Challenges With Taking Your Institution’s Brand Social

I’m looking at the challenges and risks of whether a company should take their brand social. In 2014, this should be obvious. Further, in higher education, your brand better be social or you are completely missing the target audience. The good news is that we are already there. We know that in order to recruit students, we need to meet them where they spend most of their time – online.

Let’s take a look at some of the challenges, risks, practices and expectations for institutions of higher education taking their brands social.

Largest Challenge: Staffing
Across four-year private, four-year public and two-year public institutions, most reported that social media activity is a part-time responsibility for one or more staff members (Noel-Levitz, 2014). Very few have full-time staff dedicated to the initiative. What does that mean for your brand’s image on social media? If your institution is utilizing multiple staff to manage social media efforts, it would be helpful to schedule regular meetings to coordinate content, scheduling and the voice across each channel. A well-orchestrated approach will make it easier on everyone.

Faux Pas to Avoid
Whether you are using multiple people to manage your social media properties or employing one person to handle it full-time, be sure you aren’t making rookie mistakes. Digiday (2014) outlines a number of mistakes that even brands with the best intentions are making. These include:

  • Speaking with multiple voices
  • Paying for likes
  • Liking your own content
  • Taking too long to respond
  • Denying negative posts
  • Taking undue credit
  • Overselling

Brunner ad agency produced a series of videos that illustrate these mistakes in a way that we can all appreciate (Brunner, 2014).

Risks of Not Taking the Brand Social
If your institution is not yet social in some way (gasp!), then you may be missing out on some great opportunities. It may prevent you from building relationships with customers. You may not attract the prospects you desire. You might not be able to maintain the existing relationships you have. Lastly, you may be missing out about conversations about your brand (Chohan, 2014). Yes, people are already talking about your institution. Are you listening and talking with them?

No matter where your institution falls in social media involvement, there is always room for improvement. Perhaps you need a few more reasons to dig deeper into content. Have you been wanting to try new social media tools? Maybe you need justification to sell your executive team on additional staff or funding. There are some pretty compelling facts from the 2014 Noel-Levitz E-Expectations Report and E-Recruiting Practices Report. Consider these as you prepare your social media strategies:

Expectation: 59% of high school seniors and 42% of parents said that they are more likely to consider schools that use email, text messages or social media to communicate with them and around 62% of high school seniors and 51% of parents said that Web-based resources are better for them to learn about colleges and universities.

Practice: More than three-quarters of four-year private, four-year public and two-year public institutions reported that they use email communication, online net price calculators, recruiting pages on website and videos embedded on campus website.

Expectation: Nine out of ten high school seniors and eight out of ten parents have access to a mobile device; 71% of high school seniors and 45% of parents have looked at college websites on their mobile devices.

Practice: Only about half of four-year institutions report having mobile-optimized sites. The report identified a gap here and recommended that institutions optimize their websites for mobile devices.

Expectation: 53% of high school seniors and 55% of parents said they were willing to receive text messages from colleges.

Practice: While 42% of four-year privates said they send individual text messages, only 19% of four-year publics and 13% of two-year institutions reported doing so. There is a ton of room for improvement here through opt-in text messaging.

Expectation: Facebook is most widely used by high school seniors and parents (over 70% and over 50% respectively). YouTube was the next most heavily used channel with over 70% of high school seniors and over 30% of parents viewing.

Practice: Across four-year private, four-year public and two-year public institutions, more than three-quarters of the respondents were using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Other channels mentioned by institutions were Instagram, blogs, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, Vimeo, Storify and Vine.

Where does your institution fall in terms of social media involvement? Are you meeting students and parents where they are? What improvements would you make to your social media teams?

This blog is part of my MKT-555 Social Media course and fulfills the 7.4 course project requirement.


Brunner. (2014, October 2). Brand Social Media Faux Pas #3: Liking Your Own Content [Video file]. Retrieved from

Chohan, T. (2014, September 3). Taking your brand social: Can social media bring you success? Retrieved October 18, 2014, from

Dua, T. (2014, October 16). The 7 deadly brand social media sins, illustrated – Digiday. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from

Noel-Levitz. (2014). 2014 E-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College-Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from

Noel-Levitz. (2014). 2014 E-Recruiting Practices Report for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from


8 thoughts on “Challenges With Taking Your Institution’s Brand Social

  1. Tiffany,
    I am very impressed with the conviction and the stats that you shared regarding the expectations of higher education to be engaged online and with social media. I would expect a lagging behind of having adequate staff to support this social media activity. It appears that the rightsizing of staff for your industry and others may consumer a fair amount of the literature for the next 3- 5 years.



  2. It’s going to be crucial for schools to measure and communicate value in their social media activities. There are more companies offering ways to measure social media impact and professionals will need to leverage this data, tell stories and communicate need for additional support.


  3. I have not thought about schools’ use of social media as a marketing tool before. Although we have used both public and private education within our family, we did not look specifically at that as a factor when making a decision on where to choose. That said, I would much rather receive information through social media than not.
    I do not think most schools are equipped with personnel to handle social media branding, so I think your point about staffing is spot on. Until schools are able to staff appropriately, the risks may outweigh the rewards. Putting the wrong information out, speaking with inconsistent messaging and the like when it comes to people’s children may be a risk too high to take.
    Thanks for the information!


    • Did you happen to visit any of the public/private school’s websites upon your initial consideration of their school? If so, were you pleased or disappointed with the amount of information that they shared with prospective families? I think the initial visit to websites and social media properties (quick facts, clubs, academic programs) will either pull you in deeper or leave you with unanswered questions.


  4. Great post! I am a firm believer that schools should be using Social Media and making a brand for themselves. SNHU does a great job at this! They have a huge social media presences and they have taken their brand to the next level. I see them on Facebook and Twitter, and that is the best way to attract potential students, hit them with what they best understand. Making a name for yourself with so many other brands to chose from can not be easy, but if you choose not to, then you are going to be left behind trying to catch back up. Your stats are interesting, and honestly not really that surprising in this day and age. I am however surprised at the stat about the high school seniors and their use of Facebook, I wasn’t really sure if it was still a big deal for them or if they have started to move on to the next big thing. Either way, take advantage while you can.


    • I agree and am surprised by the use of Facebook as a preferred platform. Companies would be wise to continue testing various social media tools to stay on top of the trends. Additionally, they should talk to students and parents in all the ways they want to talk with the brand.


  5. I agree that social media is vital for any company regardless of industry and business. In higher education, the brand image is perhaps one of the most important aspects for a social media presence. Since education and students are the primary focus, it will be important that the brand is presented positively. In order to avoid a negative brand image, it may be ideal to only have a select few personnel responsible for social media. We have all seen instances in the news where an intern “tweeted” insensitive information.


    • It is important to train and select social media staff carefully. However, there are so many ways this can be managed now – content calendars, social scheduling tools, etc. Managers should be able to plan, review amd approve content in advance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s