With students across the country getting ready for exams (best of luck to all involved) I figured it was time to focus on the various ways that universities can use social media. Looking at four examples I will highlight how universities can use what we call the four cornerstones of a strong and dynamic social media presence. We will also provide tips for universities to help integrate these into their own social media strategy
- Awareness: Cambridge University
- Engagement: NUI Galway
- Loyalty: Texas A&M
- Conversions: Sheffield University
These four were selected from our own research as well as articles put together by others. By the way the cornerstones highlighted are the ones that we use ourselves here are BlueChief Social.
Awareness: Cambridge University – Images really do speak a Thousand Words
While Cambridge is one of the most well-known universities in the world it doesn’t rest on its laurels when it comes to social media. Their Twitter account scored social authority of 71 (thank you followerwonk). What stood out to me on Twitter was their terrific use of images. Cambridge is able to combine both its heritage and tradition with modern themes as well. Their images range from dancing in Tudor England in 1516 to why ketchup is so hard to get out of the bottle (one of the worlds biggest questions). They also use gifs smartly to help.
How Cambridge have utilised Instagram is really interesting. The focus is very much on the university itself and here again when you look at the images they really stand out and bring the grounds to life. While their own account is good in itself, it is one of the offshoots that has made the news headlines (as a result help spread awareness).
A student from America called Caroline Calloway went to Cambridge and recorded her experience on Instagram and the result have been really interesting. Why? Well because she has focused on the fact that Cambridge has a lot of buildings and landmarks that are older that the United States and she has put together a terrific collection of images – in a way they kind of have a Harry Potter feel to them – as she documents her time at the University.
The thing is that for Cambridge this is still a win-win as it is getting some terrific images of the university out to a wider audience (and also an American audience).
Their Facebook profile has a nice mixture of stand out images. Their images promote Cambridge’s heritage (their timeline actually goes back to 1209, which must be some sort of record). They also have pictures from their Instagram feed (a really useful tactic to use for universities as well as businesses). I also like how they are using Facebook videos and all the benefits that this entails.
Overall when it comes to Cambridge’s images there are times when you will just sit back and think:
“Wow that’s how images should be used”
BlueChief Tip: The right images can help you stand out from the crowd so it pays to spend time on getting these right.
Engagement: NUI Galway – Engage with Events, Students and The Quadrangle (University)
When it comes to Social Media, engagement is essential and NUIG are a great example of how universities can incorporate this into their overall strategy.
On Twitter NUIG openly engages with others by retweeting their content. Whether it’s lecturers or departments in the university, NUIG shows that it doesn’t hurt to use other’s content to help add value to your own account. As well as this, one of the standout things from NUIG’s account was how engaged they are during events. As you might have guessed from previous blogs we here at BlueChief are big fans of events.
Very often one of the biggest mistakes made is that social activity is concentrated on the pre-event, and that’s it. This is a big mistake as being active during an event can be a huge benefit. NUIG have realised this and regularly send out content during events. Whether it be an alumni choir or a meeting of the Global Irish Economic Forum NUIG realise that Twitter is a real-time tool, and events are perfect for this.
Their use of background photos also highlights the importance of using these to your benefit. Below is an example of how they have used backgrounds for events and causes (in this case supporting Galways bid for the 2020 City of Culture). How do you know they’re doing things well? They featured on Hubspot as one of the 14 best college accounts on Twitter…..globally Landmarks on the university campus is another smart tactic that can be used and the Quadrangle is used regularly on NUIG’s social accounts. One of the standout images from NUIG is their Facebook background (you can see why). Facebook also focuses on events but at the same time they also espouse being a vital member of the community. They are fully behind the Galway 2020 city of culture bid (as their Twitter profile shows as well). The thing that stands out is how interchangeable content can be on Facebook and Twitter. At the same time it pays to make changes that utilise the networks various strengths.
The NUIG profile on Pinterest is a pleasant surprise and is definitely worth checking out for anyone thinking of setting up a profile on Pinterest. In a snapshot people can see and engage with a huge range of topics. It’s like an interactive prospectus that is being built on consistently. From Galway as a vibrant city, to students, to a whole board dedicated to the Quadrangle, NUIG have shown how you can fully utilise this real fun tool.
