How do I use Social Media in Higher Education?

By Nov.15, 2010

Richard Hayes is the Marketing Assistant at The University of Salford’s School of Art & Design, he co-ordinates the School’s digital marketing strategy. Richard is also researching “Fear Marketing”, his blog can be read at

What are the Higher Education digital marketing plans?

Education marketing is starting to change and Higher Education institutes are finally embracing the use of Social Media as way of directly contacting University applicants. Higher Education digital marketing plans now include the use of sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and Flickr and many other social networking sites.

It has been shown that these Social Media sites can be a good communication method for Higher Education Institutes as it enables direct contact with Applicants and so (hopefully) increasing applications.

The audience for Higher Education, and so Education Marketing, is students between the ages of 16 – 21 and it has been shown that 75%(1) of that target market regularly use Social Media as a way to communicate.

Higher Education institutes such as University of Salford are using Social Media within it’s digital marketing plan in a number of ways; hosting videos on YouTube, running their own Twitter page, a profile on Facebook, campaigns through Bebo and profiles on LinkedIn.

Though it should be said that these digital marketing campaigns should focus on communicating through social media to potential students and not as a means to communicate to existing students.

Martin Weller, professor of educational technology at the Open University, said that “students do not want their professor as their friend on Facebook”.

Digital marketing plans are becoming mainstream

The 2009 Higher Education in a Web 2.0 report showed that these digital marketing plans are coming from the early adopting few and has little of the systematic and coordinated approach of the more traditional communications media.

The nature of the using these media are that they encourage social networking and should be presented within any digital marketing strategy as elements of a single plan. Too many higher education institutes allow different people to use different tools to reach the same audience, not presenting the cohesive education marketing plan.

Social media are infinitely adaptable to higher education’s changing digital marketing needs and the new way in which it’s target audience communicates. Not only should higher education institute change it’s digital marketing strategies, but also they way that social networking is used.

For any higher education institute the bottom line for any marketing strategy is applications. Education marketing should always focus on the needs of these applicants and use their digital marketing to communicate to them effectively.

The guidelines for the use of Social media for higher education for digital marketing would then be:

1. Listen to your applicants; 75% use social networking and social media, but which ones do your applicants use?

2. Use a coordinated approach for Education Marketing plans and utilise the strength inherent in social media. Don’t just do the check of Facebook, Twitter, etc make sure they are all working together, save time and effort.

3. Use it as a two-way conversation, remembering the social in social media. Remember to reply in good time though, check the sites regularly.

4. Do something different. Using the Social Media is just a start; no one is coming to your University just because they liked you on Facebook. You still have to populate it with great content, stories, videos, images, etc

5. Create some ground rules about what is communicated through the Social Media sites. Getting some boundaries in place before setting it up and communicating to all staff involved is good practice.

(1) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World, Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience, March 2009