Social Media Recruitment Tactics
How to Practically Use Social Media in Recruitment

Contributor: Dr. Kyle Brantley

Date: June 15, 2021

Social media has become a mainstream medium for organizational presence and promotion. If you’re not investing time and resources into it, you’re missing out on huge market potential. For enrollment managers, social media has dramatically impacted the funnel, as students can now be stealthier than ever in making their college decision.

This makes social media critical to your institution’s marketing and recruitment mix.

Social media is something that can and should be harnessed by institutions to meet students where they are and create opportunities for engagement. While your university may have its own university-centric social media presence, should your enrollment operation have one too?

The answer: Yes. Your university may have a strong, general social presence, but if it’s not being strategically leveraged to reach prospective students, you’re likely losing out.

Many colleges and universities don’t have marketing departments or full-time social media personnel that can oversee this effort. For those institutions who have to rely on limited in-house resources, here are some practical things you can do to engage with prospective students with enrollment-focused social media.

Start an Admissions Account

Create an admissions account specifically targeting prospective students. This could be something like @CHEUAdmissions or @FutureBears. While your college/university may have a general institutional account, owning and managing an account geared towards prospective students can be particularly potent when it comes to recruitment.

If you don’t have a designated office or individual already responsible for social media, empower an especially savvy social media Admissions Counselor who understands enrollment and social media to take this on and own it. Pro-tip: Hire a graphic design major or an artistic student to help design graphics to use across your social media platforms. It will elevate your visual appeal and credibility.

Pick a Platform (or Platforms)

Which Platform should you use? Start with Instagram. It’s ubiquitous to teens, easy to use, and still very relevant. To go the extra mile, consider also creating a Facebook page that caters to prospective students’ parents. And if you get bold, you can create a TikTok, but you’ll want to primarily harness your students’ creativity to manage and curate the content for this one.

The Three E’s

What content should you be posting? This is what trips most people up. Ideally, you should split your content into equal thirds. The content should (1) educate, (2) engage, and (3) entertain.

Educate your prospective audience on admissions-specific content, like:

  • Timeline information, like scholarship or application deadlines
  • Event promotions for open houses, scholarship interviews, and orientations
  • Campus Visit promotion
  • FAFSA opening day

Use it to provide helpful tips on navigating the college decision process, like:

  • Top 5 things you should ask on any campus tour (You won’t believe #4!)
  • Standardized testing tips
  • Tips on writing the college essay

Engage students with fun posts, pictures, and stories of what’s going on around campus. Give them an authentic glimpse of what they can expect as a student.

  • Recap campus events like Homecoming, Orientation, or Preview Day
  • Feature student tips for move-in day, how to survive finals week, or their favorite places to go in town
  • Ask them to respond to questions in Insta stories and feature their answers.

Entertain and excite them with posts that are light and fun or that are emotionally appealing. Establish an emotional connection by portraying student stories, university traditions, or campus events.

  • Top 5 things you don’t want to miss when you visit CHEU’s campus (include a CTA for visiting)
  • Invite your current students to provide ideas on what to showcase to prospective students.

Content Calendar

Don’t walk into each week, scratching your head, wondering what to post about. Be proactive and create a calendar. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and anxiety. Pro-tip: You can use platforms like Monday.com to keep your calendar organized.

Here are some ideas to get your calendar started:

  • Admissions timelines and guidance
  • Event promos and event recaps
  • Student testimonials or quotes
  • Academic department spotlights
  • Big wins or news in athletics
  • Recognition & celebration of national holidays
  • Recognition of fun days like “National Pizza Day” (February 9) and spotlight your cafeteria or “National Read a Book Day” (September 6) and focus on your English faculty, department, or students.
  • Create series like “Takeover Tuesdays,” or “Faculty Fridays” that showcase the people of your school.
  • “Who wore it best” contests for prospective students wearing your school’s t-shirt in the most creative posts.
  • Summer melt prevention posts like the top 10 things you should pack for your residence hall, or orientation hype posts and videos.

Content Cadence

How often should you post? Answer: As often as you can consistently post quality content. Starting out, we suggest posting twice a week, but you can (and should) post stories on Instagram daily if you have quality content. Pro-tip: Use a platform like Hootsuite to schedule your posts in advance.

Follow for Follow

Once you have your account established and your content calendar mapped out, now you need a system in place to increase followers. The easiest way is by collecting Insta handles on campus visit check-in forms and on admission apps. Visitors and applicants are your more serious shoppers, so they will be more likely to follow you as opposed to inquiries.

Every week, make sure you are caught up on followers. Have someone (your designated social media point person or perhaps a student worker) search and follow each handle collected. Be timely and follow them within the first couple of days of the interaction if possible. They’ll typically follow you back. Boom. Instant audience.

Final Tips

Social media is an ever-evolving entity and can be a daunting task to take on, to know how to accurately and appropriately represent your institution, to know what’s appealing to your target audience, and to do well. Stick to these last few pointers and you’ll start with a solid game plan:

  • Above all else, be authentic, consistent, and engaging. Integrate social media into your regular channels of recruitment and use it to connect with students in exciting, visual ways.
  • Incorporate your current students in brainstorming and creating content. They’re the best resource you have.
  • Scale up as you go. If you don’t have a full-time position to devote to social media, do what’s feasible. But the important thing is to have a presence and to do it well.
  • Finally, remember why you are doing this. Not just to show pictures of campus and students, but to meet prospective students where they are and to create a compelling narrative to attract, engage, and invite them into the experience you are portraying.