When it comes to connecting with students, meeting them where they currently are can be the most effective way to communicate. Social media allows institutions to stay in touch with students throughout their entire student lifecycle—from a prospective student to a proud alumnus.

Higher education institutions across the nation have already begun to see the payoff of connecting with social media. Platforms like Facebook or Twitter can not only act as a way to gather and share information about the university, but they can also be used to showcase student and faculty work, promote events and campaigns, connect students with one another and even provide virtual “office hours”. All of these techniques will strengthen your institutions’ brand and its relationship with its students.

Screenshot 2015-02-17 10.40.25For advise on utilizing social media in the higher education realm, we sat down with Brian Peters, Manager of Digital Marketing at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to discuss strategies for higher education institutions and social media.


What platforms would you suggest for a university that is just starting to grow its social media presence?

BP – I think it is critical to have a visible Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn profile page for all universities.

  • Facebook, because of the sheer amount of constituents that are on it and the ability for the institution to share “fun and relevant material.”
  • Google+, because it links directly with Google search algorithms and increases the chance of the institution’s website being found.
  • LinkedIn, because it is rapidly becoming the largest and most robust social network.

I would urge against Twitter & Instagram until the university has the manpower to push consistently good content out to each of these platforms. If the university does, these can be powerful tools. As with all social media, focus on making a small amount of social networks great first, and then branch out.


What type of content do you find most successful with students?

BP – Students love rankings of their college. It’s our number one content source, by far. Second would be stories of current students, alumni and faculty members doing “cool things.” i.e., research, awards, etc. Third would be fun and beautiful pictures and videos of campus. And lastly, anything that has to do with celebrities associated with the university.


Where do you get your inspiration for content?

BP – Based on the information above, a lot of our good content comes unexpectedly. Awards, rankings, nice photos of campus, etc. often happen at random. The key is finding these stories and leveraging them when you can. Other inspiration comes from analyzing top universities — taking their ideas and making them better. And finally, good old creative brainstorming. What’s worked in the past? What hasn’t? What can we do differently that others aren’t doing?


We know it can be difficult to track the ROI for social media—how do you typically gauge success?

BP – We gauge success based on reach, audience growth and engagement rate (likes, shares, comments). We have set goals each week for reach and engagement rates across all of our platforms that we try to exceed. We try and focus on creating content that will make people want to share it, which in turn, grows our audience base. Eventually, we would like to get the tools and resources to connect social media campaigns with Google Analytics so that we can measure real “conversions” on our website.




Social media can easily be integrated into your online orientation programs. Encourage students to follow the institution’s accounts for updates on student projects, college news, important updates and campus events. Also, remind them that your accounts can be used to connect students with one another as well as with alumni.


Brian Peters, Manager of Digital Marketing at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo 




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