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Using Social Media Marketing in Higher Education

By Laura T

Updated March 3, 2021 Updated March 3, 2021

You’d be hard-pressed not to have noticed the surge in universities and other education providers using social media marketing. Indeed, social media has been a game-changer throughout higher education marketing in recent years, with marketers utilizing technology and social sites to interact more with the prospective student community and to improve student recruitment.

Outside of the Students Online: Global Trends 2014 report, the importance of higher education marketing through online resources has been well documented. The 2011 E-Expectations Report from Noel-Levitz found that one fifth of surveyed students said they would remove an institution from their list of choices due to a bad experience on that university’s website. This statistic is backed up by a number of others, including a survey for The Guardian which highlights the need for heavier spending on online resources rather than more traditional forms of education marketing such as email marketing and press advertising.

Read on to find out how prospective students are using online resources today, and how the use of social media for universities compares to other channels of education marketing.

The importance of social media in higher education marketing

According to the findings of the Students Online: Global Trends report, social media marketing still has a long way to go before it outruns the big dogs of the higher education marketing world.

While some of the prospective students interviewed were skeptical about social media for universities as solely a marketing tool, most candidates accepted that social media for universities has its uses, particularly as a channel through which to seek and share ideas and inspiration.

From the survey results it’s clear that official university websites and university rankings websites reign supreme for prospective students looking for information. Social media remains at the bottom of the pile but, as a still-developing sector, it looks likely that the popularity of using social media marketing within higher education will continue to grow and overtake resources such as student forums in years to come.

What remains important for universities using social media marketing is response time. Social media for universities, if run well, is by far the most efficient point of contact for students wanting quick responses for general questions. And although social media is not a preferred method of being contacted by universities as yet, for students in a hurry to get answers social media often beats all else.

Attitudes towards social media across the globe

One of the most interesting findings of the report is the variation we see among different world regions for social media usage among prospective students. In Africa and Latin America, respondents were more than twice as likely to view social media as essential to their higher education research than those in the US and Europe. This suggests that targeting students of these regions specifically through social media may well be easier than targeting students elsewhere.

One thing that is consistent across all borders is the information that students struggle to find online during their research. Information about scholarships and funding in particular were globally considered the hardest information to find, although the difficulty was all the more pronounced for African students.

Another common challenge for students in Africa, Asia and Latin America was finding information on student visas. In Europe, students were more concerned with the difficulties of finding information about applications and admissions online, while information about course content was a relatively larger challenges for those in the US and Canada.

From this range of responses it’s clear that practical information remains a priority for prospective students everywhere. These findings also hint at the need for this practical information to be available through a number of channels, including social media, where the use of events and promotions could be used to advertise scholarships and other funding opportunities.

For more information and statistics highlighting how students are using online resources:

This article was originally published in August 2014 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.