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How to Develop a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Enrollment Marketers

Shane Kehl

If I asked you to tell me roughly what you were going to post on Facebook a year from today, what would you say? You just checked the date, didn’t you? Your brain immediately jumps to what’s going on around this time of year, like events, the start of a semester, a break, maybe National Puppy Day (so you can get some cheap likes on Instagram). 

Social media strategy is a complex marketing tactic but all you need to get started is a clear roadmap with flexibility built into it. So often marketers are building social media strategies for the whole year and then after one curveball, they’re redoing the whole strategy. 

Every school has its foundational social media posts, and that’s a great starting point, but here’s how you can develop a strategy that leaves room for revision and actually converts social media engagement into leads. (Hint: the first step is not setting goals as every other social media post says.)

  1. Find your people (not Billy's grandma)
  2. Don’t steal garbage; grab the steak
  3. Identify whatcha got v. whatcha need
  4. Choose facts over feelings
  5. Play hockey, not soccer
  6. Follow the Nike-Bloodhound-Barack Obama approach

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Step 1: Identify and group your target audiences

Your target audience is who you want, not who you have. Billy’s grandma may like all your Facebook posts, but if you’re “like counting” you can also count on no real growth. The Facebook Insights tool will allow you to get a better understanding of the people who like your page, engage with your content, and provide you with a quick psychographic overview as well. 

This chart is a real example of a graduate school’s following broken out by gender and age ranges. As you can see, they have a pretty healthy following from men and women in the 25-34 and 35-44 age range, which matches many of their personas. 

Some programs will have different audiences but this should give you a good sense of potentially unqualified followers. For example, if 30% of their audience was 65+, it’s safe to assume that a vast majority of those people are not pursuing a master’s degree and thus shouldn’t inform your social media strategy. 

Your best bet: 

Think about the students you want, create personas, and cross-reference that with the Facebook Insights data. 

Step 2: Research your competition

You know your competitors, but are you checking in on what they’re doing across all of their social media platforms? When thinking about your social media strategy or the types of content you want to post, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – take their top-performing posts (the steak) and make them your own, while leaving everything else (the garbage). 

Use the Facebook Insights tool in the Business Manager and just watch their pages to see what they’re doing and how their posts perform!

Do that for 3-4 of your top competitors and you’ll instantly have an awesome library of social post frameworks to work with. What you’ll notice as you collect these posts is the variety of content types: blog posts, user-generated content, videos, or just messages meant to increase brand awareness. Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to an effective social media strategy. 

Your best bet: 

Save yourself time by turning your competitors’ good ideas into great ones, rather than starting from scratch!

Step 3: Develop a core group of campaigns

When thinking about how to create a social media campaign, you have to first decide what you need and take a look at what you have and what you don’t have. As I just mentioned, variety is your biggest asset in a social media strategy and without it, you’re quickly going to bore your audience. 

You’ve collected all the content you need, or at least know you can get it, and now you need to bucket your assets into campaigns. If you’re even somewhat new to social media marketing, think of bucketing your campaigns as follows: brand awareness, lead generation, or student engagement. 

Each of these campaign types will have very different content messaging, but don’t necessarily need brand new content. For example, a video of your campus can be repurposed to fit into all three just by changing the copy associated with the video.

Your best bet: 

Create brand awareness, lead generation, and student engagement campaigns that can all run simultaneously. Build a schedule that alternates posts from each campaign so as not to overly favor one over another.

Step 4: Determine the key metrics

If you don’t have a set group of data points you’re going to measure for each campaign, then what’s the point of even running them? You won’t know what’s working and will likely just be trusting your gut. That’s the equivalent of thinking you’re smarter than real data, which you’re not (sorry to burst your bubble).

The metrics that you choose to record will depend on the type of campaign you’re running. Here’s a quick breakdown you can use as a starting point: 

  • Brand Awareness: impressions, reach, shares, and new followers
  • Lead Generation: impressions, clicks, results (optimized for leads via the Facebook Pixel
  • Student Engagement: likes, shares, and comments 

Your best bet: 

Determine 3-5 key metrics to track that align with each campaign’s mission.

Step 5: Set goals

This isn’t soccer — you need goals, and a lot of them. Until you have months of data, you won’t have any baselines to work with. When you first start off with a campaign, set numeric goals to hit for each of your key metrics. 

Especially when you’re posting on multiple social media channels, the need for a “success measuring stick” is incredibly valuable. What this also ensures is that you aren’t honing in on one metric and inflating the success or failure of a campaign based on a somewhat meaningless data point. 

A key thing to remember is that all of these metrics need to be measured together so you can establish baselines and conversion rates. You'll eventually get to a point where your total likes or comments or shares for posts are all about the same, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're all performing equally.

Two posts could each have 10 likes, for instance, but one may have been seen and clicked way more than the other. That post is more successful, even though they both had the same number of likes. That’s why it’s crucial to look at posts holistically, with multiple key metrics in mind.

Your best bet: 

Know the metrics and what they mean, reference old posts, and create goals you want to hit in a certain period of time (typically 2-3 weeks).

Step 6: Execute, track, and augment your strategy

If this simple three-step process is hard to keep in mind, think Nike (Just Do It), Bloodhound (Tracking), and then Barack Obama (Change). 

If you’ve followed steps 1-5, you should have just about everything you need to begin planning out social posts for a couple of weeks at a time. Remember, planning Instagram posts for 365 days is not feasible, nor is it a smart idea. 

Schedule your posts in 2- or 3- week sprints and then be sure to track the progress along the way. Content marketing is not an overnight fix to your social strategy and the results won’t just pour in, but you should start to see traction after about a month of consistent posts. 

After a few weeks of posting, be sure to review all the data you’ve collected, highlight the posts that performed well, and identify those that didn’t. From there, augment your current strategy to favor the high-performing posts and tweak the less successful ones by changing the copy, image, or call to action. 

Your best bet: 

Post with variety and high frequency; measure the impact; stick with the winners and switch up the losers.

There’s no silver bullet for effective social media marketing, but as you post more frequently, you’ll begin to see trends in the data.

The hardest part is often creating the content needed to have that diversity we talked so much about, but oftentimes, you’re sitting on plenty of rich content that just exists in one form right now. 

To learn how to make the most use of that content, check out my post about developing a winning marketing strategy for student recruitment.

Want to brainstorm together? Connect with me.

If you’re looking for ways you can splice up your content, analyze your data, or just need a sounding board, let’s chat!

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Topics: Enrollment Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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