Engaging Commuter Students with Social Media

UMBCAre you a social media manager for a community college or commuter campus?

It can seem impossible to engage students who aren’t part of a “captive” audience, as you would find on a residential campus. I have found myself at a loss when students on the commuter campus where I work remain unaware of such perks as free FAFSA help, resumé clinics, random snacks and campus swag giveaways.

At the #UMBCSocial Media Summit this month, there were numerous workshops to choose from and an abundance of knowledge to be gained. Here is what I learned at a presentation led by Jessica El-Zeftawy, UMBC’s Alumni Programming Coordinator:

How to Use Social Media to Connect with Commuter Students and Alumni

waffle fries UMBCSAA1. Use fun drawings in addition to your usual photos and videos. If the images are student generated, that is even better. After seeing Jessica’s waffle fries image, I realized that this could be a fun way to mix things up and show some personality.

2. Have a “Why You Love Our Campus” photo contest. The winner gets to pick out a free hoodie at the bookstore. This was a revelation to me, since at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) we aren’t permitted to give out cash prizes or gift cards. As a college student (and even now) I would never turn down a chance at a free hoodie! Bonus: if you are specific about terms and conditions, this can be a great way to collect royalty free images.

3. Share the wealth. Inform program directors and members of other departments that if they tweet with your username, you will retweet them (when appropriate).

4. Talk to your student staffers. Have you ever asked an open-ended question on Facebook, only to receive no response? It is common knowledge that the more people interact with your posts, the more users the post will be presented to (impressions). Enlist the help of student employees to serve as social media ambassadors to like, share, and comment to keep the conversation going.

5. TAKE VIDEOS. Even if they are not the best quality, people will click them. I’m not saying that you should spam your accounts with clips of a trash bag blowing around the parking lot; I’m encouraging you to explore video as a tool even if you just go out with your iphone and a cheap tripod. Don’t be intimidated by a lack of experience, just do it!

6. Obvious: create a unique hashtag. Less obvious: use hashtags.org to see what’s trending and gauge effectiveness. You can even pick up free lessons on Twitter etiquette.

shut up and take my money7. Set goals to measure your success. Twitter and Facebook’s analytics tools continue to become more user-friendly. Create a social media strategy (custom hashtags, contests, etc.) and follow through with analytics to see what really works.

8. Connect with alumni on Linkedin. Valuable information to boost engagement with alumni on Linkedin can include financial aid information for graduate students, professional development related news, enrollment dates for graduate programs, course sharing opportunities and faculty profiles.

Images provided courtesy of Jessica El-Zeftawy

For coverage of other topics that I learned about at #UMBCSocial, follow these links:

>> Will That Photo Get You Fined?
>> Coming Soon: College Facebook and Twitter #FTW