How to Fix Your Social Media “Problem Child”

January 25, 2016

How to Fix Your Social Media “Problem Child”

tag digital marketing | digital media | digital strategy for higher ed | higher education | higher education website design
How to Fix Your Social Media “Problem Child”

We all have that social media “problem child,” that one channel that just can’t seem to gain traction. Facebook posts going into a void? Instagram coming up empty? What on earth should you post on LinkedIn? If you define your persona, focus on letting each channel shine, and use your resources to their full potential, you can help that channel advance from problem child to rockstar performer.  

Step 1 – Who is this for?

If you don’t know who you’re targeting, your content may be hitting all the wrong notes. We like to start with personas when thinking through how to improve a channel. If you’ve never built one, here’s a simple formula.-

-What’s the demographic – Male/female, age range, geography? This is the easiest place to start.
-Attitudes and Attributes – What do they like to do? Are they active? Are they religious or political? Are they moms or dads of young kids? These questions help you to understand what’s important to them and can really inform the type of content you produce.
-Online habits – What websites do they trust and visit the most? This usually paints a good picture of the type of content they like the most. If you don’t have access to a tool like MRI or Comscore, you can gather this info by polling co-workers and friends who are in this demographic.

Here’s more information on building a persona if you want to dig in further.

Step 2- How can I use each channel to its full potential?

You’ve built your personas and know exactly who you’re targeting. But now, what should you post on what network so you can get the most value from your time? Here’s a few tips per channel for higher education marketers (and anyone, really!) to help your content excel in its natural habitat.


To channel Twain, the reports of Facebook’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Though the algorithm changes pose a challenge to engagement, it’s not time to toss it out just yet. With the right approach, you can still reach & engage your students, their parents, and prospects.  

1. Think links
Stats say that Facebook posts that use the standard link format get double the clicks as photos with links added into the custom text. So go with the default method- paste a link and let Facebook add the photo preview.

2. Short and sweet
Facebook is a tempting place to wax eloquent, but brevity is the soul of wit. Work to keep your posts under 40 characters if possible. Posts 40 characters or less boost the engagement rate by 86%.


Twitter can be a rich, rewarding channel for connecting with students, and its popularity has showed staying power. Here’s a few tips to boost those 140 characters (or more, if Jack Dorsey has a say in it.)

1. A picture is worth, well you know….
Tweets with photos up retweets by 35% and videos boost that number by 28%. So, every time it makes sense with your content, add a photo or video to help drive engagement.

2. Be yourself and show your sense of humor
Let your school’s personality shine through! Experiment with fun, engaging content like memes. An audience of teens & millennials will connect with these, and you can play off trends. Tread carefully with trend-jacking, but don’t be afraid to try something new.


This virtual filtered land of coffee pictures started in October 2010 and grew to 180 million active users in 4 years. It’s 2nd behind Snapchat for the title “fastest growing social network”, and you don’t have to talk to many teens and college students to know that it’s incredibly popular. So, what should you keep in mind for Instagram?

1. Rule #1- photo quality.
Make the right impression with high-quality, well-composed photos. Take your time and let your campus photographer be a part of the action. If you don’t have access to professional photography, don’t worry, the most current iPhones have cameras as good as yesterday’s high-quality digital cameras.

2. Hashtag awesome.
Hashtags are very important on Instagram, offering a door to a much larger audience. It’s also interesting to note that Instagram users don’t seem to tire of multiple hashtags like other networks. So find the right ones and load up your posts! There’s a max of 30 hashtags per post, but we’d recommend keeping it in between 5-15 relevant choices.

3. Is this a Walden or more of Verona?
We’ve all done it—spent 5 minutes scrolling through filters to choose just the perfect tint. Interestingly enough, filters do impact Instagram engagement. Photos with filters have 21% better chance of being viewed, and 45% likely to be commented on. What type of filters are best? Higher exposure, more contrast, and higher temperature.


Especially if you’re marketing a graduate school program, don’t neglect LinkedIn, especially since it’s essentially the only network of its kind.

1. Enough about you, let’s talk about them.
High-performing updates focus on the needs and desire of their potential audience. Share messages that reflect how your school can enable their success, and they’ll be more likely to click and engage.

 2. Keep it concise
LinkedIn feeds can busy, cluttered places, so don’t make your audience spend 5 minutes deciphering what exactly you mean. Find one point, narrow it down, and be precise.

 3. Use compelling photos
Adding quality images to your posts is always a good idea, and can always help your post “pop” out from the noise of the LinkedIn feed.   

Step 3 – What can I produce with my current resources?

Now that you know who you want to engage, and what content may work the best, it’s time to start building your content strategy. We think you should look ahead no more than 3 months. Trends change fast, plus that gives you plenty to plan and measure after it goes live. First, identify what type of content you should steer clear of taking on right away.

For example, if you don’t have access to a team of videographers, you can eliminate video with high production value. Focus on the content you can produce well right away.

Keep in mind that there are a ton of free tools and apps that help you level up your content. Not everyone is a photoshop guru, so these tools are great for increasing the speed and quality of content you produce.

-Pixlr – A free, web-based photo editing app that’s like “Photoshop Light”.
-Adobe Post and Wordswag – Free mobile apps that allow you to add nice typography to photos.
-Hyperlapse for Instagram – Fun and easy way to capture time lapse video.
-Giphy – If animated gifs have made their way into your strategy, Giphy now offers a mobile app that’s quick and easy to use.

With personas built, a solid plan for each channel in place, and a clear view of your resources in mind, it’s go time. We hope this’ll be helpful as you seek to attract the perfect prospective student. 

More Resources

The Higher Ed Marketer’s Guide to Reaching the Class of 2021 
The 3 Tiers of Higher Education Content Strategy
How Well Do you Know Your Prospective Student? 
The Stories Are Out There
Super Fans: The Power of An Engaged Alumni Base
The Digital Age(s), Part 2: Teens
5 Higher Education Marketing Predictions for 2016


Tell Us What You Think

How have you helped your “problem child” channel grow? Tell us in the comments!
This post was co-written by Matt McFadden and Jeremiah Barba.