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Higher Education Marketing: How to Graduate Your Social Media Strategy

By December 16, 2016

Higher Ed MarketingBy: Heike Young, cross-posted from

Students, prospective students, faculty, and donors are just a few of the audiences that marketers in higher education seek to reach daily. Tackling a social media strategy in academia involves many moving parts and unique challenges. How do you present a unified message to a diverse group of stakeholders without diluting your brand?

On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast  —  the marketing podcast from Salesforce  —  we’re discussing how to use social media in the higher ed world and how each social network helps serve a university’s community. We talked with an expert: Karen Lee, Associate Director of Digital and Social at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our enlightening conversation with Karen.

1. Create different content for different channels.

“Our overall strategy is to connect and engage a global community,” says Karen. But not all audiences are one and the same. From the various social channels to email, Karen has discovered that “these audiences have different needs and wants. They consume content, and they interact with your brand differently.”

This is why Karen says “it’s important to create different kinds of content for each of our channels because our audience wants different kinds of content.” Ask: “What is the best way to package all this different content for different audiences?” she says.

2. Go for incremental reach increases.

For some brands, Facebook’s changing algorithms can make it difficult to figure out how to maximize exposure and reach as many fans as possible. Karen says, “Look at it as a challenge and an opportunity for us to ask: How can we increase our organic reach and engagement for our existing fans?”

“Being more selective, creating high criteria for what kind of content we produce, and making sure it’s really high quality has been helpful for us to see those increases in reach and engagement over time,” says Karen.

3. Be clear on your value and what you’re providing your audience.

Karen advises, “It’s not a one-size-fits-all content strategy where you’ll see the same content appear across all channels. On Instagram, you’ll see very different photos and content than you’d see on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.”

With so many different channels, how do you measure results? Karen says her team at Stanford Graduate School of Business looks for “how many people are clicking that link and reading that story. How deeply are they engaged on our website and from each of those social channels?”

4. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

The higher education audience is incredibly diverse. “What I found helpful was taking a step back and clearly defining who our primary audience is for these social media channels, website, and any digital presence,” says Karen.

When you have many stakeholders, each one is important. But you can’t speak to all of these audiences, all the time. “If you try, you will fail miserably, and your brand will sound very fragmented,” says Karen.

Instead, know your goal as an organization and create a unified message. “Curate precisely on what you want to be as a brand,” she suggests to fellow social marketers.

5. Always keep your goal in mind.

For Karen and Stanford Graduate School of Business, it all comes down to inspiring and educating people interested in business management. “Our goal is that if they read a story, they’ll be able to apply that to their career right away and maybe improve their personal lives too,” explains Karen.

Karen shares, “When it comes to how we’re going to share beyond the walls of Stanford and Silicon Valley, we think digital is the right way to do that. We can be anywhere we want to be, anywhere in the world.”

And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Karen Lee (@karenlee). Get the complete scoop on social media for higher education in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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