After reading the title of this blog post, you are probably wondering: “What the heck is this is about?”
Quick Vocabulary Lesson
Rachet, lit and turnt are words that are often used by my students to describe our school, events, activities and happenings. Rachet means inappropriate or ghetto, turning up means having a good time, while lit and turnt are basically adjectives to describe a fun situation. Why is this important? Because it allows for two-way communication and an understanding on how students think and feel about our school. Depending on your location, the vernacular may be different, but the idea is still the same: to talk with students, you have to understand what they are saying and the language they use.
As a 23 year-old social media manager in higher education, I would be foolish to think that my success doesn’t come from my ability to relate to my urban millennial students. But how do you strike a balance between wanting to engage with your student body and the need to maintain and elevate your institution’s brand? How do you do this when you aren’t a 20-something year- old?
The way that I have learned to do this is to tell our students stories in a transparent, non-apologetic way. Often, institutions shy away from amplifying messages that may be viewed as negative or distasteful. However as a student affairs professional, my job is to communicate, improve, and share the student experience. That means putting the students’ needs and feelings above all else — including the bureaucracy and red tape that makes many of us in this field want to curl up into a ball and cry sometimes. Communicate with the students in mind and use data to inform your approach and decisions.
Know Thy Audience
Our undergraduate population is 61% underrepresented minorities and 79% of them are from New York City. By studying this demographic through literature and interactions with our students, I was able to grasp their tone, language, and what interested them. They care about pop culture, social justice, music, and building a better life for themselves through education. On their social channels they want to connect with friends, share memes, and showcase the things that they do. We mirror this on our channels as well.
Use Channels Differently
Our social media channels infuse some of these topics through memes, GIFs, lyrics, quote graphics and more. Not every channel serves the same purpose though and visuals are well-received. Each channel speaks to a different area of the student experience and engages students in a different way as you will see below.
Twitter – Fun and Informal
Twitter is like hosting a networking mixer. You want everyone to have a good time, but you are also mindful of connecting people in a professional and tasteful manner. The channel serves as the outlet where we can connect with our students and humanize our student affairs brand. Whether we are solving an issue or making them laugh, we focus on increasing the interactions we have with students online.
Instagram –Motivate, Build Student Connections and Excite
Our Instagram has grown very quickly in the last few months (over 300%), proving that visual content is king. Students love to see images of themselves and their peers online. The photo sharing app is a great way to share the student experience as well as develop a sense of community among the student body and the administration.
Facebook – Information Sharing
There are dozens of messages that need to go out to students on a daily basis about our services and programming. However, we need to become more creative about the way that we capture their attention aside from flyers online and offline. Because posts on Facebook have more longevity and the opportunity for click-throughs, this platform has been proven to be successful in driving traffic back to our websites and pages. Original visual content also does well on this platform and increases the chances of interactions and engagement.
Blog – Inspire and Inform
Although we try to keep the information that we share concise, sometimes there is a need for long form content. To compliment our already existing social media channels, we created a Tumblr account to house blog posts that relate to campus happenings as an inbound marketing strategy. As I mentioned, instead of posting a flyer about a travel grant being due or the involvement fair, we create blog posts to market. the benefits to students and sell them on “why” they should do certain things instead of “what.”
Strive for Balance
Keep your messages balanced between personable, relatable and professional. Often times, college accounts tend to talk at students and not with them. As communications professionals, we must strike a balance between giving them the information that they need and speaking to them in a language that they understand and respond to. Making sure that your channels have a voice and persona that identify directly with your audience is key to increasing engagement across platforms and on campus.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media