Social media outreach is a skillset that many financial aid, registrar, and admissions staff might not consider part of their regular job. But it’s a burgeoning responsibility in these offices, as a vibrant social media presence has become a critical part of communications plans in recruitment and retention efforts.
“Staff needn’t fear managing social media events,” said Nilsa Lam, Senior Operations Manager at New York University’s StudentLink Center (a one-stop shop for student services). “Even though staff may not have a marketing or communications background, they can learn to do it well through research, reading, and trial and error.”
In an effort to make their social media presence more engaging and influential, since 2017 NYU’s StudentLink Center has been delivering more proactive, targeted social media content. Along the way, they’ve discovered that managing social media events is a great professional development opportunity for staff to build project management skills in a low-stakes environment.
Professional development on the job
“A lot of staff don’t have professional experience or training with social media outreach components,” said StudentLink Counselor Ryan Zsifkov. “So we’ve done a lot of research in those areas to build our social media skill set as student services professionals.”
Each month, one StudentLink staff member runs an in-person, online, or hybrid outreach event of their choosing. They set the timeline, resources, budget, and goals for those events, giving staff a soft entry into the experience of project management, and experimenting with using social media platforms to proactively communicate timely messages to targeted audiences.
“We are constantly looking at social media trends and using our professional development time to improve our outreach,” said StudentLink Counselor Alexandra Danese.
Targeted, purposeful messaging
“A lot of offices on college campuses have social media handles that they use somewhat passively, just to make announcements,” Lam said. “But we’ve found if students are coming to us, it’s usually because they have a problem, so we decided to use social media in a more proactive way to share resources and information that can help them avoid negative, reactive situations.”
Targeting a specific audience is an effective way to wield social media power, they discovered. For example, November 8 was national First Generation Student Day, and the staff at StudentLink used social media to actively engage first generation students and families who couldn’t attend on-campus events. Partnering with various offices around campus, they live streamed to discussions with staff in those offices to highlight the resources around campus that are uniquely beneficial to first-gen students.
Another popular event was an Instagram Live campaign called “Ask Me Anything” inviting students to submit questions that were then answered by the relevant office. That event not only engaged students and introduced staff members, but it also gave the counselors a clearer picture of what was on students’ minds at that point in the year (February) as they were preparing for a successful second semester.
The StudentLink team is pleased with their engagement statistics so far, and has found strategies they can build on in their future social media efforts. They will share more social media lessons in their 2020 AACRAO Annual Meeting session “Other Duties As Assigned.” Learn about this and other marketing and recruitment professional development opportunities at AACRAO 2020.