Adjusting to a new school can be challenging for recently admitted students and their families—especially when COVID-19 has essentially halted any opportunities for connecting in person on campus. Often, the days and weeks before a student’s first day are fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. Given all of the heightened fears and uncertainty due to Coronavirus and its impacts, though, this is true now more than ever.
As an admission and enrollment professional, you know establishing open communication throughout the enrollment and onboarding process is essential to long-term student engagement, satisfaction, and, ultimately, retention.
Students need to feel included before they begin classes at their new schools, and social media is the perfect avenue to establish those early connections. It’s also a great way to connect virtually if your new admits can’t make it on-campus.
Today, a massive 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online almost constantly, according to data from Pew Research. And they’re spending much of that online time using social media. A whopping 85% of U.S. teens use YouTube, 72% use Instagram, and 69% use Snapchat.
And while Facebook is less popular among the younger crowd, it’s a great place to reach their parents. Nearly 55% of Facebook users are between the ages of 25 and 54, according to data shared by Statista.
(Looking for more information on using social media at your school? Download 8 Essential Social Media Tips and Guidelines For Schools and 8 social media ideas your school can use today).
But merely establishing a social media presence isn’t enough to foster a relationship. To truly engage students and families, you need to leverage these platforms strategically.
Here are several proven tactics we recommend.
How to Help Newly Admitted Students and Families Feel Connected
Social media is a great place to build a community and a natural extension of the campus experience. Because students and their parents are most likely already using social platforms regularly, many will be eager to engage there.
Here are a few ways to use social media to help new students and families feel connected to your school:
1. Celebrate new admits
Start by sending new students welcome gifts (including spiritwear and school-branded swag) to celebrate their admission, and ask them to share their excitement on social using custom hashtags. Use social listening to identify when someone has used your hashtag, and reshare their post with a congratulatory message.
Use orientation as an opportunity to gather new students and families for welcome photos and share those images on social, as Westtown School did here. Are you taking your orientation virtual? You can still get creative with a group photo via Zoom. Or have students submit their own selfie-style photos with their new swag for you to share.
2. Get to know your audience
Social media presents an excellent opportunity to get to know your new students and also help them get to know each other.
Using features like the Instagram Stories questions sticker or polls on Facebook and Twitter, you can quickly and easily gather insights into what new students and their families want to see and how you can better assist them.
It’s also a good idea to include your social media handles on your website and in welcome packets so students and families can easily find you and begin engaging.
3. Share school culture
One way to assuage new students’ anxieties is to give them a glimpse into what life is like at your school. From clubs and sports to field trips and parties, social media helps you share all the exciting things going on inside and outside your campus. You can even introduce them to your student ambassadors by having them take over your social media account and give a tour or inside look at events.
Eastern Christian School’s Instagram, for example, is chock-full of images highlighting school events as well as everyday “slice of life” experiences. They also use it as an opportunity to introduce staff members and celebrate team achievements.
Of course, since many of us aren’t hosting on-campus events right now this may take a bit of extra creativity. You likely have lots of photos from the past few months—now is the time to put those to use! Maybe even crowdsource photos from your parents and students via a photo contest with prizes for the picture that gets the most votes.
4. Distribute information
Ideally, you’re already using admissions and enrollment software to send personalized messages to students and their families and keeping them in the loop on important dates.
But social media helps you double-down on reminders and ensure no one forgets crucial events like orientation, registration for extracurriculars, and more. It’s also a great place to share articles and other resources that might be helpful during onboarding.
5. Highlight student experiences
What makes your school unique? Social media is an excellent tool for showcasing the people and stories that make your school stand out. Consider allowing students to participate in a social media “takeover” to share glimpses into their school day. Feature students with diverse backgrounds and interests to help new students envision themselves at your institution. And be sure to reshare any inspiring posts shared by students and faculty’s accounts.
For example, St. Anne’s-Belfield re-tweeted a post from a teacher about how her student’s passion for reading earned him a gift from his favorite author.
Use the Right Tools
Managing a social media presence can be daunting — especially if you’re working with a small team and strapped for time. To make your life a little easier, be sure to check out these useful tools and resources:
Canva makes it easy to quickly create customized, eye-catching graphics for your social media accounts — even if you have little-to-no design experience. (Which is a bonus when it comes to managing social media for schools without extensive marketing budgets or creative resources.)
Managing multiple accounts can be challenging, but Hootsuite makes it easy by putting everything in one place. For example, you can schedule posts, monitor relevant keywords or hashtags, track your performance, and more.
Ideally, you only want to publish images from your school, your students, and your staff. But when you don’t have the perfect picture, a stock photo can suffice. Unsplash gives you access to more than a million free images through a helpful search feature.
- Negative Space
Like Unsplash, Negative Space offers tons of captivating, high-resolution stock photos that you can use free of charge. However, we do recommend that you use photos from your school campus and classrooms as much as possible.
If you’re looking for a way to stay on top of the latest news and trending topics, BuzzSumo is the tool you need. You’ll also get access to monitoring and research features so you can continually optimize your strategy.
Wrapping it Up
Schools and social media have a complicated history. For many years, some institutions believed participating in these platforms was a waste of time. Or not an appropriate venue for their message. But times have changed.
Today, students and their families are spending more time online than ever. And much of their socializing and communicating occurs on social media. These valuable channels are more important than ever. Especially with Coronavirus forcing us to take more and more of our admission and enrollment efforts virtual. Using social media can even help you in your journey to Enrollment Management Maturity. By establishing a presence and using it strategically, you can engage new students and ensure they feel a part of your community well before their first day.
Looking for more ways your school can use social media to connect with current and prospective students? Download 8 Essential Social Media Tips and Guidelines For Schools.