Like any other company, business or organisation FE colleges are open to as much reputation tarnishing as any other brand.  However by managing your social media presence and using Facebook as part of your social marketing strategy, you can start to engage with your audience and realise that social networking isn’t just about the number of “likes” but the level of engagement between you and your  students.

Creating relationships and a positive experience can enhance any positive responses and counteract a bad reputation.  So in line with the marketing strategy and corporate objectives, social media can control to some extent college’s online influence and overall personality.

Engaging your students on Facebook

There is the risk of running your college facebook page as an advertising billboard, by bombarding your fans with constant marketing messages, however if this is your approach then the whole focus of your social media strategy is fuzzy and will put off potential fans.  Social media should be about starting a conversation topic and then monitoring the type of comments and feedback the students are responding with.

At Bournemouth and Poole College this approach has been effective, as instant feedback was used to change a process at enrolment.  It gave an instant student response and helped the college get to the root of the student experience.

Resolving issues is not the only benefit of interacting with your students, as Facebook can act as another line of enquiry for not only new and prospective students but current students as well. Questions and queries will be common but it’s the way in which the college responds that can affect the online relationship with your audience.  Responding quickly or instantly will begin to build up a rapport with your audience; it’s not necessarily about knowing all the answers to the questions but being supportive and responsive.  If the students know that you are there to help they will continue to ask questions and feel part of a community.

Social Media Metrics

From a marketing point of view you might be thinking about spending serious time and money on social media, but are you measuring your return on investment (ROI)?  If not, how do you know it’s even working?  By measuring these 5 metrics, you will be well on your way to getting an accurate representation of your ROI.

1. Referring Sites

By measuring the majority of your website clicks and where they are coming from, you can determine which social media platforms you should be spending more or less time on.  For instance, if only 2 per cent of your clicks come from Twitter but 65 per cent come from Facebook, then you know that your audience is more present on Facebook and you should spend more time there.

2. Comments

If you monitor your comments over a period of time, you can see which topics have got your audience talking and continue to post about those topics.  If you have a Facebook business page and monitor your Insights, you can find this metric in the “Interactions” portion of your Insights page.

3. Klout

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage, you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Foursquare in order to measure:

• How many people you influence

• How much you influence them

• How influential they are

Klout explains, “How often do top Influencers share and respond to your content? When they do so, they are increasing your Network Score.”

4. Sentiment

Sentiment is simply whether people are saying positive, negative or indifferent things about your brand.

5. Mentions by Source

Mentions by source will tell you where people are talking about you, which gives you the perfect segue into the conversation.  For instance, people may be asking their friends questions about your brand on Twitter; you could chime in and help answer them.  If this metric is measured correctly, it will tell you what percent of your mentions are coming from blogs as well as social media.  You then should be able to view each mention and see the sentiment.

If you start measuring these five metrics, you should have an idea of your return on investment and whether you are spending your time and money wisely.  By ignoring these simple metrics and continuing your social media strategy blindly, you are just throwing away your time and money.

Start by finding a good social media management platform tool, there are lots to choose from and basically all platforms have the same monitoring function.

Rachel Batho is Marketing Co-ordinator at Bournemouth and Poole College

Read the FE Week FE Guide to Twitter: click here