Ready to give your university's social presence a boost? You're in luck! Last week, the professional social network LinkedIn announced University Pages.
A platform for universities to share information, connect with prospective students and their parents, and retain communication with alumni networks, University Pages are “one cornerstone of our strategy to help students at every critical milestone from campus to fulfilling, successful careers," said LinkedIn Director of Product Management Christine Allen in the blog post announcement on August 19th.
While University Pages are currently only available to a limited number of universities, LinkedIn indicates that thousands more schools will be given access to their University Pages over the next few weeks.
University Pages are not just a breakthrough for high school students starting their college search; they’re also important for your university's internet marketing strategy for several reasons. Most notably, your school’s marketing department now has the ability to connect with prospective students and their parents during the earlier stages of the college search. Historically, your school could communicate with those who had shown interest in information on your website or at a local event.
But starting September 12th, LinkedIn will begin allowing high school students to create their own LinkedIn profiles, instantly creating a new channel of online communication between your university and high school students conducting early research about colleges they may want to apply to in a few years. That’s a whole new world of content, information, and interactions for your school’s marketing team to consider and leverage. And the nature of LinkedIn allows more formal conversations and interactions to happen, compared to the informal/friendly nature of Facebook and the character limitations of Twitter.
Let's dive in to what makes up a LinkedIn University Page, and why you should consider setting up your own once they're available to boost your university's presence on LinkedIn.
Here are some important ways incorporating a LinkedIn University Page can benefit your school’s online marketing strategy.
1) Build a Credible Brand in Social Media
University Pages not only allow you to include information about your school, such as general background, your homepage URL and contact information, student and faculty size, and financial information; it also allows you to instantly share information about campus events or university news on your school’s dedicated page with a news feed-like stream.
It also aggregates, from LinkedIn’s 225 million members, information about your alumni base, including where alumni live and work, what industry they're in, what they studied, and their specific skills. This allows prospective students looking at your University Page to determine if the skills they're looking to develop or the industry they’re interested in aligns with what your university offers. It also highlights what your university is known for in terms of academic preference and performance.
2) Grow Your Prospective Student List
Your marketing department feeds your admissions department, but in the past, there hasn’t been an effective way to communicate with students earlier in their decision-making process about what your school has to offer. You are usually marketing to students who have already decided to apply to your school, or who are looking at one specific program on your website.
But what if you were able to communicate with high schoolers in their first or second year, when they're just starting to look at colleges but haven’t made any decisions yet? LinkedIn believes “University Pages will be especially valuable for students making their first, big decision about where to attend college.” By leveraging this social network specifically for universities and prospective students, your school can be at the forefront of that process. You’ll be able to offer informational sessions to a broader audience, drive more prospective students to information on your website about specific courses based on their interests, and convert more qualified individuals into applicants. From your University Page, link to and offer this information on a landing page on your website in exchange for an email address and first name, and you’ll instantly start grow your email list.
3) Interact With Prospective Student’s Parents
Take it one step further, and create a LinkedIn Group for the parents of prospective students. Think something along the lines of “Parents Only -- Questions, Concerns and Information for You, Mom and Dad.” Here, you can post content that is relevant to them, whether it’s about tuition, scholarships, on-campus activities, or local information about the surrounding campus areas. You can also get very targeted with LinkedIn Groups and attract parents to connect with your faculty and alumni for more information.
4) Leverage Your Current Student Network
You current student body is a hidden gem. They're in the thick of your programs and culture, and they're the best source of testimonials for prospective students. Asking your current students to connect with your university on LinkedIn and post information about what it's like to go to school there, what clubs they participate in, or why they chose to apply to your university is an easy way to engage prospective students looking at your page.
Creating a LinkedIn Group for your current students to post this information is a great way to keep the conversation going and also monitor it for your own knowledge. For example, you may learn about a very active club on campus that has lots of great things to say about your school and that prospective students are really interested in joining.
5) Re-Engage Your Alumni, and Ask for Testimonials
Alumni relations are always a tricky topic for universities. While your alumni pool grows every year, consistent communication and alumni involvement is difficult. University Pages not only gives your school a great overview of where your alumni work, but it also allows you to reconnect with those who have not been as active in the alumni community over the years.
Your alumni are great resources for testimonials about your programs, on-campus culture, and groups. Reaching out directly to alumni on LinkedIn and asking them to become involved with your University Page is a great way to get them to re-engage with your university, as well as tell their stories for prospective students to connect to. Creating a separate LinkedIn Group for alumni is also a great way to interact with that specific audience and share their experiences with prospective students. You can even re-engage them for your capital campaigns and find bigger donors who were not previously supporting your school.
6) Highlight Your School's Area of Expertise
If your school is known for its law or liberal arts program, highlighting this not only on your website but also on your University Page will help prospective students determine whether your school is a good fit for them.
If you have a vast alumni base that is successful in certain industries and already LinkedIn users, they can help your school show the proof of your excellent programs and, as a result, recruit the right students for these programs to ensure their future success. Career decisions are almost as important to a prospective student as choosing the right school itself. If they see that X number of your school's alumni are excelling in the industry they're interested in, they'll be more likely to want to learn more about your school -- and eventually apply.
Once LinkedIn makes University Pages available to all (we assume you'll get a notification within your LinkedIn account when it's ready for use), set up your University Page and be sure include a link to it from your website. Then take it a couple steps further by announcing it on your other social networks and sending an email to your alumni and current student body to get connected and start leveraging this vast professional network online.
Originally published Aug 27, 2013 6:30:00 PM, updated February 01 2017