Social Media and Universities Tactics for the New Semester

Social Media and Universities Tactics for the New Semester

With the new semester up and rolling in universities and third levels I thought it was time to take a look around and see some how they have started off the new year on the social media front. See that’s the thing with social media it moves so fast. What was today’s FacebookLive could be yesterday’s Meerkat (RIP to the platform) in no time. It’s good in one way but annoying in another.

Using 3 examples I’ll highlight some of the tactics that universities and used to help harness that platforms that their students and potential students are on. These examples are:

  1. The University of Birmingham
  2. Colorado State University
  3. Cardiff University

So without further ado let the lecture begin.

University of Birmingham – Cross Promote Content but also Create Unique Content

When looking through a universities social media profile I like to do a quick skim of the page and see if anything stands out straight away. When you do this for the University of Birmingham especially on their Instagram when I did this one thing stood out straight away:

The Campus Itself

universities on social media

My first impression was boy this is a picturesque university. The university clock tower “Old Joe” is a terrific focal point for many of the photos and it’s clear that Birmingham has gone out of it’s way to create a personality for the campus itself. User generated content is used as well which is really really simple to do on Instagram and for me is one of the biggest strengths of the platform and a tip I would give for universities using to use Instagram. Why? Because students will be already using the tag.

On Facebook page in comparison the focus is much more focused on people’s faces (honestly skim through a page and you’ll catch trends like this). They’re not afraid of using Instagram photos on the page either and given the great photos they use I can see why. They also utilising the 2 big areas of Facebook at the moment we might have talked about them already (eyes looking left and right suspiciously):

  • Video
  • Facebook Live

Birmingham is comfortable creating content that is suitable to the platform but that also covers people who like to read, see or watch. This is particularly the case with the launch of their new library. From photos to videos they have made great use of these and if you go through their photo section you can see distinct themes  running through their visual content.

What I also like about Birmingham is that they harness content from Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr on their page as well. Cross-platform promotion is the big theme I would take away from Birmingham University if you’re looking to utilise several networks.

At the same time though there is also unique content on each network to give you a reason to follow them on more than one channel. Their Twitter page highlights this through using:

  • Twitter video
  • Retweeted User Generated Content

Tomorrow @unibirmingham farmers market returns! Enjoy tasty food & locally made crafts in Uni Square till 3pm

The key take away from Birmingham?

When it comes to accounts they engage with it’s a lot easier to identify this on Twitter than the other networks. Overall University of Birmingham have unique content that:

Overall the University of Birmingham has unique content that:

  • On Instagram tells a visual story
  • On Facebook is interactive
  • On Twitter is engaging

Irish example – NUI Galway and their use of the quadrangle is definitely the one that rings to mind when I think of an Irish University that uses its campus to tell a story.


Colorado State University – It’s not just about the University

Now Colorado are one of the top universities for social media and I can see why. When I went through their Instagram page what stood out to me wasn’t the campus itself. It’s a nice campus but the combination of this with students along with other images helped promote one clear thing:

Life in Colorado

From pretty unreal photos of landscape to photos of the students and the pep rally for the rams (Go Rams!!!) Colorado does a terrific job of combining these to show that life in the state looks pretty good.

This theme also flows through their Facebook page. Seriously I’d nearly think of heading there on the back of this because it looks like a great place to spend even weekends in the great outdoors in between going to games. They don’t use video content as heavily as others but when they do again it’s promoting life in Colorado.

Another thing that stood out to me was the engagement with content and boy does this standout. While it may not be as well know other universities they more than hold their own when it comes to people engaging with them.

Colorado are highlighted in many articles for their great use of SnapChat and after following them for a week I can see why. For example one of their stories focused on a free breakfast for homecoming week. In this one story alone they tick the following boxes:

  • Using text,
  • Using a mix of video and photos
  • Emojis
  • Tailored filters
  • Shout outs
  • They also use the speed up video feature

This one story highlights what a university should do on SnapChat and once again the focus is on life on the campus.


Their Twitter account uses similar tactics to Birmingham but they also use GIFs to help engage as wide an audience as possible.

Key takeaway from Colorado

If I was to take one thing away from the University of Colorados social profiles it would be to focus on life not only in the university but also in the state/county/region because this opens up some terrific opportunities to build relationships with the students but also stakeholders as well.

Irish example: I like how WIT have utilised their Instagram account to show what life is like in the city. From the People’s Park to the quay side to the Spraoi Festival they have real good photos taken from around the city. I’m not just saying that because it’s my alma mater either.


Cardiff University Don’t forget about people!!!

Cardiff are another university that do well in terms of social authority and the one thing that really stands out to me is perfectly expressed by their background photo on Facebook.

The People


Few tactics are as useful as human faces. I don’t often reference him but Shanes god Gary Vee was asked why one page was doing better than the other and the dominant theme was one had images of people and the other didn’t. When you go through the photo section of their Facebook page faces pop up again.

Students are also to the fore on their Twitter page along with content relating to events taking place in the university as well as news features relating to the university and good causes.

On their Instagram page people are to the fore again although I have to admit the panel photos they have where one image is split into multiple images is a fantastic tactic to use. 

Cardiff also use the tactics used by Colorado and Birmingham:

  • The focus on not only the University but also the city
  • What you see on Instagram will be different to Facebook but they are still doing cross-platform promotion.

The human side is the one that really stands out to me from what they do on the various platforms and they do it very very well.

Irish example Athlone Institute of Technology – Straight away after going on their Facebook page the students are to the fore. When you go through their photos people’s faces and #WelcomeToAIT appear again and again. They also use emojis alongside this (it’s a smart but also simple idea). 

Social Media and Universities, Start the News Semester on the Right Foot

So there you it from Birmingham harnessing content on multiple platforms to Colorado showing the life in the state and not just the university to Cardiff focusing on people these are 3 tactics you can use either combined or focus on one. If you want to find out more or need help with your social media check out our services page.