At a conference I attended recently, one of the speakers spoke about their use of social media for timetabling at their institution and how they have explored using Facebook to not only let students know about last minute cancellations and timetable changes, but also to remind students about timetabling related news with the addition of the occasional timetabling related internet meme!
The use of social media for timetabling hadn’t been something I had properly considered before, however I use it every day to let people know about these articles as well as the different services Education Space Consultancy offers and see the use of social media as a key element of Education Space Consultancy’s marking strategy. I use social media for a variety of reasons and I believe most businesses do so to. Hubspot recently (2014) published stats stating that 92% of marketers claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites.
If social media is now a focal point for businesses could it not similarly be beneficial for those in the timetabling world? To consider this, I am going to look at the 10 benefits of using social media highlighted in a very popular article posted on the Forbes website “The Top 10 Benefits Of Social Media Marketing” and see whether these same 10 benefits apply to timetabling in an education environment.
1) Increase Brand Recognition
This is all about making “timetabling” at your institution visible and using social media as a new channel to reach more students and making timetabling more recognisable and accessible.
In a recent survey 81% of students indicated that they use Facebook “all the time”! (Social Media Usage: Global Statistics, Top Universities), this therefore represents a fantastic opportunity to build a relationship with the students for timetabling and by using the media they use, you are helping to ensure that timetabling is easily accessible which is a key element to helping students engage with what you are posting.
2) Improved brand loyalty
From a business perspective, this is all about using social media to create consumers/customers that are loyal to you and your company. From a timetabling perspective, the students have little choice but to be loyal to the timetable they receive, it’s not as if they have a choice of choosing something different! However, the emotion behind an audience becoming loyal is trust and this something you surely would want the students to feel about timetabling.
By being more visible to the students via social media, providing useful, interesting and even amusing information you are helping to build a relationship that will hopefully help to foster trust. This will of course be reliant on what you post and how visible you make yourself, but generally speaking increased visibility = increased trust, with eMarketer reporting that 82% trust the company more if they use social media (eMarketer, CEOs Who Tweet Held in High Regard).
3. More Opportunities to Convert
Social media provides easy and instant opportunities for students to engage with the content you post, helping to spread your good news stories throughout your institution quickly and efficiently, creating more student trust and positivity for timetabling (i.e. conversion). The risk is that this also presents students with an opportunity to provide negative feedback, however this shouldn’t be a stumbling block – do you really think that if they have timetabling issues, they aren’t using social media to complain about it anyway? Would you rather not know what the complaints are and address them accordingly, ensuring your audience can also see you are pro-actively addressing the issues that other students have raised? If you address any of the issues raised they can turn into good news stories, showing the students that you are listening and resolving the issues they raise, helping to build trust.
4. Higher conversion rates
From a timetabling perspective, this is all about social media’s ability to turn each student into a student that trusts your institutions timetabling team. Hubspot reports that Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing (for businesses), and this is typically down to the format and approach this type of marketing uses. By providing timetabling information via social media you will be tapping into a resource that the vast majority of students not only know how to use, but use all the time! Does it therefore not make sense to get involved?
5. Higher Brand Authority
By being on social media, you are enabling students to interact with you. The more you interact, the more students will want to interact with you – whether this is let people know about their good timetabling news by tagging you in their statues/post, or conversely letting people know about their bad timetabling news. You can then interact further, thanking them for good news post or asking them to talk to you further about their bad news story – whether this is by giving you a ring, or talking via social media. Resolve the issue and they are very likely to then let other students know via social media, turning each bad news story into a good news story! Step by step, building trust and improving the student experience of timetabling.
6. Increased Inbound Traffic
This is probably one of the more straight forward and obvious advantages from a timetabling perspective and a core reason for institutions deciding upon using social media. One of the main battles of timetabling is actually getting the message out to students and ensuring they are looking at their timetables regularly and social media is a great way of doing this. Posts referring to timetable changes, cancellations, news and deadlines can all be posted on social media with links to your main website that will include more information that relates to what you have posted. Want to let students know about a change to their timetable? Put a post up letting students know about the change and ask them to check their timetables by clicking the link you have also included, this way the students can now easily click through and take on board the change in a matter of seconds.
7. Decreased Marketing Cost
The point of this benefit, is that social media from a business perspective reduces the amount of time and money that needs to be spent on marketing. Each time you or your institution spends time communicating about timetabling, whether this be letting students know about changes or spreading good news, that is essentially time spent marketing. Social media represents a free method of communicating and it only takes time to do so.
8. Better Search Engine Rankings
…..Probably not that greater concern when thinking about social media and timetabling, but the concept behind search engine rankings such as Google’s is that theoretically the higher up the rank you are the more relevant you are for the audience that have searched for a certain word or words. Therefore if a student types “institution name” and timetable into a search engine, you would want your website page to be top of the list. By being active on social media and creating links to your page you are helping to promote this. There is a lot of behind how to achieve a high Google ranking, but if social media is improving your traffic then it should also be improving your search engine rankings!
9. Richer Customer Experiences
Social media as mentioned briefly in other points allows you create a personal customer service experience to each of your students that engages with you. If a student makes a complaint, you apologise and address the issue, showing them and others that you care and want them to have a great timetabling experience. If a student says something positive you can thank them and let them know about other good news stories or features they could benefit from, further promoting your relationship with them and other students who see this connection. As stated in the Forbes article “It’s a personal experience that lets customers know you care about them.”
10. Improved Customer Insights
Social media allows you to monitor how students are interacting with content you post and see what they are talking about in reference to timetabling at you institution. You can find out which posts are proving to be the most successful and develop your social media strategy to produce more similar content and posts. You can also find out what students are talking about the most in reference to timetabling at your institution, helping to ensure that you then spend resources (whether this be time and/or investment) on the areas that are most important to the students.
Really, I believe there is very little to lose by getting involved with social media, a common concern is that it opens the flood gates to complaints but as mention in this article if there are complaints to be made – they are already happening! It’s just that you don’t know what they are, which is surely worse. Even if you receive a host of complaints by opening yourself up to social media, as long as you react positively, helpfully and seek to resolve the issues raised you are sure to turn those complaints into good news stories that you can let the students know about via social media, improving their perception of timetabling at your institution.
If you are thinking about having a go it would be worth setting out what you are trying to achieve and putting together a short strategy on how you will use social media to achieve this. This article; Growing a Social Following from Nothing: My Social Media Strategy is certainly worth a look as it considers the key elements of posting on social media and what you can do to maximise your engagement with your students.
I hope you have found this article interesting, I would be really interested to hear from you if you are currently use social media for timetabling and what your experiences are. If you have any comments to add or questions to ask, please feel free to do so via the comments field at the bottom of the article, it would be great to continue this discussion on social media and timetabling!
All the best