When it comes to LinkedIn NUIG has done something really smart that I have highlighted in a previous blog, they created a personal profile for the Alumni rather than a business page. This gives them access to publications, experience and a wide range of features that aren’t available on businesses pages. This makes things a lot easier when engaging with people as you can do it from a personal and direct point of view. BlueChief tip: Make Pinterest an interactive prospectus for students, use the personal profile feature on LinkedIn.
Loyalty: Texas A&M – From the #12thman to #Aggies its a tradition
Texas A&M is one of the top universities in the US and when it comes to loyalty these institutions are a terrific example of developing lifetime loyalty. Each university has its own distinct image and one of the most powerful tools thats helps them to do this is simple: Sport When you look at Texas A&M’s social profiles, the university as a whole stands out. They are all supporting one cause #TAMU and being an Aggie. If you look at their Facebook page immediately you are struck by this – from the picture of their stadium, Kyle field. Everyone is supporting the team. This is supported by their #12thman hashtag. The photo below just illustrates how powerful this is to the University. Their Instagram account further reinforces this “everyone supporting the Aggies” cause. Most pictures are of the group and they reinforce their loyalty with the tradition as well. The Midnight Yell is another great example of loyalty. It happens the night before every home football game. All these things help to create a bond with the university that as the Instagram picture below shows lasts for a lifetime.
50 years of tradition between Aggie friends! 👍Whoop! (@kimcolvin03 ’03 & Dr. Graham ’53) #tamu #aggiering #gigem #repost A photo posted by Texas A&M University (@tamu) on
Texas A&M also has a consistent theme throughout its profiles – the colour maroon. If you take a quick scroll through their social accounts the colour is very prominent wherever you look. From a personal standpoint, having a Collie as your mascot helps as well!!
When you look at Pinterest this loyalty and tradition is further reinforced. Going to Texas A&M is a badge of honour. Even the mascot has a board on Pinterest (dogs/cats are internet gold). From Aggie Moms to life in Aggie Land it really is a big thing to be part of the Aggie family.
Texas A&M also help bring people who have been accepted to the University into the fold with their I’m Going To Be An Aggie (notice anything consistent with all the photos).
To sum up, Texas A&M are a great example of creating loyalty with a University that can last a lifetime.
BlueChief Tip: Identify a cause that the whole University can get behind. Be consistent throughout your social media profiles.
Conversation: Sheffield University – The Students and the Experience of going to the University
When it comes to social media conversation is crucial and its normally the result of doing the previous three right. Sheffield University is a great example of getting perspective students’ attention with the content they create and publish. Their focus is very much on the students and the experiences of people who are attending the university.
Their Facebook page perfectly illustrates this by profiling students and their experience of going to Sheffield University. This is of particular interest to potential students not only in the UK but internationally as they profile students who are attending from all over the world. They also highlight students from the University who have gone abroad to study as well. This help the University to help create relationships not only with potential students but also with universities around the world. They also highlight what life is like on the campus. From events on the campus to the Dodgeball society (do they dodge wrenches?) Sheffield does a great job of unveiling the curtain and showing people what life is like.
Their YouTube reinforces this, what video do you see straight away on their channel? A congratulations to the new students in the university. Their video diary feature on new students is also interesting and makes the experience more interactive. The videos are short and sharp (our attention spans aren’t that long, big shock) and show what its like to go to the University.
When it comes to their Instagram from going through I noticed something very subtle, the pictures taken in Autumn all had an autumn colour theme to them. From the autumnal leaves to even the colour of the buildings in the pictures there is a constant theme throughout these. Just take a quick look at the row below. As well as that the pictures themselves are pretty good to say the least.
Overall Sheffield’s approach is very interesting as the students are central to their social media profiles and the images and videos they use help to put the University’s best foot forward for potential students.
BlueChief Tip: Have a specific focus for your social media profiles and have particular themes running through them.
Social Media for Universities: There’s a Lot More to it than just hitting post/tweet
As you can see, the examples above are terrific examples of how universities can use social media to help achieve the objectives of:
From Cambridge’s terrific use of heritage and images to NUIG’s use of the University itself to the #12thman to having students at the core of your efforts – social media can be a terrific tool for universities to put their best foot forward. If you want to find out how BlueChief Social can help you, check out our recently updated workshops and strategies page. You can also drop us a tweet