Oct 14, 2011

Colleges, Branding, and Social Media This weeks guest post is from Marina Salsbury of Online Schools on how social media can be used in the education sector. Experts have recognized that universities and colleges have strong name recognition, but few colleges focus overtly on developing their brands. Most colleges and universities define mission statements and market to students through direct mail, social media marketing, and print and web advertising. Few institutions research what the public thinks about when they hear or read their institution’s name. However, this implicit communication is what propels a college or university to success or brings them to their demise. How Do Colleges Create Brand Image? When you hear or read about Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, or Columbia, what comes to mind? Most students would mention the words or phrases “ivy league,” “prestige,” “talented students,” “ranked in the top 10 best schools,” “elite,” “expensive,” and “leading-edge research.” These words may be formulated in a split second when a person reads or hears these university’s names. Believe it or not, this is what constitutes the brand image of these universities. These schools remain successful because regardless of their official rankings the common public has come to trust, based upon their brand image, that they are the top schools in America with the brightest students. Most people believe or trust a study conducted by an ivy league university, and assume graduates of those institutions are especially intelligent and well learned. When these schools offer online courses, they're considered legitimate, while other web-based schools are regarded with skepticism. What would happen if negative words came to mind when people thought of ivy league schools? If the names of those universities evoked the words “snobs,” “geeks,” “over-rated,” “hypocrites,” or “know-it-alls,” then whatever people heard or read from those institutions would hardly hold as much credence. Corporations are aware of the power of these simple impressions and work diligently to cultivate positive brand images to build loyal customer bases. Colleges and universities must decide how they want the public to view them or they may not attract students. Colleges and universities build brand image by recruiting students who will promote the image they wish to portray. Harvard and Yale, for instance, may attract students with the highest IQs, who score well on standardized tests, have good academic records, and are participate casually in sports and other extracurricular activities. They want students who focus on academics and leadership. By the same token, a party school may emphasize the lively community of the school, but downplay less stringent academic requirements. Colleges and schools become known implicitly for the types of students they recruit. Accordingly, administrators are encouraged to explicitly define and promote the brand image. How Can Colleges Use Social Media to Facilitate Brand Image? Some of the first social media applications were created by Harvard to facilitate communication between students on campus. Social media applications help colleges connect with each other and create a strong network where peers are supported. These services may...

Anna Farmery

Social Marketing Architect, Speaker, Author and in spare time completing PhD on the future of the social business model

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