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Colleges and universities can engage with their students via social media using one of these strategies.

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SEATTLE—Social media remains a popular engagement tool for college students to interact with one another, so how can colleges and universities reach their students where they are online?

During a workshop session at the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition Annual Conference here, faculty and staff from colleges and universities around the country shared different techniques they use to validate the student experience.

Here are five strategies to consider implementing:

Survey Says  

A December 2023 report from the Pew Research Center found YouTube is the most popular social media platform for 13- to 17-year-olds, with 93 percent using it. Sixty-three percent of teens are on TikTok, 60 percent are on Snapchat and 59 percent are on Instagram.

Facebook (33 percent), Discord (28 percent), WhatsApp (21 percent), X (20 percent), Twitch (17 percent), Reddit (14 percent) and BeReal (13 percent) were less popular platforms with teens.

Among college students, a May 2023 College Pulse survey found one-third of female respondents said they were addicted to social media and less happy as a result, along with 32 percent of male students.

  1. Feature students. Across the board, students want to see photos of themselves and their peers. Across campuses, practitioners said their posts with the highest engagement are those that highlight learners because students like, comment and share those posts among their peers. These could include event photos or student submissions.
  2. Create video content. Students often don’t read long emails, but they may watch a 60-second video. Short-form video content is also boosted in the Instagram algorithm, making that preferred by the user and the platform over other types of posts. At Wake Forest University, student leaders will go live on Instagram to share information and answer questions of their peers.
  3. Put a student in charge. Most practitioners agreed that having a student social media coordinator was best practice because peer-to-peer connection is more authentic and relatable to students. Additionally, the role creates a paid position for students who may be interested in marketing or communications careers.
  4. Make social media fun. In addition to being informative, posts can be engaging through being a little silly. Seattle Pacific University’s career center created an office mascot, a Sasquatch named Hunter, unique to the department that they share on social media and on campus. Other campuses try to stay trendy with their posts.
  5. Involve faculty and staff. Sharing faculty and staff photos and testimonials on social media is great fodder for student engagement and also helps make campus employees more relatable to their students. Some colleges share photos of their faculty members when they were in college for #ThrowbackThursday.

For the social media manager stuck in a rut, here are four creative ideas for how to engage students in a meaningful way.

  1. Pull back the Instagram filter with BeReal. BeReal took off as a college student trend in 2022. Colleges and universities can ask students to submit their best BeReal photos to be shared on Instagram, highlighting student life on campus.
  2. Share campus resources. While students don’t prefer text-based content, series such as Wellness Wednesday can promote on-campus facilities and services for those who may need them.
  1. Highlight holidays for minoritized groups. Content around national days and heritage months can spotlight underrepresented student groups on campus and show that diversity and inclusion are important to the institution.
  2. Make physical spaces shareable. Staff at Lander University created an Affirmation Station on campus where, each week, students can respond to a question and share personal affirmations. Staffers post pictures of students at the Affirmation Station, inspiring physical and digital engagement.

Do you have a campus engagement tip that might help others encourage student success? Tell us about it. 

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