not only can ads be customized based on type of video, they can be customized based on location. If you want to target local students, or even in-state students, then you can choose for your ads to specifically play in those regions! This is a good way to make sure you reach the best possible audience.
We all have that friend that posts on social media dozens of times a day. Every time you open your social media feed, their posts are at the top, and you slowly come to resent this person, until you finally stop following them. Don’t let your school’s social media account be that friend!
Moderation is key. I recommend posting no more than once or twice a day, although this varies depending on occasion, platform, and types of posts.
That being said, don’t let your account become stagnant. Post regularly to remind students you are there and your school is filled with opportunity. Don’t post the same types of images or ads every time – switch it up! Make your social media account a fun one that students enjoy keeping up with.
Advertisements and social media outreach are meant for the students – so the best way to advertise is to ask for your students’ opinions. Get student feedback on your posts; see what works and what doesn’t. Better yet, use students! Find students who are interested in social media outreach and let them help design your posts.
I’ve previously mentioned Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, but a few years from now those platforms may be unpopular. If you keep your students actively involved in your social media campaign, they will always know what the best strategies are. This can go a long way towards helping your school’s outreach.
Good luck, and happy posting!
Christian just finished his third year at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina and plans to graduate in Spring 2018 with a double major in Music Composition and Communication Studies. This summer he is interning at Hans Zimmer’s film music studio in California, and plans to enter the world of film composition after graduation. If you’d like to know more or hear his music, visit www.christianjessup.weebly.com.