Engaging a Student Audience


October 2017

When £9k student fees were first introduced, I oversaw the launch of a new online initiative at The University of Nottingham aimed at engaging new undergraduate students at the start of their student lives. This involved a multi-channel approach with a mix of blog content, a Facebook page with regular posts, a Twitter account and Tumblr. With a solid mix of content on different platforms and promotion via web, email and print, around 60% of new undergraduate students had liked our Facebook page by the time term started.

In the years that followed, we worked more closely with students, tapping into their ideas for content and asking them to run our social media. We also introduced Snapchat and made more use of video, but we couldn’t match the number of Facebook likes we got in that first year.

I’m now running the Student Life initiative at the University of Lincoln and, although Facebook remains important, it’s about much more than getting page likes. Everything we publish is student-created and we use a range of social media, mixing up our approach to each and cross-promoting what we’re doing. Our most engaging piece of content involved using Facebook Live to give student-led tours of accommodation in the week after A Level Results Day. We also ran Facebook Live Q&A sessions with student support services and used Snapchat and Instagram stories to put out student micro-vlogs covering key issues, such as how to make friends in welcome week.

There is a window of opportunity to engage with new students between when they get their results and when they start. Once they are at university and have started making friends and settled into their courses and accommodation, then engagement levels drop. It’s inevitable. But if you can engage them during that window then you have a better chance of engaging them later on. You just need to remain focused on the things that matter to them and make sure that everything you produce is engaging and useful.


We have recently started using the following content idea checklist, adapted from something similar that the BBC use, to try and ensure that we hit the mark with everything we publish:

Happy, sad, amused or not much at all? If it’s the latter, then don’t publish it.

When is it likely to get the best response? Would it be better going out in the evening or at the weekend?

Is it better suited to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram? Could it work across different platforms, and if so, how would it need to be tweaked for each?

What’s in it for them? What will they learn or gain from engaging with it? Why would they want to engage with it?



Ask yourself these questions and it should help you to engage your student audience more effectively.