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Higher Ed Demand Gen Podcast

Ep. 46: Maximizing Your Social Media Strategy in Higher Ed // Higher Ed Demand Gen – Courtney O’Banion

Courtney O’Banion is the Director of Digital Marketing at Miami University and has been gathering millions of views on their social media pages over the last few years. How can colleges and universities utilize social media to not only market themselves, but also foster community and connection with current and prospective students. Check out this conversation with Courtney and Shiro and see what Miami University has been doing to stay successful with Social Media in 2023.

Courtney’s LinkedIn

Shiro Hatori
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the higher ed dimension podcast hosted by Concept3D. My name is Shiro and I will be your host today. And I’m really, really excited today to be talking about how to really increase your social media engagement, even up to over a million views on social channels. And so for that, I’m very, very excited to introduce our guests today, Courtney Albanian. She’s currently serving as the Director of Digital Marketing at Miami University, which is in Ohio. Welcome to the podcast Cordy.

Courtney
Thank you for having me, Shiro.

Shiro Hatori
Awesome. And I do love asking this icebreaker to every one of our guests. And so Courtney, what do you love about higher ed?

Courtney
Oh, my goodness, I could name so many different things about higher ed that I’m really liking. So I did not come into higher education. With that traditional background, I actually started in retail and healthcare marketing facets, mainly in social media. And when I came into higher ed, I really love the aspect that I am helping and mentoring students being on site at Miami, which is in Oxford, Ohio, we actually just have a really great cohort of students and being able to see them grow and develop in their areas, whether that’s business, the creative arts, entrepreneurship, which has been something I’ve been learning a lot about over the last couple months. That is so rewarding, as well as just seeing everything that the faculty does all their research, all of the relationships that they’re building. I’m also an MBA student myself at Miami, and I’ve actually gotten to see firsthand just what that faculty relationship looks like. And it’s just, it’s been an amazing experience to be able to market something that you’re really passionate about.

Shiro Hatori
Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that thing. That’s great. And, you know, talking about your role, can you tell us a little bit about your position, your role, you know, and I know it’s constantly morphing, but, you know, can you tell us a little bit about that as well?

Courtney
Yes. So I started in my role as Director of Digital Marketing here at Miami, in July. So I have been there a little over eight months. And when I came on board, my responsibilities are overseeing a social media team, which has been an amazing ride, they are just such a creative team, and wonderful to work with. And then also just overseeing our digital marketing campaign footprint, working with our agencies of record, and then also working with our university partners on developing campaigns, based on their goals that they have for the university. So just really trying to help elevate their stories, their message and what they’re trying to achieve.

Shiro Hatori
Thank you so much. And I know you have a lot of experience with social media particularly. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the power of social media is? And could be within higher education?

Courtney
Yes, so something I have noticed in higher education is the ability to be the first person on a channel, because if you think about it, you have students that are very tech savvy. And they probably know more than we do. They have had technology at their disposal. since they were kids. I think, you know, my era, you know, I was that generation that got introduced to Facebook, MySpace was probably the most popular one back in the day, right? Social media is always evolving. And being in higher education, I think you really have that opportunity to be that leader. But also being strategic about it, I think you definitely need a team that has been well versed, but also listening to those personas, which your target demographic is going to be those students. So I think within higher education, it’s really about that creativity, as well as being able to have that team that are specialized in social to be able to follow through strategy.

Shiro Hatori
What in What do you mean by specialized and social is that the way I’m interpreting you saying that as people get it, right, people understand how to talk on those channels, how to communicate with the students that they’re trying to talk to like, is that what you mean by that? Or?

Courtney
Yeah, so I would say when I say specialized in social, there are different are an areas of social that you need to really think about. So when I think about social media, I’m thinking about it from a lens of we have folks that are creators. And when we’re working with students, it’s being able to interpret those stories that they want to tell. But also having that oversight of someone who might know that social landscape, like we just don’t want an intern just posting on social, it needs to be intentional, we need to Yeah, align with the university, we need to know what to say and what not to say, just knowing the space and what’s happening. So just having that guidance, and that mentor relationship is just so important there.

