Social media marketing isn’t optional anymore for community colleges, according to brand-new info.
Interact Communications runs its Media Prefs survey twice each academic year, collecting data on national media marketing trends from the experts — community college students themselves!
This year, with 21,000+ responses from nearly 100 colleges across 25 states, we discovered new insights about social media at community colleges. The results are in: social media marketing is critical. Read on to find out why and what you can do to reach more students.
About 3 in 4 Students Think Their College’s Social Media Presence Is Important
Media Prefs added a new question to its survey this year: How important is it that your college has an active social media presence?
The response was overwhelmingly positive, with about 75% of students reporting that colleges should have an active social media presence:
“This information will help colleges support the idea that social media management isn’t a ‘fluff’ job — it’s something that students expect colleges to actively manage … and it takes a lot of work,” says Jamie Wagner, Executive Director of Media Prefs at Interact Communications.
As Generation Z becomes college-aged, it’s more important than ever to meet these “digital natives” where they hang out. According to the social media management giant Hootsuite, it’s paramount that higher ed institutions have a social media presence.
“Using social media in higher education is the new norm,” Hootsuite says in a recent blog on social media tips. “Recruitment. Student and alumni relations. Crisis communications. Fundraising. It all happens on social.”
What Students Want To See on Social Media
This year, Media Prefs asked another new question: What type of content would you like to see on your college’s social media platforms?
The answers were loud and clear.
Students were vocal about what they wanted. Across thousands of responses, learners said that they expect colleges to post relevant information about events, updates, deadlines, and news, as well as inspirational content and real student stories.
The Top 6 Things Students Want on Social Media:
- Events, weighing in at #1 with the most responses
- Information, updates, news, and announcements
- How-to videos and tips
- Useful information
- Inspiration, humor, and a little fun
- Real stories
Social Media Requests, Straight From Your Students!
If there was one thing students were clear about, it’s that they wanted more info about events on social media.
“Events!!!” answers one exclamation-happy community college student when asked what they wanted to see on social media. “Nobody knows what is happening here.”
Results from the Media Prefs survey are amalgamated and anonymous, yet the responses were strikingly similar across the nation.
“I would like to see updates about things that are going on on campus before they happen,” writes another student, which leads us to think that learners only found out about events at this particular college after it was too late.
From sports to music and fine arts, students want to know more about events, and they’re excited to see what’s happening next on campus.
Info & Updates
When is class registration again? What about the add/drop date? Is it too late to apply for financial aid? Students already have to keep track of a lot. Help them out with reminders on social media.
Some of the most sought-after reminders, according to the survey, were financial aid deadlines, scholarship opportunities, and even requests for internship opening notifications.
Jamie Wagner explains that “social media shouldn’t be the primary source of conveying important student deadlines, but it should certainly be a secondary channel to remind them, remind them some more, then remind them again as critical dates draw near.”
When it comes to urgent and emergency communications, students also expressed a desire to hear about it on social media in addition to text messages. From campus closures to COVID-19 policies and updates, keep your students in the loop.
How-To Videos and Tips
According to the most recent student data, “watching videos” is the third most popular use of social media, closely following “keeping up with friends/family” and “contacting friends/family.” So, unsurprisingly, much-asked-for content includes how-to videos and tips on being a better student and career candidate.
The things students asked for were so on-point, we’d like to list some of them here:
Requests for Tips and Tricks to Post on Social Media
Students say these tips and tricks would be the most helpful…
- How to find your career path if you’re undecided
- How to be a better student and tips for studying
- Tips for students who are single parents (and info on help with childcare)
- “Information for older adults ages 40 plus. We are students too!”
- How to get scholarships
- Time management tips
- How to pay for college
Requested How-To Videos to Post on Social Media:
Students want to see how to…
- Enroll in classes
- Apply for financial aid
- Access student support services
- Log in to courses
On top of important deadlines and events, students also turn to social media to find important info.
Learners requested virtual school tours and video previews of classes. They’d also like to see more examples of student projects, as well as access to more information that can be hard to find on the website.
Learning more about transfer options, guides for navigating college, and points of contact for questions were all popular requests.
As one student writes, “I would like to see how we can get resources and help.”
