In higher education, competition for the best and brightest applicants can be fierce. Universities seek every edge possible in making their institution intriguing and attractive for prospective students.

When reaching out to younger audiences, having a strong presence on social media is crucial, because the average teenager spends more than three hours each day on social networking platforms. But it’s not enough to simply have a strong official presence; peer influence is perhaps more valuable at driving engagement with younger audiences.

That’s why many higher education institutions seek ways to make their content go viral. The act of sharing one’s experience on social media can yield tremendous benefits without the need to spend additional valuable resources.

What Makes Content Go Viral?

If you’re seeking ways to create a buzz that spreads organically among your audience, you need to understand why certain types of content go viral and others don’t.

At a basic level, content that elicits an emotional reaction with the viewer tends to be more widely shared. Stories that stimulate a positive emotion tend to be spread more frequently than negative emotions.

And while there’s certainly an element of luck involved, there are still several ways you can work toward making the type of content your audience wants to share.

  1. Make it visual. When was the last time you saw viral content that didn’t contain some type of visual element? Photos and videos allow your audience to get a greater connection to the subject.
  2. Know the audience. Make sure the channel and medium you’re using are used by your intended viewership. If you’re attempting to connect with high school students, is LinkedIn or TikTok going to be more effective?
  3. Have a compelling hook. Even if you have the right platform and the right visuals, if the basic story behind the content isn’t compelling, it’s not going to resonate. Develop content that creates that emotional reaction with your audience.

Creating Compelling Content

It’s important to remember that when hoping for those viral moments, the actual content that you create is actually fairly irrelevant. That’s right—it’s not your content that the audience is paying attention to.

Instead, you’re seeking to capitalize on the reaction of your audience. It’s their emotional response to the news that you’re delivering that causes content to go viral.

There is an entire segment of content on TikTok devoted to viral college acceptance letters. Students everywhere are filming their own reactions to reading your news and posting that information online. A simple Google search for “viral college admissions letters” turns up more than 27 million results.

So while you can’t control what goes viral, you can at least encourage it. Here are several suggestions to incorporate into your admissions strategy that can help elicit the type of response that makes compelling content.

  1. Use a dedicated hashtag. By asking your audience to use a specific hashtag or to tag the school in their reaction video, you’ll be better able to track these responses and help amplify them from the institutional accounts.
  2. Suggest making it personal. Invite students to read their acceptance letters in a place that carries special meaning to them or in front of people important to them. One student’s acceptance to Duke went viral as she read her letter at the gravesite of her mother who had passed away several years prior.
  3. Don’t forget about the letter itself. While the content and the messaging are fairly straightforward, what the actual letter itself looks like can certainly help capitalize on the opportunity. Take the time to create an envelope and letter that expresses your institution’s values and identity clearly. There’s nothing worse than creating a moment that goes viral only to miss out on the opportunity by not being identifiable.

Let’s Discuss Your Viral Strategy

While external forces have a lot to do with making your content go viral, the basic building blocks of a campaign are well within your control. Without high-quality printed material and a strong digital marketing foundation, the chances of creating viral content are slim to none.

At Associates International, we have the capabilities and experience necessary to help your institution capitalize on those viral moments. From developing your digital strategy, designing a compelling piece, or producing the finished product, let our team help you make the most of these opportunities. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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