Shiro Hatori
Thank you for clarifying that. I appreciate that. Yeah, I can see that. There has to be a middle ground between, you know, people who are good creators, but also making sure that you’re reaching business or institutional objectives. So I love that let that kind of goes into my next question I had pretty perfectly so you know, how, like you said it like, I think when I went into university, I was, I don’t even know if Facebook ads targeted me about the school I went to I don’t even think it was a thing yet. You know, this is a little over a decade ago. And now the landscape has changed a lot. I currently work in marketing still. And social media is one of those things, it’s always so hard to quantify, right into numbers, like, what does a million impressions mean? And so to translate that into business value, and so, you know, what are some of the goals and KPIs you’re using to help understand successful campaigns?

Courtney
Yes, so I would say, knowing both the intent of your organic and paid strategies, I’d start there, they really need to align together, think of your organic as that storytelling message. So when we look at organic, those are the communities that you’re building, that really are already invested in your university, whether that’s alumni, your students, your prospective students. So what we really try to measure there is that storytelling lens, so impressions, how many people are reading your stories? How many people have seen your stories? And then rolling that into engagement? Really, I think engagement is probably your most important piece of that organic plan. Just how are you engaging with that community interacting with them? And then also social sentiment? So I think you can look at your competitors. And look at that Share of Voice over time? How are people engaging with you? To the extent of are they commenting on things, and taking it to that next level of analyzing that data? And just maybe even giving that to your admissions team and saying, Hey, look, you know, this college? You know, we’ve noticed this piece of sentiment, on social, how can we add to this a little more, and, you know, make that change? So I think it’s, you know, about not just being social media, but also being part of that brand experience and partnering with those different areas of your campus.

Shiro Hatori
That’s amazing. You mentioned sentiments, are you seeing like a topic that has worked and doubling down on the topic or the sentiment that you’ve, you’ve seen work before? Is that kind of your process on, you know, creating successful social media campaigns?

Courtney
That’s correct. So I think, you know, where I really, as a leader, I want to make sure that those who are involved with social every single day are keeping an eye on what that narrative is on social. So we do have like custom listening dashboards. We’re also looking at trends that are happening on social, we’re listening to people and what they want to see. And what we’ve also done to as people have started here at the university because we are building a brand new team, making sure that they get a tour of campus to understand this campus story. I think you know, from past jobs, what I’ve learned about social is you can not talk to your community until you know your brand. So that is something we’re really trying to invest in is making sure that people understand Miami, the story, those campus initiatives, the campus traditions to make sure that we are creating content that is I’m going to build those conversations.

Shiro Hatori
That’s amazing. And let’s talk about some success stories that I know they’re based and related to your brand. But, you know, I mentioned earlier, you know how you were able to get over a million views on social? And can you tell us a little bit about the success story or campaign that you ran in the past?

Courtney
Yes. So with that we have worked with students that are Miami students, and they understand the brand. So we have partnered with these students to create content that is of interest to our campus, one of the most recognized areas of Miami’s campus is our seal. Some folks in higher education might have something similar when it comes to final exams, don’t step on the seal is a campus. No, no, you just cannot step on the seal, you’re gonna Flunk your next exam, if you do. So these students, and the students actually are part of our entrepreneur partnership program. So they are actually very well tuned to social, they were able to create a piece of content around not stuffing on the seal, our team reviewed, it absolutely loved it. Because we know that is a campus tradition that is highly known, and was probably going to drive a lot of engagement, shared that to Tik Tok got over a million views. And the team thought it would be a great idea because we get really high engagement on Instagram, to cross promote that content. So took that content and promoted it on our channel. It was just well received, because everyone can resonate with that. And I think to add to that, we also create content that also is informative as well. So that’s just one content bucket. It’s just that entertainment piece. We also talk about subjects that our students want to hear about. So finals week, I think is one that’s going to be fastly approaching here soon. Right? Yes, we actually have an intern that we work with very closely. And she had this idea of wanting to take a sheet, take it out to campus, hang it up, and just talk about health and wellness for finals. And it was this on campus brand piece that she and our Associate Director of social media were able to execute together on and being able to have those relationships where you can team up with that intern to understand that audience persona, but also again, having that person who has had that experience and social, being able to bring something to life on your campus, I think is just so important.

Shiro Hatori
Got it. One thing I’m resonating just listening to your conversation is like really working with the student voice, aka the current students who are really going through that journey that there’s probably a story or narrative they’re talking about in real life is has been impactful in creating, you know, good campaign content as well. Is that isn’t my hearing that right?