Jamie Wagner knows this can be painful to hear, especially if you see requests for help in your own data. “You might think you’ve communicated these resources over and over already, but the truth is that students often ignore these messages until they actually need them themselves. So, communicate this information early and often across all channels. You never know who needs to hear it that day.”
Inspiration, Humor, and a Little Fun
While students are looking for serious posts, they also appreciate some inspiration and fun.
“Just little tidbits and motivation,” requests one student about their desires for social media content. Another notes that they’d like to see more “encouraging posts.”
Hosting giveaways, interactive games, polls, and contests were other popular requests.
Also, students are hoping for “funny but educational posts.” From humorous related TikTok videos to more fun student life content, learners also want to see the lighter side of college.
We know that being a student isn’t always easy. One learner writes that they want more “funny videos relating to the stressful life of being a college student.” Don’t know where to start? Consider having your students share their experiences by launching a “day in the life” challenge, or have an ambassador take over your Instagram account for a day.
But do keep in mind the warning of one of our survey participants:
“Please only post memes or jokes if they aren’t going to be cringey!”
What was most interesting to discover is that community college students want to see authentic stories on social media. And they told colleges exactly how to do it!
One student says they want to see more content related to student life. They write, “I feel like other colleges are advertised that way, but community colleges are so much better.”
Truth! And according to the survey results, the best way to show student life is to tell a good story.
Survey participants want to get to know professors through interviews, with information about what specific classes are like.
Others requested “More alumni post-college success stories to help motivate current students.”
Participants also wanted to know how current students are navigating college life, with stories and fun facts about their experiences.
And don’t forget the pictures — students had strong opinions of what images accompanying these stories should look like.
“Using photos taken at [college name] instead of stock photos could be a nice, personal touch,” writes one survey participant.
Another writes, “More pictures, less stock photos!”
When to Post on Social Media… And Don’t Forget YouTube!
Now that you know what kind of content students are craving, we hope you’re raring to put together your content calendar for 2022! But before you start, check out just a few more social media tips.
This year’s survey shows that 64% of social media usage happens between 6 p.m. and midnight.
“This timeframe has stayed consistent for years, and it’s a great point to remind colleges of,” says Wagner. She advises exploring a more flexible schedule with your social media specialist by shifting hours that might interact with the start of this window or having them take off a bit early in the afternoon to re-engage at the heart of these evening hours. At the very least, ensure some of your posts hit during this critical timeframe and engage with students as soon as possible.
YouTube Is the Champion Social Media Channel
Last but not least, Media Prefs identified YouTube as the most loved social platform this year, when data was aggregated across all ages.
“For the first time ever, YouTube has passed all other social platforms to be the favorite when aggregated,” says Wagner. While YouTube has consistently been the most utilized social media platform, it hasn’t hit the favorite spot until now. Of course, YouTube shines for certain demographics more than others, so be sure to check your local data and utilize Media Prefs’ robust platform filters.
It’s always a win for students when colleges increase their YouTube presence. Not only is it a home for video, but it’s also a great place to run ads and share the personality of the school.
The platform processes more than 3 billion searches a month, and the app reaches more 18-34-year-olds than any cable network, according to a recent article by Capture Higher Ed. And as Wagner says, “YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world!”
So in 2022, we’ll look forward to seeing your college on the evening YouTube special.
Even More Social Media and Marketing Insights…
Free Events Coming Soon!
The social media insights we’ve shared here are just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging our latest Media Prefs data. Our next great webinar spilling all the latest data is just around the corner — Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to know!
For more robust tips on producing the best social media content, check out our ultimate guide: Sustainable Social Media Marketing Strategies for Higher Ed: How to Keep Your Content Fresh and Flowing.
About Media Prefs
As this Facebook post says, Media Prefs is free this year and can help your college surmount enrollment challenges.
Media Prefs helps you discover what media are working for your college, how best to reach and recruit new students, and how to connect with current ones. It is a comprehensive survey that measures how students are currently consuming media, and how the college should communicate with them. It’s a powerful tool to help colleges back their marketing decisions with data! For more info about Interact’s Media Prefs, please visit www.mediaprefs.com.