HE Social Roundup 2017

BLOG POST

BLOG POST BY EMMA GILMARTIN, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
January 2018

I’ve been reflecting on the past twelve months and considering the huge value and impact Social has had at the University of Glasgow (UofG), and more widely across the UK/EU Higher Education sector.

Having recently opened Trinity College Dublin’s first #TrinityIsSocial (a whole day devoted to inspiring and engaging Trinity’s social community) it’s clear that even some of the more traditional universities are embracing the growing importance of Social Media.

 

For someone who’s worked hard to champion Social and prove its value in a conservative and sometimes cynical sector, I am thrilled to see it starting to attain the status it deserves. HE Social has really flourished over the last few years and university Social Media teams have created phenomenal campaigns with limited resources and modest budgets. Universities are finding new and innovative ways to bring the campus and student experience to life, break news stories, build (internal and external) community and distil even the most complex research.

 

I’m just going to look at a couple of key ways the landscape has changed in HE.

 (KLAXON): Social Media is NOT free – whether it’s social advertising, technology (social management and listening platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer or Mish Guru, or filming equipment) or staff. You HAVE to invest and it’s fantastic to see Social teams expanding and building the relevant skillsets. Since joining UofG in late 2013 – when I was running things solo – I now have a team of 4 with a whole range of expertise to produce almost all of our content in-house. Video is bigger than ever and I have two very talented filmmakers which enable us to turn video content around quickly (from small reactionary/off-the-cuff pieces to longer form storytelling) – allowing us to be relevant, add value and join topical conversations.

 

We’ve also broadened the team by formalising our student social media officer scheme, providing us with a very talented and enthusiastic group of student content creators. I know many other universities now run similar programmes. Authentic peer-to-peer content and having an honest sounding board is gold.

 

 

Social is increasingly important for internal communications and engaging with current students (and staff), as well as attracting prospective students.

 

We have an amazing and growing social and digital community at UofG and as the central Social team, we support them in various ways including hosting regular roundtable meetings. You need to empower your social media community. With the help of this fantastic community (and robust internal communications plan), we were able to significantly amplify our #TeamUofG campaign – achieving incredible reach and engagement.

 

People are at the heart of UofG’s overarching strategy so much of our video output features our staff, students and alumni – whether that be for our #TeamUofG campaign or more recently in two of our Christmas videos (our annual festive video and one produced by colleagues in the wider Communications Office for the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences). Social builds community. 

 

A Christmas Surprise

It's hard being apart from your loved ones during the festive period. So for students who couldn't be with their families over the winter holidays we threw them a Christmas party… with a very special surprise. 🔊🔊 for extra Christmas cheer!Merry Christmas everyone! 🎄#UofGChristmas #TeamUofG

Posted by University of Glasgow on Sunday, December 17, 2017

 

 

User-generated content has always been powerful and as a sector, we’re utilising this more and more. Opening up your Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat channels to students or University colleagues allows you to showcase a diverse view of campus life. Particular highlights for us were giving our Snapchat account to two postgraduate American students flying from the US to Glasgow – they took over the account for a whole weekend, telling the story of them leaving the States and what their first impressions of the city and UofG were.

 

Another example of great takeover content was our alumni/careers team going down to London to meet and interview UofG graduates in interesting jobs (Pinterest, V&A etc.) The content is fresh, varied, authentic and engaging. And around 80-90% of our Instagram and Snapchat content is now curated/ UGC.

I’ve loved watching all the ways HEs are using Instagram stories this year. It’s become a really great platform to livestream events, broadcast research, conduct takeovers for events like freshers’ week and graduations or do tours of your campus or city. I talk later about how we’ve used it for research, but other universities worth checking out would include Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Cambridge and Loughborough. The latter were using Insta stories recently during the recent bad snowy weather. I really liked the way they were providing students with important information regarding parts of campus that were affected by the snow and signposting their audience to the website for up-to-date exam information.Another highlight in 2017 has been how HEs are using Social platforms to showcase research and open it up to a whole new audience. In just four or five photos or videos, Instagram Stories can be a powerful platform to communicate even the most complex research. This has become an important part of our strategy for Stories and will continue to be a valuable tool as we highlight UofG’s core research strengths.

 

As well as Stories, we’ve successfully utilised video to communicate groundbreaking research (like developments in cancer treatments) –or when research can have a smaller (but no less impactful) influence on people’s daily lives – like our reggae dogs story which explained findings that reggae or soft rock can calm dogs and has since been utilized in rescue centres. All of this has a huge potential impact whether considering reputation, brand, public engagement, recruitment (students or staff) or funding/partnerships opportunities.

As a sector, we’ve become far bolder and I’m so excited to see what creative ways HE will harness social media in 2018. We certainly have lofty ambitions and expectations for where we want to take things at UofG and we’re planning to do a lot more activity around our core research areas and campus development.

 

I am sure UGC, social listening, amplification, livestreaming and identifying influencers will have increased importance in HE social media strategies, and Social will continue to demonstrate why it deserves a seat at the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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