Courtney
Oh, that is absolutely correct. We really need to listen to our students what they’re most interested in. And yeah, how we narrate that story. And just be very intentional with that.

Shiro Hatori
That’s amazing. And you also work with admissions. And you know, I know social media has a big play, you know, to connect with alumni, like you said, current current students, and you mentioned prospective students as well. But are there campaigns specifically designed to target prospective students? Right, because that’s your new incoming class?

Courtney
Yes, we do have an admissions team that we work with very closely on our marketing funnel campaigns. So think about prospective students, they don’t know, you know, they’re still trying to decide what college they go to. So efforts come in. So you might not see those campaigns organically. We are targeting very specific audiences. And we do that very intentionally with those audience personas. So we do have this relationship with our agency, of making sure that not only do they understand what our admissions teams do, but also ensuring that we’re able to activate and capture those prospective students and also parents because they’re very involved in that journey as well. Knowing how to navigate and target get across that digital marketing footprint.

Shiro Hatori
That’s great. I like how you’ve set this up as well, you have a team, organic team, internally, and you’re giving the paid, you know, a partner, the specialized focus, which is to target that prospective student group, which I don’t know if you run paid ads, but yeah, you can, you know, increase targeting and increase your audience with paid. And so I like how you’ve taken that approach. Thanks for sharing that. Cool. And in our last intro call, I liked how, you know, how do you get started, right? If you’re a social media manager, like yourself coming on board, social media leader, how do you get started? And you shared the three core areas that you mentioned around social media? Do you want to tell the audience a little bit about that as well?

Courtney
Oh, absolutely. So just in my experience in the social media, space, I would say, one, social media is not a one person job. There are so many different areas, I think there’s that misconception that everyone can do everything on social media. However, I think it takes a team to really activate on that, especially when you have a brand that is very active. And then also, when you think of those paid advertising campaigns, there are so many different areas and the three areas that I want to really hone in on our data and insights, looking at consumer sentiment, that is one key area, I would also say community management, you need to have that always on operations. And then also making sure that you have that relationship with your media relations team. Because, as we know, and 2023, and even over the past few years, a lot of the times crises do happen. And a lot of the time, they will start on social, you might be able to mitigate this to being a bigger thing. If you take the necessary steps and working with your social team on coming up with those plans of action. And then lastly, I would say the third area is a content creation. Having someone on your team that’s well versed in graphic design, video creation, that can work with those teams on developing content that’s going to resonate and tell that brand story.

Shiro Hatori
I like how you’re suggesting this, you can’t expect one person to cover those three areas, because at their different parts of the brain right there. You’re, you’re activating different parts of the brain. So your suggestion here is to really build on those three pillars and create intersections between them maybe checks and balances. I’m not sure the right word here. But is that what you’re suggesting here as well?

Courtney
Absolutely. I think yes, you definitely have to have a team that has different specializations, because it’s only going to make your social media strategy stronger over time.

Shiro Hatori
Amazing. You mentioned data and insights, right and sentiment. Switching gears a little bit. I think a lot of people look at social media as a tool to increase awareness and engagement, right and really get views out in the very top of the funnel. And it’s a it’s a, it’s a casual tool, or it’s a fun tool. But it’s also I liked a conversation before because it’s also a very strong sentiment tool. And you can really learn from social media as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about you know, how you’re using social media, not just as a tool for increasing awareness and engagement, but also as you know, learning from it as a sentiment tool as well.

Courtney
Yes, so we’re still in the planning phases of this, but I was really sorry. It is a jig. It is a big initiative that you have to get everyone on board across your campus with, however, previous jobs that I’ve been in, in that social space, and have been so fortunate to work for a retailer who really emphasized the importance of sentiment. It is a way to not only improve your customer service model, but also to bring together your campus partners. I don’t think people realize how much sentiment comes in through social, we’re averaging around 3000 Plus pieces of sentiment a month, not just on our core brand channels. With that being said, I think being able to look at that sentiment dive into it. is a great service recovery opportunity. I think you think of those one on one communications, you can build that on social. Think of all of those comments and building that community.

Shiro Hatori
I was gonna ask what those 1000s of pieces of sentiment? Are those all like DMS? Like are they 6000 DMS, you’re getting to the school account, what does one piece of sentiment look like? Or what can it be?

