3rd Levels and Targeting Students on Social Media. The Right People, in the Right Place & at the Right Time

3rd Levels and Targeting Students on Social Media. The Right People, in the Right Place & at the Right Time

For colleges and universities, social media is becoming a more important tool not only to engage and interact with students attending their institution but also those in secondary school deciding where they want to go for the next 3-5 years of their lives (trust me your timeline will change). By adhering to the 7 Ps, 3rd levels can make sure that they:

  • Are getting the attention of students (and their parents)
  • Engage with them and answer their questions
  • Most importantly, choose that college as the one they want to go to!

For 3rd levels, the most important aspects to focus on are:

  1. Analytics (Away from Social Media)
  2. Your own analytics on social media
  3. Targeting using the 3 Rs (Right People, Right Place, Right Time)

These 3 pillars will help 3rd levels make the most of a tool that more and more students (and parents) are spending their time on.

Analytics (Away from Social Media)

While nothing beats experience when it comes to social media, what you should do before this is find the networks they use. The best example I can think of is “if you’re talking in an empty room, whose going to hear it?” (cough cough Google Plus). Today’s student audience can be found in two main categories: Millennials and Generation Z. Now while these are very broad terms the table below illustrates the main social media networks that they use. Thank you Refuel Agency for the research.


As you can see, in some categories there are clear winner. In others things aren’t as clear cut. That’s why it’s important to go deeper and check out:

  • Behaviour – While Millennials and Generation Z may have social profiles, they behave differently on those. A recent article found that while they may have a profile on Facebook they don’t tend to use it as heavily as Snapchat and Instagram (The Top 2 for this group). Key takeaway: focus on the channels where students spend the most time.
  • Changing Trends – Already the landscape has changed. For example, with messaging apps. While Facebook is still widely used, the likes of Yik Yak (you might have heard of this) are growing in popularity. Key takeaway: it pays to keep up to date with the latest trends.
  • Content to match the device – Mobile has taken over in terms of internet traffic. People like bite size content on mobile in comparison to other devices. Lets face it if given the choice between a bite size summary or a long article people will choose the bite size 99% of the time. This is also important to remember when it comes to video as a recent report has shown the Irish are the biggest users of smartphones in the western world. Create content to match this. Key takeaway: the behaviours of people on mobile is different from those of people on laptop/desktop.

Analytics (On Social Media)

One problem that often occurs with social media activity is that it’s feast or famine!

With feast content is put up consistently during a couple of weeks (this normally happens right at the start). Then, however, if things aren’t going well posts will be done irregularly until you reach Famine and nothing is being put up. That is why it is essential for you to look at your analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t. If you don’t do this then it’s a case of throwing something on the wall and hoping that it sticks. Now the good news is that most of the social networks highlighted have analytics built into them (phew).

The table below has a break-down of the key metrics for each network

Social Analytics

With regards to SnapChat  

While SnapChat doesn’t have an analytics dashboard you can analyse some key factors from the My Story section:

  • Unique views – What’s really interesting is that you can see just who looked at your story.
  • Story completions – How many people watched your story all the way through?
  • Completion rate – Divide the number who finished watching over the number who started. Work out what stories worked and what ones didn’t. Were there specific snaps where people stopped watching?
  • Screen Shots – How many screen shots were taken of your snaps. This indicates an interest in those specific pieces of content.

Key Takeaway: while there isn’t an in-built analytics for SnapChat, it does have tools that aren’t available to other networks. Utilise them to the fullest, and make sure you do so within 24 hours!!!


Targeting Students

Now that you have determined the right networks, devices and your audience it’s important to focus on targeting the:

  • Right People
  • In the Right Place
  • At the Right Time

It is also important to look at social media from two angles

  1. Organic content
  2. Paid content

When it comes to social media it’s important for universities to remember that the era of free is over. Focusing on the key social networks here is the best approach for universities to take with a couple of examples to use as benchmarks.

Facebook Video Video Video

  • Organic – Open days are a great event to build up to and promote on social media. NUI Galway put together a minute and a half video for their open day in 2015. As you can see it scored some pretty impressive results in terms of comments, likes, shares and views (over 37,000). They also made it as easy as possible for students to register for the event through verint.

