One of the best marketing tools in international education is storytelling. Our students and colleagues that go out into the world and seek out new experiences are full of stories to tell. Some are funny, some are intense, but each one highlights an experience that could be had by someone else.
While working with different university websites, I realized that being bound by a template was often not conducive to storytelling. Social media platforms can sometimes get too noisy and drown out the message you’re trying to get across to your audience. Should you deactivate your Facebook and cancel your Twitter account? Absolutely not. But you should consider adding a blogging platform to your portfolio.
Here are five tips on setting the foundation for an interactive blog:
- Identify yourself, your office or your institution. Who are you? What are you talking about and why should we care? Establishing an identity is not a quick process and is best done in collaboration with others both in and out of your office. Determine how you want to be viewed, and then check in with others outside of your office to see how they already view you.
- Highlight your content. Find ways to share those stories. For us, it’s a Q&A section with alumni, a “Student Stories” section for current students abroad, and blog highlights for students blogging on their own. The story that might get lost in a Facebook feed after five minutes can be given a spotlight and become searchable and linkable on a blog.
- Empower your audience. You may have learned that the number of Facebook followers is not related to the success of your page. Similarly, on a blog you’re looking to create interaction. Give your readers options and let them decide how to interact with your content. Follow along by email, search by topic, like a post or hop off to another social media platform.
- Share the news. Even if a blog is based in a specific office or area, the news being shared from that platform does not have to be tied to that alone. For example, there are dozens of university offices doing really cool things on our campus. We share the news about campus happenings as well as office updates and try to keep a balance between informal and important.
- Call to action. This phrase gets a lot of airtime in marketing discussions, and for good reason. What exactly do you want people to do on this page? What’s the outcome? For our office, we want more students to go abroad. The path to get them there from the blog is a simple hyperlink, “I’m ready to search for a program, take me to the Program Finder!”
But what do I talk about?
This is the content conundrum, and one of the largest fears for an office working in the social media world. What on earth do I say and why would people think it’s important?
The good news is plenty of other people are already saying things that you want to share with your audience. Why reinvent the wheel? You can use a blog post to:
- Point to relevant news or events
- Pose an important question on a current topic
- Promote a destination or a program
- Share a student story, photo or quote
- Make an announcement or send a reminder
Not sure how to find content?
- Follow partners, news outlets and leads in the field
- Create a Google alert for the phrase of your choice and receive email updates
- Create a stream for relevant hashtags in Twitter: #studyabroad #travel
For examples and ideas, check out towsonabroad.wordpress.com.
About the Author: Kelly Holland is the Associate Director of Study Abroad at Towson University. Her first study abroad experience landed her in Granada, Spain with the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS). She returned several years later to teach English for the Spanish Ministry of Education in Andalucia. Kelly holds a M.Ed. in Comparative and International Education from Lehigh University, and a B.A. in International Business and Spanish from Moravian College. She currently resides in the state of Maryland.