Online Student Engagement and the Uncontrollable Conversation

Students using their smartphones in a row

Universities undoubtedly understand the importance of their social media channels. But what are they doing with (and how do they benefit from) the uncontrollable conversation?

Social media has traditionally been a great tool for recruitment and retention, sure. Some are finding innovative ways to raise money online. All should be going beyond their own channels to look and listen for brand clues.

That is, a complete social strategy should always include monitoring and engagement, but engagement can (and should) go beyond comments and replies. Listening to the social conversation will allow for better, more carefully constructed content. Chances are it will also help with operations.

In 2015, students flock to the net to connect with each other. Most schools’ students have an array of online communities, groups and pages across different social media channels. As people become more and more fond of digital relationships, chatter between students, parents and alumni will continue to happen on the web.

This means online communities for college students now thrive independently from university control. This takes the conversation out of the school’s control and opens it up for the world to see. I’d be interested to know if certain schools are being perceived as well as they think.

While the hypothetical dining hall probably gets a lot of traffic, it might come as a surprise that there’s a student-run Instagram page dedicated to the nightmare that is “Taco Tuesday.” The simple takeaway: stop boosting posts about “Taco Tuesday” every week…and start serving another dish.

With the increasing importance of social media for the branding efforts of a school, it’s time for universities to readjust how they foster and engage with active online communities. Tuning in to the buzz and applying what’s learned could greatly improve social media efforts – and poke a few holes elsewhere along the way.

Proactively engage, but don’t forget to actively listen, too.

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