5 Solutions to Modern Social Media Problems in Higher Ed
It may be hard to believe, but social media is already touching its second generation of college students. Institutions no longer grapple with whether or not they should be active on social media, but instead wonder how they find the resources to create a robust strategy, engaging current and prospective students.
After all, even the beginning of the largest social network, Facebook, originated on college campuses. As the first social media generation of college students matured, their experiences and consumption habits shaped how Generation Z consumes social media. As teenagers just starting new accounts, Gen Z’s first friends included their extended family members.
But as they got older, this generation wanted privacy to post content and connect with friends in places not traditionally visible to family. Eventually, Gen Z developed social media fatigue as brands moved in and crowded their sacred spaces within Snapchat and Instagram. As a result, they lowered their usage on certain platforms to get a more intimate experience with friends not visible to the masses. To decrease their social footprint, teenagers opted to private message each other on social apps in place of text messaging.
So what does this all mean for higher ed?
It means institutions trying to hit a moving target with an increasingly savvy group of students (who are your consumers) want to interact with institutions in a way that’s in-line with their communication habits. Meeting these challenges requires a shift towards building an internal hub for students who want a social media-like experience within the academic and co-curricular spaces, but with more intimacy than the major networks provide.
Pathify leads the way in creating an alternative community purpose-built for engaging current students while attracting prospects by bringing community forward. The following highlights some of the main challenges facing institutions related to social media and how Pathify helps institutions meet students where they are.
Problem No. 1: Too Much Competing Content on Social Media
Creating content takes time. Creating good content requires a significant investment in tools and resources. It’s one thing to create the content, but another to deploy, manage and engage with it once it’s out there. Doing social media well requires lots of different skills and on top of it, students have viral cat videos, memes and fun dance moves on TikTok to compete with. Why would they engage with your content?
Instead of trying to compete with what’s out there, Pathify’s Engagement Hub allows your marketing team to curate content from campus inside the platform where they already engage with you. Of course, any skeptical higher ed professional will surely push back. There are countless times where an institution buys a piece of software they think is “cool” only to find students not using it.
That isn’t the case here.
What I’m talking about brings students in by giving them what they need, and a reason to stay with features students like. Digital Wallet offers one of many hooks Pathify leverages to pull students into the platform.
It allows students to use their phone as an all-in-one mobile ID wallet and get into places such as the library or cafeteria without bringing a physical card. This helps drive adoption.
Problem No. 2: Difficult to Create Community Within Desired Boundaries
When social media first came out, incoming students jumped at the chance to participate in “Class Of” Facebook groups and various clubs managed their events through there as well. But Gen Z no longer wants to engage on Facebook. They fear the myriad of investigations and bad press around data privacy. However, students not using Facebook lose out on what’s taking place by being disconnected from their classmates.
Students don’t resist being part of a digital community. In fact, quite the opposite; they crave it, especially as first-year students. But this generation wants hard boundaries between them and professors (and acquaintances in co-curricular clubs).
The Groups functionality in Pathify threads the needle when it comes to privacy. It allows students to proudly invite faculty to their club events without revealing embarrassing photos or personal information they’d rather keep private. On the admin side, Groups in Pathify are easier to track and control as an institution than on major social media channels. This is especially important at a time when institutions aspire to do more to monitor mental health challenges on campus.
Pathify’s keyword tracker helps monitor for red flags in a Group to let institutions take swift action as needed. It also calls out potential trouble spots such as plans for potential illegal or unauthorized activity on campus.
As institutions start embracing the hybrid campus model, enabling the creation of intimate communities will play a critical role in both retaining and attracting students. The previous generation of students obsessed over how many “friends” they had on social media. This generation cares more about the quality of their social media connections. The trend bodes well for institutions investing in creating insular communities within the boundaries of their institution.
Problem No. 3: No Control of Public Interactions with Social Media Content
We’ve known for a long time the internet is not a safe space. Institutions don’t control the general public’s involvement with content as they do on campus. This means students are subjected to ugly comments on whatever they post, even when the person behind those comments lives hundreds of miles away.
This is problematic when we feature students in our social posts. The internet is all too often…just mean, and doesn’t prevent anyone from making bigoted or hurtful comments of a student’s appearance on campus. Additionally, students comfortable on campus being who they are (for example LGBTQ+ students may be out to people on campus, but not to friends and family) might not want their picture from an event on social media.
Pathify’s Groups allow students to feel more comfortable being themselves in a social media-like environment and provide a safe space to engage with content. It also lets students promote events to their friends without inadvertently inviting outside trolls to crash the party. Students are exhausted. They’re tired of having to hire security for an event to keep the peace or getting doxxed on social media for bringing in a controversial speaker.
Students want to feel secure being themselves on social media and want you to help them feel safe doing so. When institutions provide an insular environment, it’s not only easier to protect current students, but it’s a great marketing tactic for prospective students. After all, there’s no better way of saying you meet them where they are than by allowing them to see the community you’ve built from the convenience of their mobile device. It gives them a feel for the campus environment while showing them their events will be unimpeded by outside voices.
Problem No. 4: Institutions Treat Social Media Like Bulletin Boards
Some institutions have a habit of using social media as a bulletin board. You’ve probably seen the posts where an institution promotes an event or on-campus initiative using Twitter or Instagram, assuming students will automatically see whatever they posted. In fact, this might be a practice you utilize at your own institution. Posting campus announcements isn’t only not ideal, but students might miss it entirely because you’re competing against an algorithm slanted against your institution.
But most institutions don’t have a better option because there’s no robust calendar function for campus events. Most campus calendars work in siloes or are difficult to filter so students struggle to find the events they care most about.
Instead of using your social media channels to provide students with important updates, use them to show the sights and sounds from around campus. Keep social media for how it was designed — to share the highlights of campus life in a person-to-person method while building bonds and relationships between the institutions and your followers. Social media sells your campus to prospective students while making alumni nostalgic of their time at your institution. It’s great for evoking emotion, but severely lacks in meeting the logistical needs of students.
Filling the void is where Pathify comes in. The Engagement Hub neatly brings together your various calendars with details and imagery pushed directly to particular subsets of students. Plus, with no algorithm to compete with, students will never miss out on campus events and they’ll have the flexibility to add their own events for academic or co-curricular groups.
Problem No. 5: Too many social media accounts
Some institutions own as many as 150 different social media accounts — even at smaller schools! Marketing departments take the approach of spray-and-pray for posting to social media accounts rather than being targeted and personalized. Posting on that many accounts isn’t only inefficient, but also impractical.
Every new account means splitting the stream of attention and spreading those eyeballs across more properties, diluting engagement and reach. It’s simply not worth it. However this doesn’t deter many departments from starting multiple accounts across platforms before losing steam and ending up as abandoned properties. Outdated content looks worse than no content. It looks like you don’t care. Less is more when it comes to doing social well on campus.
Let social media be what it’s designed for and use a platform like Pathify for driving the student experience with targeted, personalized and just-in-time messaging. While your social media presence matters, it should be centralized within the marketing team and not turned into a free-for-all for student communications. Instead, move department-specific communications to a platform like Pathify to alleviate the campus shuffle while breaking down campus siloes and creating greater efficiency.
It’s hard to predict what the future of social media will look like. When the past few months resulted in some of the most volatile ever in its existence, it shakes the confidence of even the best marketing departments with a strong handle on social. And that is exactly why it’s time to bring some of the more strategic communications to an internal platform where students safely engage with each other while your institution provides target messaging, which will always stay front-of-mind.