Wheelock’s Marketing Manager Stephen Dill admits he’d rather host a two-way conversation than the one-way broadcast channel colleges often fall prey to. “Social media was being used like our print brochure was,” Dill says, reminiscing on his earlier days at Wheelock in June 2011. Since, he’s worked toward pushing engagement.
No one can avoid the statistics; high schoolers are now picking prospective colleges based on social media. Schools have adopted social media as a means of survival to the point Dill claims, “What I want to do is start a relationship with someone when they’re a sophomore in high school.” The earlier Wheelock can lure in students, the longer the college can stay on their radar and keep them engaged.
Yet, despite a focus on prospective students, Dill acknowledges alumni, trustees and parents are important, as well, which is also why Wheelock’s latched on to the Internet. “You need to go where they’re willing to talk,” Dill admits. “And where they’re willing to talk is on social media.”
So, how do you keep a Wheelock College community engaged?
Providing the News That’s Relevant to Them
Dill says they’re currently creating a Facebook canvas application that lives on the Timeline and utilizes specialized algorithms to filter news and bring relevant content to every users’ page. That means, if Wheelock students like the Celtics, the school will give them Celtics’ box scores. “Interspersed into that is news on Wheelock, but only if it’s relevant,” Dill claims. The college will soon be able to understand what students are interested in and can then build their trust over time.
Understand the Power of Images
Dill felt “stuck in this somewhat esoteric mode” when he started at Wheelock. The team thought posting these super intellectual articles on Facebook would intrigue the community, but Facebook really just wasn’t the right platform. Instead, Dill started posting images and the occasional video “and there was a real response change.” Now, Wheelock has 19 different Facebook pages aimed at different communities. And, as Dill says, “Because images attract students, we naturally set up an account on Pinterest.”
Images aren’t the only thing Wheelock is doing right. They’re also posing questions on Facebook in order to engage their community. Instead of just saying, “Wheelock’s president was in the Huffington Post, check it out,” they’re reeling students into the conversation, as well.
Don’t Discount Google+
Wheelock started their Google+ page “in earnest” back in February and has been able to post more content there than on Facebook without bombarding their students, as well as gain some search traffic. Dill and the team have then started pulling information from the Wheelock website and bringing it onto Google+ “largely for the search value.”
The key ingredient here is “engagement”—Wheelock’s “special sauce.” Sure, they might not have as many Facebook “likes” as neighboring schools (who can compete with Harvard?), but they’re on the right track. And their tactic won’t go unnoticed by prospective students.