How to Elevate a School’s Brand Awareness on Social Media

Pat White
August 13, 2021

Selecting a college or university is a big decision in any student’s life. Leading up to that decision, they are bombarded with countless ads, mailers, and content enticing them to specific schools. Brand awareness and affinity matters, especially when it comes to where a student will be spending the next four-plus years.

There are a multitude of factors that go into choosing a university: location, specific majors or programs, athletics, amenities — the list goes on and on. So as a higher education marketer or admissions professional, how are you differentiating your school through marketing efforts on social media? 

In our digital and virtual world, it’s even more important to invest resources in getting your university into the public eye. Much like a grocery store, there are multiple brands battling for the eye-level shelf space. Unlike grocery stores, there are more channels to gain those eyeballs, such as blogs, thought leadership video content, and, of course, social media. Increasing your brand awareness doesn’t always mean investing thousands of dollars into advertising campaigns. It can be done organically through thoughtful, timely, and thumb-stopping content on social media. 

Luckily, the ChatterBlast team has plenty of experience with higher education. Let’s take a look at some examples of how to leverage social content to draw attention to your college or university. 

Showcasing notable alumni

Informational content about your school’s prestigious programs is an important piece of the puzzle for what students can expect while they’re on campus. But what about life after graduation? This is where alumni come into play. 

Colleges and universities are brands and alumni can serve as the proof of success. Showcasing notable alumni elevates the brand and brings the university to the public eye. Alumni bring a sense of pride and investment in their alma maters and serve as ambassadors for your school. We’ll take a look at two different examples of how engaging alumni content can attract more eyeballs to your school. 

This is my shameless Penn State plug. While not directly tied to academics, Penn State brought in comedian and PSU alum Keegan Michael Key to celebrate a university passion: football. Penn State prides itself on its global alumni network, so to see an alumni pose as head football coach James Franklin makes for some engaging social content. 

Not every university gets to say one of its alumni is an astronaut — but if you can, you have to! The above content is just one example of the instances in which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has followed the journey of alumna and NASA astronaut Zena Cardman throughout her journey.

Be topical

Not all social content needs to overtly promote specific programs. Try to align content with national or global events, current trends, or pop culture to stay relevant and showcase your school at the same time. This will help pique interest in both the content and the university itself. 

During the Tokyo Olympics, The Wharton School shared a recent interview conducted at the school’s People Analytics Conference with seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky. While Ledecky is actually a Stanford University graduate, sharing the interview during such a timely event allowed Wharton to join the social conversation around a monumental global event and showcase their thought leadership at the same time. 

Speaking of the Olympics, the University of Pennsylvania did a great job of creating social content to align with the recent Olympic Games, highlighting both current students competing and interesting historical facts about alumni athletes who have competed over the last century.

Highlighting the student experience

We’ve touched on the importance of student ambassadors and how they provide a look into a university through the students’ eyes in a previous blog. Now, let’s look at documenting memorable student experiences. 

Think about the excitement surrounding moving into your dorm room as a freshman or wearing your regalia at a graduation ceremony. These are once-in-a-lifetime feelings that should be captured and shared. Covering big events, speaker series, and seminars showcases the potential for memorable experiences outside of the classroom on your campus. Sharing these experiences on social media can be a deciding factor in a prospective student thinking, “I want to be part of that!”

Prospective students understand the value of a Wharton MBA, but I’m sure they didn’t expect to compete in a dance-off or athletic competition! It’s important to strike a balance between the value of what students can learn in the classroom with the unique experiences that come alongside it. The video positions Wharton’s pre-term orientation period as an “adult summer camp” of sorts, which offers a unique perspective into what students can expect when they start their education at Wharton. 

This video from the University of Arizona features three students describing the moments they knew they belonged at the university. Not only does it showcase the ways in which the student experience can vary for different people, but it also allows for prospective students to identify with the natural period of uncertainty that comes before realizing that you’ve made the right choice.

These are just a few examples of how to elevate your school’s brand and differentiate from the competition in an organic way. If you’re interested in learning more about digital or creative strategy, reach out to us and we can collaborate on a plan that makes sense for your school!