The Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University was a case of too many cooks with too many tool. Departments had their own accounts to go along with our master accounts, which caused a lot of seldom used platforms and dead air. When you’re a second-tier brand under a main brand, your audience already more specific and takes more effort to grow. Because of this, we decided to prune some of the accounts and turn our social voices into efficient content-sharing machines. By sticking to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and setting up a school-wide content calendar our audience grew by 40% and reach 85% in a year. In addition to our main accounts, I also acted as a manager and advisor for the departmental accounts that we allowed to continue, either because of a large audience in place (Entrepreneurship) or being locked into the internal SLU audience, like student groups. I approved their content calendars and consulted on their usage to make sure they stayed active and the content stayed fresh..
We also switched our social media manager to Hootsuite, which allowed us to give access of our social media accounts to students for events and study abroad trips. Students were introduced with a blog post and assigned a special hashtag to sign their posts with so our audience knew that this was coming from their point of view. Using Hootsuite, we created a workflow that allowed us to approve posts and fix the minimal mistakes that did happen (usually spelling and grammar). This allowed for some really unique social content, including student perspectives of university life straight from their POV, and helped to give our brand a voice outside of a news aggregator.
For internal marketing towards our students, we implemented contests to help promote events and awareness of our programs to undecided undergrads. One of our most successful contests was our Leadership Ethics And Policy Challenge (The LEAP Challenge). Students would gain entries for this raffle by attending events relating to ethics and corporate policy, the specialization of the Emerson Leadership Institute. They would prove they would prove their attendance by taking a selfie at the event in front of our LEAP Challenge Posters. We used a service to gather all of the entries by hashtag, and randomly selected winners who received iPads. We had really good returns; about 3/4 of the students who entered went to the eight events required to win the iPad, and our competitors included a good selections of students from inside and outside of the Cook School.
After seeing our success in organic social, our dean wanted to try paid ads for our graduate programs, as a way to compliment our paid search effort and to add a push digital marketing tool to our pull strategy. This took some trial and error to get right. We first started with a general “Apply Today” message that got a good number of impressions, especially when we attached a gimmick to the post (resolution posts in January), but we just were not sending traffic to the site that was converting. We realized that, surprisingly, people won’t spend thousands of dollars on an MBA program just from a Facebook post. We retooled, made these ads not about applications, but attendance to our information sessions.
We used these ads to point potential students to our monthly sessions, which had really strong conversion numbers in itself. We boosted posts on Facebook and LinkedIn; Facebook because we had our strongest audience there and expanded targeting options, and LinkedIn for the qualified candidates and job/career improvement aspect of the network. We also ran the ads in 2-3 week periods, not continuous, in order to get more spend closer to our sessions. These ads acted more like a reminder about our info sessions, and soon helped drive attendance, which turned to applications for our programs. Our budget was small for these ads, but because of the nature of the programs, our target market was also small, so we spent like we had a bigger budget and these small wins matriculated into apps. We also kept narrowing down our target market, including specialized ads targeting people at companies who offer tuition remission, which really helped jump our info session numbers when close to application time. This also moved into a social buy strategy for our events on campus, like our Deans Breakfast and our speciality conferences.