social media in education guide
Instagram Analytics

From Distraction to Engagement: Maximizing the Benefits of Social Media in Education

Andreea Udescu
Andreea Udescu
Table of Contents

If there’s something the pandemic has taught us, it’s how essential the internet and social media have become to the education industry. For students, social media can be much more than a tool of entertainment.

It’s a means of interacting with their peers, as well as their teachers, in a much faster and informal way.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the role of social media in education, what benefits it brings to this industry and what are the most popular and productive ways of leveraging social media for education marketing.

Social media in education: a complete guide

  1. What is the role of social media in education?
  2. Benefits of leveraging social media in education
  1. How to use social media in education: 6 actionable tips
  2. Social media data for the education industry
  3. How to measure social media performance in education

1. What is the role of social media in education?

It’s no secret that bringing social media and education together is risky business. Social media is often seen as a distraction for students, which can lead to a loss of productivity, followed by a decline in academic performance.

However, challenges aside, it can be an incredibly impactful tool for the education system at every level.

Social media has many benefits for the education industry (which we will explore down below) but its most important role is to connect students and teachers and create more learning opportunities by increasing reach and accessibility.

2. Benefits of leveraging social media in education

As I suggested before, the social media impact on education can be huge if we’re willing to look past its challenges and focus on its endless potential. That being said, let’s explore a few of its key benefits:

  • Serves as a discovery tool for students

Choosing a school or college to attend is a major, even pivotal decision in a young person’s life. So, of course, proper research is necessary to find out whether a certain institution is a good fit or not.

Through social media, students can discover much more about their future school, beyond the official statistics, directly from other students.

Social media posts that feature personal stories often capture the authentic student experience with everything that entails: classes, events, campus life, sports, etc.

social media in education discovery role
  • It’s an excellent marketing platform for educational institutions

In turn, educational institutions can reach more potential students through social media, give them better access to essential information and as a result, encourage more of them to enroll in their school.

Universities in particular strategically use social media for marketing to attract prospective students and engage current ones.

  • It helps build and promote schools’ unique identity

Social media is the perfect playground for schools that actually want to turn their identity into a brand. That’s relatively easy to do for old, prestigious schools like Harvard:

social media in education school identity

But even small, local schools and colleges can take to social media to create a brand around their institution.

Sharing success stories, student achievements and other highlights are all key factors that contribute to the credibility of an educational institution.

3. How to use social media in education

If you’re on social media on behalf of an education institution and you want to start leveraging social media for education marketing, then the first thing you need to do is start thinking outside the box.

Social media comes with a lot of challenges, and you need to be able to overlook them and focus on what social media can do to make the education system better for everyone involved.

That being said, here are some popular and productive ways of using social media for education:

3.1. As a means of sharing news and updates instantly

When it comes to sharing important updates or announcements, bulletin boards are no longer the go-to option for schools and universities.

Nothing beats social media in terms of speed, so many announcements can actually be shared on social media channels such as Twitter, on dedicated Facebook groups or on Instagram broadcast channels.

In other words, think of social media networks as your school’s new digital bulletin boards.

3.2. As a platform for live streaming special lectures and seminars

I mentioned earlier how much the pandemic changed the rules of the game when it comes to social media and education. It showed us that many school-related activities, events and resources can be accessed remotely.

To boost engagement, you can start by getting in touch with subject-matter experts, former alumni and influencers, and get them to host extracurricular seminars and conferences, or even interviews.

Live stream these events and encourage participation by sharing the news on different social networks.

social media in education live streaming

3.3. As an interactive / visual aid to existing course materials

Even though some of them may get more hype than others, every channel has its strong suit. In the context of social media for education:

  • Facebook brings in powerful features such as groups and live videos
  • Instagram serves as the perfect visual aid due to its heavy reliance on images and videos
  • YouTube is the perfect space to share long-form educational content
  • TikTok can be home to short, fun videos that educate effortlessly

3.4. As a space that showcases fun, authentic school experiences

At the end of the day, the most engaging type of education-related content shared on social media will be the relatable memes, the funny Reels or TikToks.

Keeping students engaged and active is a major (if not the most important) goal so don’t hesitate to use social media as a space that depicts authentic, relatable school experiences.

