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Unlocking the Power of Organic Social Media in Higher Education

In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, effective social media strategies are paramount for higher education institutions striving to engage with diverse audiences. Social media is an increasingly critical part of amplifying brand awareness and expanding content impact, and when implemented in complement to SEO, it can have a snowball effect on overall performance. 

When properly leveraged, social media: 

  • Provides extensive content distribution
  • Improves blog and story content lifespan
  • Improves online visibility and drives organic traffic
  • Boosts local search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Can drive enrollment

Eduvantis takes an algorithm-driven approach to social media. This means that we blend the art of good content together with the science of algorithm-mechanics to ensure the maximum return on your key investment: time. 

During our recent Lessons Learned virtual discussion series session, Eduvantis’ Social Media Strategy Consultant, Jordan Ashley, and Seattle University’s Director of Marketing & Communications for the Albers School of Business and Economics, Alicia Kan, delved deep into the power of these channels for higher education. 

Navigating the Ever-Changing Social Media Algorithms

Social media algorithms change—a lot. This is a significant challenge for many higher education marketers, who are often charged with wearing multiple hats. 

Alicia Kan is a department of one, responsible for leading not only Albers’ overarching marketing strategy, but also the hands-on management of Albers’ paid media, events, PR, social media, website, and once, organic social media. Recognizing that playing to the algorithms required specialized expertise, Kan outsourced the management of Albers’ organic social media in 2022. She shares, “You have to remember, even if you’re doing it in-house, social media isn’t actually free. It requires specialized expertise and a lot of time. Investing in the right people who know what they’re doing is essential.”

Jordan Ashley has spent her entire professional career in organic social media. She stresses the need for ongoing vigilance and adaptation. Algorithms frequently update with little to no prior notice, requiring institutions to be both proactive and reactive. This adaptability ensures that content remains visible and engaging despite algorithmic changes.

Data-Driven Decision-Making in Social Media Strategy

Eduvantis brings a data-centric approach to the table and emphasizes the importance of making marketing decisions based on analytics. 

This data orientation aligns with Kan’s strategy at SeattleU. “Your marketing strategy should always be driven by data. Analyzing what works and what doesn’t is crucial for continuous improvement,” Kan emphasizes.

Ashley’s approach to organic social is based on driving engagement and involves constant monitoring of engagement metrics and adjusting strategies accordingly. She stresses that while having a large following can be advantageous, engagement is the true metric of success. Platforms like Instagram are increasingly prioritizing content from profiles with higher interaction rates, making it essential for institutions to prioritize genuine engagement.

“It’s more important to have a highly engaged audience than a large number of passive followers—engagement is key,” Ashley shares.

Ashley outlines three key ways higher education social media managers should be thinking about engagement: 

1: Tailoring Content for Different Platforms

“Different types of content suit different platforms—visual storytelling for Instagram, news and bragging for LinkedIn, teaching and events for both,” Ashley explains.

Ashley recommends leveraging content buckets such as “show,” “tell,” and “event” to ensure a balanced and diverse content presence. The key here is that your content should be customized based on what works best for each platform’s algorithm. And by ‘works best’, we mean ‘drives engagement’. 

For example, while Instagram excels at gaining user interaction through visual storytelling, LinkedIn is better suited to drive engagement through professional accolades and in-depth informational posts.

Ashley encourages people to repost previously successful content—particularly high-performing student stories and other people-focused content. She refers to this as UGC, user-generated content. She explains that while reposting UGC can not only keep a profile active with little time commitment, adding value to those posts with a comment increases the value of those posts in the eyes of the LinkedIn algorithm and credits engagements to your profile. 

Remember, it’s not just about the content you post but how you engage with your community that keeps the algorithm in your favor. 

2. Optimizing Posting Schedules and Frequency

Consistent posting schedules are crucial to algorithm optimization. Ashley shares that regular, well-timed posts are more beneficial than flooding followers with multiple updates in a single day. Consistency helps maintain audience interest and prevents competition for attention among your profiles posts.

Ashley shares, “We’ve seen impressive organic growth by adhering to a consistent posting schedule. It helps maintain momentum and keeps your audience engaged.”

If you’re unsure of when the best time to post is, Ashley encourages experimenting, “For higher education institutions, experimenting with different posting times and frequencies can reveal when your specific audience is most active. Monitoring this and adjusting accordingly can optimize your reach and engagement.”

3. Harnessing the Power of Calls-to-Action and Conversions

Lastly, effective calls-to-action (CTAs) are essential for driving engagement and conversions and different approaches to CTAs are necessary on each platform. 

Ashley explains, “Tailoring your calls-to-action to align to your goals—whether you’re looking to boost awareness, reach, or engagement—including a CTA is key for creating digital conversions.” 

Ashley emphasizes the need for compelling imagery on Instagram and conversational prompts on LinkedIn to encourage interaction. Each platform demands a tailored approach for optimal results.

A Note on Gen Z: From Social Media to Google Validation

With Gen-Z, higher education marketers have seen a significant shift in browsing habits.  Younger audiences are more likely to discover new information via social media before seeking validation through Google. This change underscores the importance of a cohesive strategy that integrates social media with search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to ensure comprehensive online visibility.

Eduvantis’ AVP of Digital Marketing Emily McMahon explains, “Gen Z often goes to social media first before validating on Google. This shift necessitates a strong presence on both fronts.”

In Conclusion

By focusing on engagement, leveraging data, adapting to algorithm changes, and fostering internal trust, institutions can create compelling and effective social media strategies that resonate with their diverse audiences.

Ashley and Kan encourage institutions to view social media not just as a promotional tool but as a collaborative space for engagement and growth.

To gain more expert insights, check out the “Organic Social Media: Taking an Algorithm-Based Approach to Drive Results” Lessons Learned virtual discussion.