From tagging friends in memes to using Geofilters on Snapchat to posting Instagram stories, how can we possibly keep up with this ever-changing digital world? We’re constantly having to re-evaluate our ways of doing things to meet the next generation of students’ needs and expectations, and there’s no magical handbook out there to guide us.
Social media has become an integral part of life for students and even more so for the upcoming generations. It greatly influences our students’ everyday lives, from how they communicate to how they learn to how they experience the world. If we want to successfully reach our students, we need to change and adapt to this new digital world with them. With numerous platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc though, how do we know which one(s) to use?
There’s a massive misconception that we should be on every social media platform to ‘keep up’ with or reach students, but this has proved to be far too much work, yielding little results. Unless you have a social media guru who has time to monitor and dedicate time to all these platforms, it’s best to work on getting one or two platforms right. Last year Snapchat was growing in popularity, and many institutions jumped on board putting lots of time and effort into it. Not long after this, however, Instagram introduced its stories feature, shifting popularity back to Instagram.
It seems an endless cycle of trying to keep up, but it’s fair to say that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are the best options now. Facebook, although it’s evolved over the years, is still used by students as a tool to validate businesses, people and institutions, to search for events, and to communicate (via Facebook messenger). Twitter is useful for streaming live updates, but only if consistent. When it comes to Instagram and Snapchat, unless you already have a large following on Snapchat, Instagram proves to be the better choice. It’s increasingly more popular and is a great way to promote events and institutions visually.
It’s extremely important to understand how students use these platforms and to strategise how to use them, but don’t use all of them. If you use Facebook primarily for promoting events, keep it that way. If you use Instagram to show off your campus, keep it that way. Consistency and frequency is key to developing your brand and reputation and students will notice. Having too many platforms without being clear on why you’re using them, not only confuses you, but confuses your students as well.
We recently asked students about their social media usage and found that most students are content strategists without even realising it. They know what days, times, types of content, and platforms will get the most engagement, and strategise around this. Everyone’s competing for their content to be seen; it’s important to adopt similar strategies or your content will get lost in the endless competing streams of information and never be seen.
Infinite amounts of information can be accessed instantaneously, and over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift from text to images, video, emojis and gifs. If we want to successfully communicate with students, then all content needs to be well thought out and strategically planned, it needs to be easily accessible, able to grab your attention, and it needs to be current, with social media being the key to do this for both current and prospective students.