By now, you should be thinking about how you can use social media to promote you institution and recruit new students. But how do you start a conversation with your existing students whilst at the same time encouraging them to participate in educational life and all it has to offer?

Your sports facilities are one of your biggest assets so get your students involved and excited about using them. Although promoting sport and health is always top of your agenda, January is a great time to reinforce the message through social and online platforms. Plus, you'll have a wealth of content on your doorstep from your Heads of Sports Services, Curriculum Heads and your students...

These Top Tips will show you how to get the conversation started, increase your student engagement and kick off 2013 with a bang.

1)    It’s great for starting a conversation. Post ideas about detoxing and exercise tips and you’re bound to create animated discussion amongst your students. Remember to monitor the comments and deal appropriately with any negative or irresponsible posts

2)    It’s timely. As we return to our desks after the Christmas break, healthy eating is a particularly topical subject. Tap into what your students are discussing at lunch with some professional pointers on your Facebook page; consider a weekly advice blog on working towards a healthy lifestyle

3)    It ties in with “healthy bodies, healthy minds”. Running a scheme that promotes a healthy lifestyle as a way to achieve healthy academic results? Ask students about their favourite exercises for de-stressing or which snacks help them through revision. With mock exams and coursework deadlines coming up this month, it’s a great time to encourage tip-sharing and general messages of support

4)    It’s already got its foundations... in those using the facilities already. Make sure your current sports students and users are contributing to the debate – first-hand testimonials work well for recommendations. Plus, it’s great to get students chatting to each other

5)    It’s perfect for social. The ability to add pictures to your posts makes this type of marketing work particularly well on Facebook. Post links to approved sites or blogs that are appropriate for your target age group and YouTube videos of recommended exercises

6)    It’s transferable. The content works across all platforms: ask questions on Facebook; upload video interviews with sports study students on YouTube; post your healthy eating tip of the day on Twitter. You can also integrate the content into your other marketing messages: use it to create a blog post and send out in your email or “keep warm” strategies

7)    It’s great for internal input. Your activity on Facebook will get other areas involved as they see the engagement created. Use their input and feedback to create a multi-voiced narrative: ask the Head of Sport Services to give you their top exercise tips and provide a schedule of classes. You could even film them doing so!

8)    It will inform your content strategy. You can plan your updates and topics of discussion for the next four weeks, tailoring it as you go to what has worked so far

9)    It’s a promotion tool. Our last point is perhaps the most obvious: it’s a great platform for actually promoting your services – to both your students and the wider public. Parents and siblings may also be looking for cheaper facilities, so make sure they know about yours. Rather than simply “broadcasting” about what’s available, you can use any offers or tips as a vehicle towards higher engagement within the discussion

Remember, be creative and make your online conversations with your audience informal and fun. They’ll appreciate the effort and you’ll have healthier and happier students as a result!

Steve Evans is founder of Net Natives, the social media marketing and facebook advertising agency

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