The Direct Network

Best Practices for Using Social Media in Higher Ed

Posted by Kate Seat on Feb 24, 2016 7:29:13 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, social media

Knowing that you should be reaching out to current and prospective students through social media is only half of the equation. In order to be as effective as possible, you also need to know how to reach out. In the following excerpt, social media managers in the field of higher education share tips, tricks and strategies they've learned from interacting with their own social networks.

The following excerpt is only from the first section of the article — check it out, then be sure to read the rest of the panel's advice from Sprout Social.

Recently, Sprout Social was lucky enough to host a “Social Media in Higher Education Roundtable Discussion” with some of the brightest minds in the industry. Together our panel addressed the most pressing questions social media managers in the higher education space have, and we received a ton of great feedback on the session.

In total, we answered 11 questions that were submitted by our audience, and this post will summarize the key takeaways and strategies that were discussed during the session. If you’d prefer to watch the entire webinar, you can find the Higher Education Webinar here.

The Higher Education Social Panel

The team that we assembled for the panel couldn’t have been better. Their personal experiences were all as diverse as the organizations they represented, making for an extremely well-rounded session. If you work in the social media or higher education marketing fields, then you should make sure to follow each of them on social:

Chris Barrows – New York University
Meghan Jagnow – The University of Tennessee
Joel Renner – The George Washington University School of Business
Nikki Sunstrum – The University of Michigan

We invited everyone who registered for the live event to submit their own questions. We received an overwhelming amount of questions, and we decided to bucket them all into five specific chapters.

  • Choosing the Best Social Networks
  • Structuring Your Social Media Account
  • Creating and Sharing Great Social Content
  • Proving the Value of Social Media
  • Tips, Tricks & Tools

Choosing the Best Social Networks

1. Quality of Network Presence Over Quantity

When presented with the question “Is it more important to be on every network, or to build a robust presence on a few networks”, the resounding response was you need to focus on a select few networks. Most higher education social media teams have only one or two employees, and if you try to jump on every single network you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin.

One key in deciding which of the social networks you should spend a bulk of your time on is to look at your audience demographics. Figure out who your key demographics are and find out which social networks they spend the majority of their time on and establish a robust presence on those sites.

Once you’ve created a presence on those sites, continue to monitor how they perform to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Try checking out our collection of social media demographics to see which network is the most popular with each group.


If your key demographic is predominately urban students with a higher income, Twitter is likely the network for you.

2. The Best Social Network Depends on Audience

We had someone in the audience ask “Which social media network is best for higher education professionals?” Unfortunately for the person who posed the question, there really is no universal answer. At the end of the day, it’s where you can reach your audience most effectively and it hinges on the messages that you’d like to get across. However, the next strategy gets into more detail on where our panel has found success with newer networks.

3. Make Sure to Test Newer Networks

Not every organization has the resources and means to build a robust presence for these new networks as they arise. However, Nikki has found tremendous success with Snapchat for engaging young Alumni. The current demographics of the network have made it perfect for her to reach out to her specific demographic she is targeting.


Meghan leverages Instagram photos to show off the community she built at her organization. She found success in sharing images of the campus, dorms and culture in an effort to humanize the Housing organization. Meghan has also used Periscope to offer campus tours to students from all over the world.


About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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