Courtney
Oh, my goodness, yes, that is a large question. And I would say, that’s okay. It’s a great question. No, we get direct messages, we get comments on different posts. So I think it’s really important. If your school is not using a tool to manage that sentiment, I would make sure that you’re utilizing that tool to the best of your ability. If you are using a tool, I think making sure that you have that structure in place where your team can have that service recovery strategy. So you’re responding in real time. It’s just so important to make sure not only are you creating good content, but you’re following up with your constituents. But yes, direct messages, comments. We’re also listening outside of the space as well. So we have listening dashboards to that are pulling up sentiment based on those key terms and search words that we’re looking at.

Shiro Hatori
Gotcha. Okay. Thanks for described. Yeah, yeah. That’s great. And so the the customers recovery and service model that you spoke of? What what is that? How does that help the institution outside of just, you know, understanding what content resonates or works best or gets the most engagement? How can it also go beyond and help the institution and other departments as well? An example here, it would be really good, I think to

Courtney
Yeah, I, you know, an example, I think that we get quite often is around. How do I get into Miami? I think that is a question that comes up a lot is how do I start that application process? What is Miami like? That is where I think we can tie in those admissions teams and start making those conversations happen. And taking those conversations, not just online, but going above and beyond and taking it offline. If someone has a question, we’re going to go above and beyond to get them in contact with someone make that experience even more personal than just having someone giving that, you know, blanket message, we want to make sure that that experience from day one that they contact us on social becomes personal. So not just being on social media, but tying that back into that funnel for that one on one relationship.

Shiro Hatori
That’s amazing. So you’re taking information? Because obviously some students want have different communication channels. So you’re taking what is their preferred platform, which could be tick tock or Instagram. But you’re you’re sending those potential prospective student leads to other teams that could missions is what I’m hearing?

Courtney
That’s correct. And yes, that is what we are working toward here in the future is making sure that we have that foundation put in place.

Shiro Hatori
That’s very cool. I love it. What tools? And this is out of my own curiosity, like, I look at comments on the podcasts and my LinkedIn posts manually. But are there are there tools that help kind of condense all that information together? Are you copying pasting into spreadsheets?

Courtney
Oh, absolutely not. So. Yeah, any way that we can work easier, faster, get those questions answered. We do use a third party platform to navigate those conversations. So the tool that has that customer service area where it pulls in every single channel.

Shiro Hatori
Cool. Okay. Cool. Thank you. Appreciate that. That’s awesome. And do you think other schools are using this this customer service model that you speak of? Really well? Like, is this something new? It’s the first time I’ve heard of it, you know? And so I’m just curious if you have a suspicion other schools are doing this or doing this effectively?

Courtney
Yeah. So we actually have set up and I think that is something to if you aren’t thinking about this, think about not just competitors in the higher ed industry, but think about also looking at competitors outside of higher ed, I think a lot of the time, think about just our competitors in higher ed for inspiration, but also looking at those other brands that inspire you I would say just looking at that landscape right now, I do not see that. But it’s, it might be happening. However, I do feel like this is a area that I don’t see a lot of Yeah, responses on when I look at that outside landscape, and I’m seeing a lot of content being pushed out. But I think what we can do better as a higher ed landscape, I think what we can do better is taking that next step. And building those relationships, one on one with individuals.

Shiro Hatori
Love it personalization. It’s a word I hear a lot. And this is, I think, one great example of how you can use social media, which I feel like often isn’t thought of as a personalization tool. But you can, this is how you can use it to personalize some of your outreach. Love it. Thanks so much again, for all your insight and share. I was wondering, you know, for our audience, where can they connect with you or what you’re doing the great work you’re doing in Miami University?

Courtney
Yes, I would say if you are a prospective student, or current student, we are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, as well as tick tock and Instagram. So yes, we are on all of those platforms. You can also visit Miami. Oh h.edu To learn more about our institution. Personally, I am very active on LinkedIn. So I would just say if you would like to connect. I am Courtney O’Bannon. And then Russell because I just got married, but I have not changed my name yet because I will be traveling the next few months. I do not want to change my name just yet. Yes.

Shiro Hatori
Amazing. Thank you so much. Thanks again for joining us today and thanks for our audience for tuning in. If and of course if your school needs an update, interactive map virtual tour or centralized events calendar, please reach out to concept 3d dot com. Thanks so much everyone. Thank you

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