A new year and a new decade bring with them plenty of reasons to think back on how far we’ve come. The evolution of social media marketing since 2000 or even 2010 has been downright staggering. 

Back in the early 2000s, institutions that advertised on social media were as rare as unicorns. Nonetheless, the most forward-thinking organizations got in on the action early, making significant strides in the process. 

Today, social media marketing represents an integral tool used by schools of all sizes and stripes. That’s why differentiating your college or trade school’s brand remains so essential. 

How can you do this? For one, by understanding social media trends in 2020 and beyond and then using this knowledge strategically. 

With that in mind, let’s explore the top 11 new media marketing strategies and how your college can put them to work.  

1. Shift Your Focus 

Social media channels are ultimately social. Yet, many organizations forget this in the mad rush to promote their schools, departments, or campuses. 

If you’re too busy persuading and convincing, however, your audience won’t be appreciative. Instead, they’ll bail. Why?

Because people go to coffee shops to hang out with their friends, not used car sales lots. Put another way, people don’t like to feel pressured. They do, however, enjoy learning something new by reading and watching content with a takeaway value. 

It’s time to shift your focus. Remember that people don’t come to social media to get sold stuff. They come to engage with their friends, family, and the brands they love.

Make your college one of the brands that your followers want to engage with through your social media community. Create compelling content that connects with them and makes your institution a part of their identity. 

2. Build Social Media Communities

Make 2020 the year that you focus on building social media communities.

What are some actionable steps that you can take to these ends? Start by checking your social channels three times a day and replying to any comments you receive.

Use video-first content to increase brand exposure. These videos might include a brief campus tour or an interview with a current student or an innovative professor. Keep these videos short, fresh, and engaging. 

Not sure where to start? Check our tips for creating a video blog for colleges and trade schools. 

As you create new videos and other content for your social media channels, work hard to stay original and creative. Whatever you do, don’t rehash the same old posts and memes every week like clockwork.

That’s the best way to create a yawn factor, and that’s not what you’re after. Also, make sure that your content ties into current events and relevant time pegs so that your audience will feel compelled to keep coming back for more. 

3. Know Your Audience

Encourage your followers to engage with the materials that you post by speaking directly to them. How do you do this? By knowing your audience segments inside and out.

That’s a fundamental rule of marketing that proves no less true in a digital sphere than a print one. Start by creating buyer personas where you list the demographics, interests, beliefs, needs, motivations, and more of your ideal customers. 

Use data collected by your college to build these personas. Supplement this information with surveys taken by the groups you want to reach. These people might include everyone from first-year students to members of the Class of ’69.

4. Create Content that Speaks to Your Audience

Once you know your audience, craft content that speaks directly to them. Write this content as if you’re conversing with an individual. That way, you’ll naturally create a more personalized feel.

As you produce content, continually ask yourself these questions:

  • How am I providing value for my readers?
  • What’s the takeaway value from this?
  • Why should they keep reading this? 
  • How can I better speak to their needs, wants, and desires?

You should also create content designed to build a greater sense of community. Otherwise, your college social media sites could end up like those of other big-name brands, deluged with followers who ignore their posts. 

Instead, work hard to craft a running dialogue with your readers that emphasizes the human, personalized side of your brand. 

This humanization is key to remaining effective and building community in 2020. When coupled with encouragement to build communities and engage with them, you’ll create a robust following. 

5. Understand Trends Negatively Impacting Social Media

Besides presenting a human side to customers and actively working to engage them through community, remain aware of the “detox” trend impacting audiences across social media.

Why are people moving away from social media? Because they feel overloaded by it, and can you blame them? 

They’re tired of fake news, bullying, divisive politics, privacy concerns, and data breaches. Their response? To stop participating altogether. 

More people are taking a break from screen time to focus on social and mental well-being. This phenomenon is not felt equally through all social communities, however. 

How can you combat this? By prioritizing the creation of high-quality, personalized content that speaks to your readers. Use your channels to educate rather than sell and avoid the type of content that’s turning audiences away. 

6. Foster Empathy in Your Readers 

Post content that connects with your readers. Ideally, it should also inspire them and provide hope. If you can bring these “feels” to your brand’s channel, people will return.

Why? Because of oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone that we experience following acts of kindness or trust. It inspires people to cooperate, and it enhances feelings of empathy. 

When you post content that celebrates human kindness, love, self-sacrifice, and beating the odds, you’ll incite these feelings in your audience members. In other words, it all comes back to connecting with your followers on an emotional level. 

Remember those Hallmark commercials that reduced people to tears in a matter of minutes? The ones that used anecdotes to touch viewers?

Those commercials made audiences feel instantly more human. They excited feelings of empathy. 

Hallmark never tried to sell anything. They didn’t waste their time persuading viewers or attempting to convince them of something.

