LinkedIn for colleges: Best practices for higher education
For new graduates, researching potential colleges, searching for new jobs and maintaining your alumni connections have always been a challenge. When it comes to marketing to these graduates, in addition to the monthly mailer or newsletter, there are now multitudes of social media channels that colleges can take advantage of. With its focus on professional organizations and institutions, LinkedIn has become an excellent resource to meet the needs of both prospective and current students as well as alumni on one platform.
Known for establishing business connections, LinkedIn expanded into the education space by creating University Pages in 2013. The nature of LinkedIn is centered around professionalism, which means it provides an easy way for potential students and alumni to cut through any social noise.
Consider this an introductory guide to using LinkedIn for your college, whether you’re setting one up for your school or already managing one. LinkedIn can help you help you get the word out about your college’s accomplishments and market to new students along the way.
At the time of publishing this article, the world is in the middle of the global COVID–19 pandemic. Colleges and higher-education institutions have transitioned to virtual learning platforms and also shifted their social strategy to keep students, parents and communities updated on their response to the constantly changing situation. LinkedIn has been used as another outlet to communicate these changes to all of the colleges’ students and alumni alike.
Setting up LinkedIn Pages for schools
Specifically designed with education in mind, LinkedIn Pages for have special sections like Alumni, where you can connect with other graduates. If you’re just starting out, head over to create a new LinkedIn Page and click on “educational institution.”
To set up a new Page, you’ll need the following information:
- Name of school
- Permalink: All schools begin with “linkedin.com/school/” and you’ll need to decide on what follows. A college might have the name of the university first and then the college after. For example, new-york-university for New York University, or for its Stern School of Business, nyu-stern-school-of-business.
- School employee count
- Logo: Check with your school’s social media team to see if one is already readily available.
- Tagline: You’ll likely want to use the same tag that already exists for your school’s social marketing.
A preview will auto-generate as you fill this information out. Once you finish creating your Page, you’ll then have the opportunity to request additional features like the aforementioned Alumni tool.
After establishing the Page, you can then move on to posting jobs, adding affiliated Pages and scheduling your posts.
Link affiliated Pages
Just like how some individual colleges within a university system might have their own Twitter and Facebook Pages, LinkedIn offers the same option through their affiliated Pages feature. The main campus should be the parent Page while the affiliated Pages represent law schools, music colleges and different campuses are the affiliated ones.
On University of Pittsburgh’s Page, they’ve linked 10 affiliated Pages, ranging from law school to business school. There are advantages in these links. First, a prospective student might visit the main Page and realize that their college of interest has their own, too. Another is that any affiliated Pages with the parent Page on the side seem much more trustworthy and professional. From the outside perspective, it looks like the social media team has it together and is presenting a variety of detailed content for each area of specialization.
Aside from the linking of the Pages, child Pages don’t have any difference in features from the parent Pages.
Why consider a separate college Page? For larger universities, it gets tough to highlight every accomplishment of every school in your system. The best of the best news end up rising to the top and making it to the parent Page. But if your business school wants to communicate more about itself, then its own Page is the best solution. Then they can highlight their own students and staff 100% of the time.
Know your audience
General LinkedIn demographics reflect an educated, even-gendered and above-average income audience. Eighty-nine percent of users are under 65 years old but the overall age distribution is fairly even.
To dive further into your own audience, you’ll need to visit LinkedIn’s Analytics. There, you’ll find some useful follower and visitor demographic information like:
- Job function
- Company size
Knowing your audience helps shape what kind of content you want to share and what they’ll likely engage with. For colleges, you’ll likely need to determine which areas to focus on and how much is needed per area. Your Page will be viewed by prospective students, staff, potential staff, current students and alumni. That is a lot of different people but luckily, they all have an interest in you and what you want to talk about.
Recruit prospective students
Because of the professional setting that LinkedIn provides, recruitment can be both passive and direct. Through browsing your posts, students can get a sense of what campus life is like and what accomplishments the school is most proud of. Discovered a new vaccine? That’s an excellent post for a prospective research scientist.
The alumni tab also gives students some excellent research material. If your alumni list your school and graduation year, the information becomes tallied up into the tab. Sortable by start and end years, plus searchable by title, keyword or company, you get information like:
- Where they live
- Where they work
- What they do
- What they studied
- How you’re connected to them
With multiple selections, students can filter these down to find alumni that are closest to their interests. Even just knowing where alumni end up working is interesting information in itself for students considering your school. In the above example, alumni at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the last three decades have ended up working at the college itself, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.
The jobs tab of a Page offers a way for you to publish open positions at your school. You can link to your application tool from the individual posting or you can have them directly apply without ever leaving LinkedIn. Since many job seekers keep their LinkedIn profiles up to date, their profiles serve as their resume. If they have a direct interest in your school, they can turn on job alerts if anything matching their skills is posted.
Northwestern University utilizes the jobs feature to post about their 700+ available jobs with the school.
Keep the community engaged & updated
Like other networks, LinkedIn utilizes hashtags to track posts of similar topics. With a Page, you can identify which hashtags are official community ones. This way, trending posts with the community hashtags will appear on your Page.
New York University highlights both #newyorkuniversity and #violetpride as its community hashtags.
When important information is needed to be published, such as how to use the remote learning tools, posts like the above help remind current students and faculty of what they can do to be better at digital work.
Don’t forget about the alumni! In a fun video, NYU performed pop quizzes with current students about their library and literary history. To tie it in with alumni, the post asks if any alumni could remember the answers.
Utilize the different types of content that LinkedIn offers. From photos to videos to text only, you have a variety to choose from. LinkedIn’s optimal content size favors landscape media, which is also great for Facebook and Twitter. Cross-platform posts and reusing content is highly encouraged, especially if it’s relevant to your social media strategy.
Spread brand awareness
There’s a lot of information you can use to create brand awareness posts LinkedIn for your university. If your audience skews more toward alumni and you’d like to focus on them, share recent accomplishments and community work that you’ve done. Important research and how alumni are shaping the world are both great content sources.
Stanford University posted a video that garnered over 27,000 views about one of its makerspaces. Not only does it highlight the space itself to those who might not have known about it but it also reinforces a community value for the university.
Don’t be daunted by setting up another social media account. LinkedIn makes it easy for schools with its educational institution designation. In addition, they offer a wide library of resources for making the most out of the network.
Finally, don’t forget to analyze all of your hard work! Analytics are just like for company Pages: you get to see how your posts have performed, plus data on followers, impressions, engagement and publishing frequency.
There are plenty of ways to post engaging content, too. Building your LinkedIn Page means finding the right type of content that resonates with your audience.
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