Let the students pitch in, get involved. Let their voice be heard. That’s the key to a flourishing sense of community in and around any educational institution.

social media in education fun content

3.5. As a marketing tool for promoting major school events or campaigns.

It’s a long-standing fact that in order to market something properly, you need to meet your audience where they are. In the case of education on social media, your audience is more likely already on all the social media platforms you can think of.

That makes it a great tool for promoting major school events, initiatives or campaigns, in a fun, exciting way that will get as many students to participate as possible.

social media in education campaign

3.6. As a platform for highlighting social proof

It’s not just students that are highly active on social media, their parents are there too, and they rely on social proof in the process of choosing the best schools for their children.  

That’s why social media can be the ideal platform for showcasing social proof, such as testimonials, success stories or feedback from students, parents, and other community members.

social media in education social proof

4. Social media data for the education industry

At this point, you might be wondering: what does the data say about social media in education? How is the evolution of this industry reflected in the numbers? Well, we took a look.

For the sake of clarity and precision, we focused on social media in higher education, selecting only the top 10 English-speaking universities around the world.

Down below you can see a topics breakdown for the education industry on Instagram. In other words, what top educational institutions talk about in their social media posts.

social media in education topics breakdown

As you can see, the most popular topic is Photography, which is understandable, since a lot of schools share photo albums, talk about the best photos taken at certain events or ask students to submit their own photos (in the interest of collecting user-generated content).

These stats are most likely connected to my next insight, which is that Instagram is the most engaging platform for the education industry, with a 1.41% average engagement rate per post, according to our latest Industry Trends Report.

Facebook and Twitter don’t even come close to Instagram’s organic engagement levels.

social media in education engagement data instagram

Surprinsingly enough, despite the emergence of carousels and Reels, on Instagram the most commonly shared post type seems to be Photos:

social media in education post types on instagram

5. How to measure social media performance in education

When it comes to social media in education, it’s not enough to be present, you absolutely need a strategy in order to achieve your goals. We sure hope the benefits and tips we shared above will set you on the right track.

Now, you have a strategy, you’re posting on social media, you’re engaging with your audience. What’s left to do?

What’s left for you to do is measure your performance and see if your marketing efforts are paying off. You can try your luck and see what the native apps have to offer in terms of analytics, or you can make your life easier and start with a professional social media analytics tool like Socalinsider.

Our tool offers a generous set of insights about your social media performance, so before you dive into the data, it would be useful to decide which metrics matter most for you and the school or college you represent.

Usually, in the case of social media for education marketing, the focus is on:

  • Reach and impressions -> to measure brand awareness
  • Engagement -> to see how much your audience is invested in your content
  • Follower growth -> can reflect brand awareness or even new student admissions
  • Competitive benchmarks -> to see how you stack up against other schools in the same league

Luckily, you can access all these insights in Socialinsider.

For reach and impressions data, you need only to add your institution's profile in the app. I chose Stanford’s University’s Instagram account to prove my point here, and selected a 6-month time range.

social media in education reach and impressions data

Do keep in mind that these numbers are estimated, due to API limitations.

The best way to track your engagement data is to open the Engagement tab from the sidebar.

social media in education engagement data

For extra clarity, you can also scroll down to check to see which post type generates more engagement:

social media in education post types by engagement

When it comes to audience insights and follower growth, the Audience section is your go-to place:

social media in education audience insights

Last but not least, let’s explore competitive benchmarks. This feature helps you understand your position in the market or industry, compared to other companies (or in this case, educational institutions) in your category.

In Socialinsider, you can tap into competitive data in a number of ways, but we suggest you start with the Benchmarks feature.

For the purpose of this example, I added 8 Instagram profiles corresponding to the most prestigious educational institutions.

Here’s how they stack up against each other:

social media in education instagram benchmarks

If you only want a side-by-side comparison with your closest competitor, you can use the Compare feature (also located in the left sidebar):

social media in education side by side comparison

Extra tip: always check your top-performing posts - they always give you insights about the type of content that your audience resonated the most with.

social media in education top performing posts

Final thoughts

Despite the challenges social media poses to the education industry, it remains a powerful tool for engaging students and unlocking numerous new learning opportunities.

With the right tips and strategy, social media in education can be a real game-changer for everyone involved.

Andreea Udescu

Andreea Udescu

I love helping people make sense of things. Especially data.

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