Last year brought many changes to social media, which meant lots of pivots for schools and colleges with their enrollment marketing strategy. All signs point to that trend continuing in 2019.

To stay in the social media game, market effectively and engage your community and prospects where they are, you must change and adapt as social media continues to evolve.

Here are three top trends to watch for and tips to make them work for your school.

1. Facebook Groups will dominate meaningful conversation and thought leadership in users’ newsfeed.

Marc Zuckerberg was true to his word in January 2018. He said that Facebook’s algorithm would prioritize posts that receive authentic, meaningful conversations over posts that mostly receive high numbers of “likes” or other post reactions. And it did.

Users have seen far fewer posts from the “friends” or pages they follow that publish content with lower engagement vs. those that publish posts that receive high interactions and thoughtful commentary.

Because we know that Facebook Groups inspire people to interact with one another and leave feedback on a variety of subject matter, I expect to see an increase in brands using Groups to drive conversations amongst their audiences.

Tips to embrace the trend:

  • Join the SchneiderBUniversity Facebook Group led by Brendan Schneider, Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy near Pittsburgh. He offers great information for heads of schools, administrators and educators to learn from one another and innovative ways for independent schools to use social media.
  • Create your school/college’s 2019 Facebook Group or Groups to broaden the conversation in your audience’s newsfeeds and position your team members as “thought leaders” in the educational arena. Whether it’s for sports, arts, admissions or service, using Facebook Groups will boost your presence on the site.

Check out our other ideas on mastering Facebook Groups.

2. Virtual assistants and chatbots will play important customer service roles.

Ordered pizza online? Interacted with a fun Facebook Q & A post? Received a quick response to a question you asked on a brand’s website? Then you’ve most likely interacted with a chatbot.

Unlike an online chat with a real person, chatbots simulate live conversation using artificial intelligence technology to help consumers get accurate answers to questions in real-time.

Chatbots on Facebook Messenger, landing pages, apps and websites allow schools/colleges to connect with their families and prospects quickly and easily. For many, chatbots are now the first customer touch, sales lead, 24/7 support system and service provider.

Universities are deploying chatbots to aid students in the admissions process and interact with parents. Independent schools such as Our Lady of Good Counsel, Fiore Montessori, and Edlin School (who also uses a chatbot on their website) use chatbots along with Facebook Messenger to answer questions from prospective families.

3 Facebook Messenger Chatbots

Not only will chatbots be used more often to interact with prospective families in 2019, but according to Chatbots Magazine, we’ll begin to see a rise in the use of chatbots and artificial intelligence within the educational arena “that could have an astounding impact on the whole industry.”

Tips to embrace the trend:

  • Integrate a chatbot onto your website’s home or admissions page to answer FAQ’s or other easy-to-answer questions that prospects might ask online. Include the ability for the prospect to request a follow-up call or appointment. This allows your prospect to receive answers immediately when you’re not available to speak with them personally.
  • Employ chatbots with Facebook Messenger to respond to FAQs from prospects or information on upcoming events that aren’t necessarily scheduled as a Facebook Event.

3. Social media will work to re-gain trust and build confidence.

For social media sites, 2018 was the year of Cambridge Analytica, scandals over Congressional hearings, fake accounts, security breaches, lack of transparency and accuracy of content. Social media users, the media and regulators questioned the privacy, accuracy and ethics of nearly every social site that exists. As a result, 60% of users no longer trust social media companies.

According to the Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer Special Report: Brands and Social Media, trust has reverted back to immediate friends and family on social, as well as traditional and trusted journalism outlets. “Brands must act to address data privacy concerns, create trusted content, and join forces with regulators, platforms and consumers to restore trust in the social media ecosystem.”

How can schools and colleges assure their audience, current and prospective, that individual data is safe when visiting the school’s website and social sites or tapping on their ads?

The days of maximizing reach and the number of “likes” or followers is over. In 2019, educational institutions must focus on publishing quality and transparent content, while generating meaningful, authentic engagement with smaller, more valuable audiences (see trend #1 using Facebook Groups).  They must then step back and let their audience dialogue with one another.

Tip to embrace the trend:

  • Publish a Privacy Policy on your website and Facebook Guidelines on your Facebook Page to help to instill trust amongst your audience, as you assure them your school is doing all that’s possible to keep their private information safe.

Making sense of the trends:

So, what’s important? Yes, you need to stay on top of social media trends but creating the social media strategy that is right for your school or college is essential. Just because something is the latest and greatest thing, may not mean it’s  right for your marketing plan.

  • Ensure that the social sites you make use of remain consistent with your school’s brand and goals.
  • Make sure that whatever platform you choose to use, tactics you employ and content you create are all relevant to your audience.
  • And, research, research, research! Continue to learn who your audience is and where they live on social: sites most visited; when they visit; their pain points and how you can solve them; their interests and what they are talking about online that might be pertinent to your school.

Good luck in the new year and with the social media trends! We are here to help navigate these ever-changing waters. Reach out to us for assistance.

Gerri Baum is Digital and Social Media Lead for Kalix Marketing.

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