NUI Galway Open Days – 2nd & 3rd October 2015Explore all NUI Galway has to offer. Join us for our Open Day on Friday 2nd October (9am – 3pm) & Saturday 3rd October (10am – 3pm). Register now at https://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/2e2cg586e5

Posted by NUI Galway on Wednesday, September 16, 2015

  • Paid – Video advertising is definitely something to invest in. As the video wars article highlighted, Facebook is making big inroads on YouTube and video is becoming the go to medium for people consuming content.

Twitter Combine Images, Text and Gifs

  • Organic – #Studyatul is a good example of using a hashtag to promote your university throughout the year. UL is also utilising custom made Gifs along with images to help create content that is easy to understand and also stands out.
  • Paid – Twitter Cards is a smart approach that universities can take. Think of these as a Tweet but on steroids (you can add high quality videos, pictures and media to help drive traffic to your website). There are a couple of different options to choose from and if you have video content then a player card is the best example. Quality and getting your audiences attention is the name of the game.

Instagram Tell your story in a Hashtag

  • Organic Content – Plymouth University are a great example of using a hashtag #Plymappday and using it to tell a story. I really like how Plymouth used the hashtag to put its best foot forward. From its wave basin to campus tours to robots doing stretches its a great example of the benefits of a tailored hashtag. The interactive and easy to navigate aspect of Instagram means people can just scroll through and look at whatever they want as well.

One of our robots warming up with some stretching in the Smeaton computing lab #PlymAppDay #plymouthuni

A video posted by Plymouth University (@plymuni) on

  • Paid Content – Ads have been a feature on Instagram for a couple of months now and if you’re looking for a reason to use an image or video based ad all you need to do is look at the numbers on Instagram. Facebook Ad manager now lets you run ads on Instagram.

YouTube: Where Video is an option, use it.

  • Organic Content – For YouTube, I’ll go back to a university previously highlighted. Sheffield University focused on their student population first with its video content. They did a vlog of a student starting off in the university and this can be a great way to show potential students what life is like on campus but also in the city/region as well. We are in the age where video is the big player so it makes perfect sense to use this medium to communicate with your audience.

  • Paid Content – Now, while YouTube is notorious for ads it is still important to harness this for the simple reason that promotional videos can be used for cross channel promotion (except on Facebook). Video is also still relatively new from the perspective that it ranks very well in Google (so long as you follow the golden rules). This highlights an important fact, it’s still important to factor organic search in. Think of videos made for promotion as a two pronged tactic (paid & organic).

SnapChat Geo Filters and Events

Now Snapchat is relatively new to the game, but half of the worldwide users on SnapChat are between 13 and 17 years old. Focus on events and getting students to follow you prior to going to these or to follow you at the event. This can be a terrific way to engage with them pre, during and after the event on one of the most popular platforms for this audience.

As well as events, Geo Filters are a must add to a University’s arsenal. What is a Geo Filter? Put simply, they are location based graphics that you can use to personalise your Snaps. For example (and because I’m there now) UL Wolves created a filter that can be used by everyone on the campus. It is something that is being used by universities across the world from New York University to California State University Fullerton. Its a simple but effective tactic to help spread the word in your target audience.


LinkedIn Personal Profile

While LinkedIn isn’t used as heavily by students as other networks it’s good to remember another important demographic, mature students. As has been highlighted before, using a personal profile opens up a wide variety of tools that aren’t accessible thorough a business. Both Alton University and UCD have harnessed this. What is one of the biggest benefits of the personal profile? You can engage with students on a one to one basis.


Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

As you can see there is a lot that goes into using social media to help promote colleges and universities to the right audience. From selecting the right networks and how best to harness the organic and paid aspect of them to identifying the right devices and people to target – it pays as with everything on social to put time into planning before launching an event.

However, if done right it can result in you achieving the goal of the getting the attention of the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.

Want to learn more? Well you’re in luck from campaigns to training to research projects we can help you and your department make max use of social media. To learn how we can help you please check out our Higher Education Page.

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