Social media platforms allow financial aid administrators to reach students where they already are. Whether your office is ready to launch a comprehensive engagement strategy or just wants to survey the landscape, there are ways to use social media as a boon to your office.
Here are three tips gleaned in part from a 2014 NASFAA National Conference presentation, “Assessing, Developing, and Maintaining a Social Media Presence,” created by Justin Chase Brown, associate director of financial aid at the University of Missouri, Lenna Sliney, La Quinta Fellow with Blue Star Families, and Melissa Niksic, marketing communications specialist at Loyola University, Chicago.
1. Active Listening: Any user can tune in to social media to survey the current and prospective student landscape. On Twitter, for instance, you can easily search by keyword (your institution and financial aid, for example) to see what users are saying.
It can be a great way to gauge students’ perceptions of the financial aid process, Brown said during his conference presentation. It’s also a way to use social media without committing much time, effort, or resources, Sliney said.
2. Information Sharing: If your office is ready for the commitment, social media platforms also offer quick ways to connect bulks of students with information. Just one post on Facebook or Twitter has the potential to reach many students.
Financial aid offices can coordinate social media posts with the academic year, sharing FAFSA information in January and again before filing deadlines, for instance.
Aid professionals can maximize the reach of informative posts by coordinating online events, such as a Twitter chat or Google Plus Hangout. Publicize a designated time period (say, an hour) for social media users to tune in for updates and information.
Offices should set a clear strategy before beginning to communicate via social media, the conference presenters said. No communication at all is better than a half-hearted, public effort that is soon abandoned.
3. Strategic Engagement: Social media platforms offer multiple ways to engage with other users – often without even typing a word. On Facebook, it’s a like or share of a post, while Twitter users can favorite or retweet. Instagram users can approve of photos, and Pinterest aficionados can pin posts. Offices with active accounts should set a strategy for what to engage with, even peripherally.
For the well-prepared office, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook also offer an avenue to respond to comments or concerns. A student who tweets his or her frustration with their budget, for example, might benefit from a link to the university’s personal finance information sessions.
Be ready to take conversations offline, however, when the situation demands it. Personal information, for instance, should never be discussed via social media.
What are your experiences with the platforms? Let us know in the comments section below.
Publication Date: 7/15/2014