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Class in Session: Social Media Lessons from the Nation’s Best Schools

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Many of the nation’s best universities have discovered that social media is an excellent way to reach, impress and attract top-notch students. Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are among the most active schools in this arena, turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs and message boards to inform, entertain and recruit.

Can business owners, Internet entrepreneurs and job seekers learn from the example being set by these and other prestigious institutions of higher education? There’s little doubt that methods similar to those being used to attract the world’s best students can also work to get the attention of potential customers, employees and employers.

Stars, Presidents, and International Projects: Showing Off Your Assets

So what is Harvard doing to enhance its online presence? A recent visit to the school’s Facebook page provided a look at two diverse but equally interesting subjects: a relatively nearby system that is turning out new stars at a staggering rate and the 16th president of the United States.

If you spend a little time on the Harvard Facebook page, you’ll find out that the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a joint collaboration of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. This information might not mean much to you if you plan to study Economics or Marketing, but, if you think your future will have something to do with what’s out there beyond planet Earth, glancing at the school’s Facebook page might convince you to take a closer look at Harvard.

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Along the same lines, you might be impressed to know that in the school’s Houghton Library collection, you’ll find a piece of the earliest surviving work by Abraham Lincoln: math exercises he wrote in 1825, at the age of 16.

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If you are considering a future in engineering, you may want to visit the University of Pennsylvania Facebook page. There you’ll find information about the Penn Engineers Without Borders program, complete with a photo of two Penn students working on a project in Cameroon.

Bottom line? Use social media to highlight your assets. Share information that your business has, even if it doesn’t directly rate to making a sale. Use your online presence to make your company a trusted authority.

Sharing Information

Here are some other ways universities across the country are tapping into the social media gold mine:

  • The job market – Using LinkedIn and other options, universities are putting their students in touch with employers and recruiters.
  • Sharing knowledge – Colleges and universities are sharing knowledge, experience and information online.
  • Seeking the best students – Many potential students use social media to connect with one another and learn about the world around them – and find out what specific universities have to offer.
  • Online learning – Online education gives students the option to learn on their own schedule.

These outreach efforts and opportunities make universities more valuable to students (their “customers”) and more visible to potential students.

Get Their Attention

Whether you are seeking a job or, as an entrepreneur, you’re looking for new business, it’s important to remember that you first must get the attention of your potential customers. Once you do that, here are a few tips to help you use social to keep them interested in the service or product you are offering.

  • Connect with your customers by posting on your Facebook page once a day, tweeting a few times daily and writing a regular post on LinkedIn.
  • Don’t use lingo or language that your customers might not understand. You should show them that you are interested in helping them, and you should try to develop a bond between you and the people who will be buying your products and services.
  • Offer special prices or services that are available only to the people you reach through social media to give your customers and potential customers a reason to follow you regularly on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Blogging will enhance your presence in the world of social media. You can establish a blog on your website and use it for Facebook and Twitter posts.
  • Join conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This will help you establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Don’t ignore your competition. You might be able to copy some of the things they are doing in the world of social media. There’s nothing wrong with investigating what others in your industry have done, and it’s okay to copy* the things they have done right.

If your business depends on your ability to use social media to attract and retain customers, take the time to learn from some of the most prestigious schools in the United States.

(*Editor’s note: we’re talking about “copying” ideas here to make them work for your business, not plagiarism, which is NEVER okay. Be ethical in your business practices when reviewing your competitors.)

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.


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