higher education, social media management

What Do Each of Your Audiences Want?

By Katie Turpen

A Breakdown For Higher Education Digital Marketers

While they are an essential audience, higher education marketing isn’t just about reaching students. When developing your social media strategy, you need to keep in mind all the people who are digesting your content and potentially finding it useful. This practice takes extra time and planning on the front end, but by focusing on what each each audience wants, you’re creating the best content to reach your goals.

So, who exactly are all your audiences in higher education and how do you craft messages tailored toward their needs? Based on my own experience as a higher education social media manager, I’ve broken it down below.

Prospective Students (high school students & transfer students )

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Generation Z wants quick and authentic messaging they can easily digest on their smart phones. They want it to be fun and useful and ideally it should capture their attention in three seconds or less. Some content to consider for recruitment: YouTube vlogs and Snapchat takeovers where current students show a day in their lives at their college or university. Consider featuring fun TikTok videos from current students on your university’s Snapchat and Instagram account. Keep a running list of your active student “influencers” on social media and consistently curate and share their content. The key is to be transparent and relatable in an easy, short video format.

Platforms to use: SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok

Prospective Students Parents/Families

Parents want their most pressing questions answered on everything from financial aid to housing to meal plans. They want to know their kids are going to be safe, taken care of, and set up for success throughout their four years at college. They need to know where every dollar is going and what each fee means. If their child is struggling in class, they will reach out to you on social media to find out why.

To keep parents informed, consider doing Facebook Live Q&A’s specifically for parents/families of students with members of the admissions team on all these topics. Let parents submit questions before and during the live event. Be sure to make sure these are moderated. On a monthly basis, craft Facebook messaging targeted specifically at parents that sends them directly to portals where they can access needed information. Be sure you are regularly responding to their messages and comments on your social.

Platform to use: Facebook

Current Students

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What they want: The most popular social media platform by far for current college students is Instagram, specifically Instagram Stories. Students are an absolute pro at using this app and love revealing bits of their daily lives through aesthetically pleasing filters, interactive quizzes, and videos decorated with colorful text. Consistently use the question sticker on Instagram Stories to ask students what content they would like to see from their college. Regularly do student and staff takeovers so you are always showcasing campus through a diverse lens. Post beautiful campus landscape photos to encourage campus pride and regularly run swag giveaways to keep your audience engaged.

Platforms to use: Instagram Stories, Snapchat


Faculty want to showcase their work and the work of their students. They want to be informed and consistently updated on what’s happening at their school. The same goes for staff. They need to know what’s going on at all times and they also enjoy outlets to show off their pride like Instagram contests or special college days. Encourage your departments across campus to post “behind the scenes” photos on their social media. This is a great way to be authentic and transparent while making your employees validated and seen. Be sure to include a few Instagram Stories takeovers from faculty and staff on your main accounts throughout the year.

Platforms to use: Facebook, Instagram


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Once alumni head out into the world, you want to keep them engaged and connected to their alma mater. They are the ones who can speak to their positive experiences at your college and also become your future donors. Definitely make alumni spotlights a regular part of your social media strategy. There are bound to be many with a unique story doing exciting things and this type of content is awesome for recruitment. I’ve found LinkedIn is a great place to share campus pride articles as it creates pleasant nostalgia for alumni and makes them feel connected. Many of them will comment on articles with the year they graduated and share why they love their university.

Platforms to use: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn

The key to an effective social media strategy is to take the time to segment your audiences and carefully think about what content works for each. You may not reach each audience on a weekly basis but you should definitely strive to reach all on a monthly basis. Analyze what content does the best and use that to inform what you do next.

Have any more tips? I’d love to hear. Thanks for reading!