Three common social media mistakes and how to avoid them

4.388 billion people around the world access social media every single day. It has quickly become one of the most powerful places to come into contact with consumers, brand advocates, partners, and investors. It is the one place on the internet where you can find just about anyone. Believe it or not, that number is increasing exponentially, indicating that social media isn’t going anywhere.

Social media is King, but for many higher education admissions efforts, it is still not the preferred channel for companies’ recruitment campaigns. There are three big reasons why overlooking social media is a huge mistake:

  • Social media can reach people at the top of the funnel, i.e. the consideration phase.

  • Social media can more effectively use imagery to drive home a point, feeling, or idea.

  • Social media has the ability to precisely target groups and segments.

Unfortunately, companies’ social recruitment campaigns often fail because they don’t utilize these three features properly and, as a result, miss out on many of the benefits that these platforms offer. Too often, marketing, recruiting, and enrollment teams release engaging content with the right intent but the wrong plan of development and execution.

To understand the massive recruitment potential of social media, we must first dive deep into each of the reasons why social media should be the #1 recruitment outreach component of your company today.

Most companies try to measure the efficiency of their advertising dollars by using some derivation of the “ROAS” metric. For educators, Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) is generally calculated by the number of enrollments or starts a school gets for every dollar spent on an advertising source. This seems elegantly simple at face value, because it would appear effective to compare, for example, the number of enrollments you achieved against your paid search dollars spent.

Relying on this metric, however, can cause us to significantly underestimate the true costs of these enrollments by failing to account for how organic, paid search, and pay-per-lead (PPL) programs cannibalize each other’s markets. All three of those channels compete for consideration of individuals who have already exhibited intent markers (e.g. searched for “how much do nurses make”) regarding their willingness to consider going back to school and studying a certain field. This traditional model forces your organic and aggregator PPL search dollars to compete for the same keywords.

With social media, you can do something unique – you can target the top of the funnel in the pre-consideration phase before any intent markers become apparent. By understanding the attitudes and affinities that match your ideal candidate, as well as the correct demographic information and geographic markers, social media allows you to engage people with content that introduces your programs before prospective students have even entered the consideration funnel. When targeted correctly, your social campaigns can be one of the only lead channels that do not cannibalize your other digital channels.

This is a nuanced approach to marketing, as opposed to the cannibalistic, value-degrading approaches of most other digital channels.

Too many companies improperly evaluate the true cost of their other digital channels. Even more importantly, they fail to alter the way they approach their audience. Social content should not only precisely target specific candidate segments but it should also feature tailored messaging that resonates with those segments. Social media isn’t just about posting pictures, graphics, or pithy quotes; it’s about meeting people exactly where they want to be met, appealing to their attitudes and affinities, and presenting a solution to a problem or a clear path to a better way of life.

With social media, you should be aiming to:

  • Inspire a vision of your audience with a better version of their future selves

  • Educate with content that engages their aspirations and affinities

  • Play to broader, more relatable topics, like changing their world for the better

  • Provide your users with new ideas and concepts that offer a road map for the next steps

Your recruitment content should be designed to inspire, but it’s also crucial that it shows examples of how to act on this inspiration.

Did you know that content with relevant images on social media gets 94% more views than content without relevant images? Including visuals in your social media efforts can not only help attract new followers, but it can also keep the attention of the followers you already have. The major social platforms are all built around their ability to captivate users through imagery.

Time is money, which is why quick, beautiful imagery that gets a point across or highlights a topic resonates over the noise of other types of content. Think about yourself when scrolling through social media. If you see a long post with zero photos, do you read it or skip it? However, if you see a photo that tugs on your heartstrings, do you stick around to read the caption? Exactly.

This emotional connection is not just about creating a feeling, it’s also crucial for information retention. According to Brain Rules, when people take in audio information, their retention rate is considerably lower than with visual information. People retain, on average, only 10% of what they heard after three days. In stark contrast, a significant image delivered with that same information can increase retention rates to approximately 65% three days later.

Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram content needs to be anchored to a feeling or aspiration. After all, you’re trying to appeal to the aspirations and affinities of living, breathing human beings on the other side of the screen. Instead of showing some low-quality video of a classroom, create a story with that image or video. Show clips of outcomes and results, rather than a process. Show videos of people’s eyes lighting up as you guide them through the enrollment journey. You can provide them with real life testimonials to relay actual results of what their outcome could be.

You need to create visual content that drives a concept or feeling home. If it isn’t relevant, the viewer is going to close it and keep scrolling. People respond better to content delivered in an entertaining way.

Perhaps the most widely understood value of social media advertising is the wealth of targeting options the various platforms offer. However, in spite of all of these options at their disposal, targeting campaigns correctly is still the #1 thing that businesses fail to do properly. The reason companies continue to fail is that objectively identifying the optimal targeting parameters is very hard work.

It’s important to note that, even if your content is tailored to your campaign objective, without an objective process for segmenting and creating targeting criteria unique to each platform for your social campaign, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Of those 4.388 billion social media users, you can bet that they generate millions upon millions of hyper segmented groups that can help you identify your ideal candidates for your social media marketing. You need to take the time to pick out those segments.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, the first step in social campaigns is NOT identifying the audience you want to reach. The first step in a social campaign consists of identifying the audience that you can most effectively reach. This means doing the work to discover the optimal synergies of the right message that can be most precisely targeted to the right audience. Only after deciding on who you can reach most efficiently, what their attitudes and affinities are, and how those groups historically convert, should you begin creating content that will resonate with them. Your content needs to be tailored to the right reachable audience to have an impact or actionable outcome.

Social platforms provide a wealth of options focusing on recruitment efforts based on attitudes, affinities, and various other categories. Simply filtering out for age or gender isn’t going to cut it.

As the digital world continues to grow at a rapid rate and we continue to communicate through our phones and laptops, this new virtual universe should have you excited, motivated, and passionate about all of the data that’s now accessible at your fingertips.

Storylift believes the future starts with targeting. It makes all of the difference. You no longer have to throw your money away hoping an ad is going to land in front of the right person at the right time. While it does take specific knowledge and skill to develop the right content, all of those creative efforts are lost if your targeting techniques are not on point.

For industries like for-profit education, new targeting technologies are rapidly lowering the costs of enrollment and recruitment, and greatly increasing the quality of candidates as a whole. These post-secondary schools need to target candidates in more precise and creative ways, as the service they offer represents a large commitment and life-changing opportunity. Post-secondary education is not an industry that survives on impulse buys; all the more reason why reaching the right demographic with the right message is more important now than ever.

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