Instead, they went straight for emotional connection, and they sold cards by the droves. They still do.

Of course, the caveat to this approach is that your content must also feel genuine and authentic. If your audience becomes aware that you’re trying to pull their strings, or your content seems melodramatic or “fake,” it’ll turn people away.

7. Recognize that Social Channels Aren’t Created Equal

While Facebook followers are disappearing, Instagram continues to ride an endless wave of popularity. As for Twitter, it has faced dwindling audiences yet experienced some recent surges.

Assume that audience numbers will continue to fluctuate. Then, take steps to stay ahead of these seismic shifts.

How? By following social channel numbers and adjusting your digital marketing efforts accordingly. Don’t hedge all of your social media bets on one channel. 

What’s more, gone are the days of plastering your pages with memes. Always think quality over quantity when posting to social media.

If you’ve already worked hard to build communities and put out great content that provides readers with value, they’ll stay with you over the long haul. 

8. Experiment with Alternative Platforms

Along with not putting all of your social media eggs in one basket, you need to consider alternative platforms. Although organizations still look at Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter as their core platforms, get creative. 

Branch out into an alternative platform such as TikTok, which currently boasts more than 500 million active users worldwide. Since 41 percent of users are between the ages of 16 and 24, it’s a great place to launch your college’s brand message.

Ready for another fantastic option? Why not check out Pinterest? This highly visual app has a huge following that continues to grow. What’s more, there are few better channels to cultivate brand awareness and loyalty.

Retailers are finding plenty of success on this channel and report two times higher returns on their ad spend than with other channels. Why such stellar results?

Part of it has to do with the people that frequent Pinterest. Seventy-five percent of Pinterest users report being “very interested” in new products to purchase versus just 55 percent of individuals using other channels. 

Why wouldn’t you want to leverage this kind of enthusiasm for your college or trade school’s brand? 

9. Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing

One of the most significant benefits of social media is that it leads to word-of-mouth marketing (a.k.a peer to peer or P2P marketing). That is if you encourage your readers to stay engaged and voice their opinions. 

The communities that you forge online will help you engage with micro-influencers. These are regular individuals active on social media that you can encourage to advocate for your college.

So, create spaces where your followers can share their honest views. 

What if they say something negative about your college? Whatever you do, don’t ignore these reviews or respond to them in combative ways.

Instead, see these instances as opportunities to address their concerns and open up a healthy dialogue. Show them that you care about their opinion by responding and taking steps to amend the situation, if necessary. 

This approach will also show your other readers just how much you care about their input and feelings. What you want to do, ultimately, is create a feedback loop of excellent word-of-mouth marketing, but it requires your active participation.

10. Use the Power of Storytelling to Your College’s Advantage

When it comes to the latest social media trends, storytelling is by no means the newest, but it remains among the most powerful. Use this tactic to your advantage.

Why do stories prove such a potent way to communicate with people? Because our brains are biologically structured to thrive on them. For thousands of years, humans have used stories to engage, relate personal experiences, and express emotions. 

It’s hardwired into who we are. 

What does this mean for your content? Craft stories around the time-honored framework of the Hero’s Journey. Include a protagonist and universal themes such as the presence of a mentor, obstacles to overcome, and hard work rewarded. 

You’ll never engage your audience by merely throwing facts and figures at them. Instead, put them in somebody else’s shoes. Let them feel their struggles, empathize with their losses, and revel in their triumphs. 

This strategy might involve interviewing first-generation students who can tell you about the difficulties they’ve faced and overcome to attend your college. Let them tell you about a school mentor who guided them through tough obstacles.

Mix this with a heavy dose of the success they now experience as a result of your education, and you’ve got marketing magic. Yes, this outline represents everything from Harry Potter to Star Wars and Aladdin all rolled into one.

That said, each of these books/movies grossed millions, even billions of dollars. There’s something to be said for the Hero’s Journey, so start using it! 

11. Let Social Media Function as Customer Service

Customer service remains a vital aspect of your college’s brand. Why not link it to your social media presence?

Not only does this approach provide your customers with more avenues to get in touch with you, but it encourages them to engage online. 

You may wonder, “Do customers really engage with brands online?” Yes, more than ever. Twenty-eight percent of consumers used social media to communicate with a company in 2019 alone. 

Here’s the kicker, though. You HAVE to respond to these customers in real-time. Remember that bit about checking your social channels a minimum of three times per day? This step remains essential to building a sense of community and trust. 

Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020 and Beyond

Alright, you’ve got it. The top 11 social media trends to capitalize on in the new decade. Use these trends to differentiate your college or trade school’s brand and reap the benefits in 2020.  

Looking for more useful tips to help your college reinvent its digital marketing strategy? Keep reading to find out how we helped one college increase their website traffic by a whopping 175 percent!


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