A lot of factors go into a successful social media strategy for marketing any business, and marketing your business is exactly how you should view social media as an FE provider.
While hashtags and posting schedules are important, they’re just small aspects of an effective social media strategy. Your social media should form part of your wider marketing efforts as a means to funnel learners into your recruitment process and fill the gaps in your communications.
In particular, social media excels in proactive engagement. But if your use of social media to date is limited to chatting with old friends and sharing pictures of your cat, it might seem a little overwhelming to figure out how to apply these powerful tools as a means of marketing your business. Read on for a brief rundown of some of the important points to consider when devising a social media strategy for FE learner recruitment.
Know your audience (and platforms!)
When it comes to learner engagement, understanding your audience and the platforms they use is the first step to success. LinkedIn and Facebook may be a good option for providers offering level 3 and higher qualifications to older, established professionals. However, for entry-level qualifications targeted at younger learners at the beginning of their career journey, platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram may prove more relevant.
Similarly, different kinds of content go down better on different sites. Aspirational and visually-appealing content plays well on Instagram, whereas LinkedIn has a lot more tolerance for informational content aimed at more serious professionals.
Ultimately, an effective strategy is likely to incorporate several different platforms. There’s no “one size fits all” approach and no substitute for putting in the time to develop a deep understanding of your target audience and how they engage with social media.
On the whole, people aren’t interested in reading your ad. That doesn’t mean that paid ads can’t form part of a coherent social media strategy (in fact, platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn provide powerful tools which allow you to target your audience with a laser-focus.) But if you want to build engagement with your social media accounts, you need to create content that provides genuine value and connects with students emotionally.
For FE recruitment, this is likely to include some mix of:
- Awareness building content which lets students know who you are and what you offer
- Visually attractive, aspirational content which demonstrates the personal and career benefits of your offer and hooks prospects emotionally
- Informational content designed to expand prospective students’ knowledge of your services and how they can get registered
- Continuous engagement designed to keep existing students engaged, encourage learners who are thinking about taking the plunge, and keep in touch with old students who can help to answer new learners’ questions and demonstrate the benefits of your courses
Use video content
Especially when it comes to younger audiences, video content is key to drawing engagement on social media. Ideas include:
- Vlogs which show the day to day life of a student on one of your courses
- Live chats and Q&As with tutors, students new and old, prospective employers, and workers
- Informational videos to explain complicated topics, such as your admissions process, and financial aid availability - a 2-minute video is a much less intimidating prospect for many learners compared to a boring wall of text
Video content plays best on platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and (of course) YouTube, so consider using your other accounts to signpost learners to these platforms and build greater engagement.
Proactively engage with learners
The content you post on social media will gain you some exposure, but if you really want to reach learners, you have to go to them. Find out where your target audience interacts online and engage with them in these forums. Depending on the qualifications you offer, this could include:
- Job search groups
- Local sport and volunteer groups
- Students and school leavers groups
- LinkedIn groups for professionals
- Twitter and Instagram hashtags
If relevant groups and hashtags don’t exist, consider doing your research and building your community from the ground up. Remember, people don’t want to hear you insert your marketing pitch into their conversation; you need to provide value by offering a unique, insightful, or funny take on the topic at hand. The idea here is to connect emotionally, organically generate interest, and direct learners to your recruitment funnel.
Consider asking for help from the experts
Social media strategy is a skilled profession like any other, so it’s understandable if you’re intimidated by the prospect of developing and implementing a strategy for your FE business.
Professional help is out there, but it needn’t mean taking on a full-time employee. Freelance social media professionals are widely available to work on specific tasks, like creating and implementing a strategy or posting content and interacting with learners. If you’re looking for the full package, they will usually be happy to negotiate a fixed rate to take care of all of your social media marketing needs.
If you have any questions about how to effectively use social media to market your FE business, I’m always available for a chat; just give me a call or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Benn Carson, Founder, Carson Recruitment