How universities use social media

social media, consultant, marketing, facebook, twitter, PR, online reputation, advertising, ATL, digital footprint, Social media ROI, brands, university, universities


Universities are really getting a great deal out of social media.  It gives them a cost-effective and efficient way to promote their faculties and courses to potential students, publish content and to keep their under-grads informed of what’s going on.  Twitter and Facebook tend to be the most useful.  To give you an idea of how much this has caught on in the States, here’s a mind-blowing directory of John Hopkins University’s social media channels.  Nottingham Trent University win Facebook as far as I can see with a stand-up page that helps students with a virtual tour, an accommodation search engine and a course search engine.  It’s all practical useful information and hosted in one convenient place.

In terms of talking to potential students it’s pretty crucial since a lot of research prior to selection is done online.  Especially for talking to foreign students.  If they can’t attend the open day, for example, there are a host of ways the institutions can introduce themselves using social media.

Virsocial media, consultant, marketing, facebook, twitter, PR, online reputation, advertising, ATL, digital footprint, Social media ROI, brands, university, universitiestual open days are now quite common place allowing students to look around and ask questions without having to travel.   Yale, as you can imagine, also has a top notch social media presence.  Their Facebook page has a state-of-the-art Virtual Tour hosted by two of their students.

A lot of students do their research into their prospective colleges online, and it can be a concern as to what they hear and if it’s accurate.  Whilst it’s hardly feasible to attempt to obliterate any negative or false online information about your college or course, you can do your best to have some level of input.

Try hosting a forum, either on your website or through a group on LinkedIn,  so you can get an idea of the kind of questions being asked.  A Facebook Q and A session could work well at peak times, if promoted and announced in advance so it gets enough traction.  Hosting Google Hangouts with recent grads or current students to answer questions is a great way for you to allow students to hear straight from the horses’ mouth.  These hangouts can then be posted on your YouTube channel for future reference.

It’s also worthwhile to listen to the conversations online and be available to pitch in answers, and also get insights into what topics are trending.  In Ireland, for example a lot of students ask questions on so it would be worthwhile having a profile on there so you can answer them accurately.  Google Alerts and Twitter search are also good ways to listen out for questions.

All of this can help inform your marketing strategy.  For example one pitch I worked on, the main questions popping up time and time again were concerning misinformation students had about a financial aspect of the course.  In another project I worked on, they weren’t convinced about the location.  These are topics that you can then address in future communications.

Whilst Facebook can offer fantastic functions through its apps and a great visual way for a university to promote itself, Twitter is also a very useful communication channel.  It can serve multiple purposes – from answering student enquiries, to reporting on sports and cultural events, to having conversations with stakeholders and announcing changes to courses etc.   Butler University are a great example of Twitter Best Practice.  They used to talk through their mascot Butler Blue but shut that down last year for some reason.  Shame, I thought it was cool, gave the page an edge and some personality.

social media, consultant, marketing, facebook, twitter, PR, online reputation, advertising, ATL, digital footprint, Social media ROI, brands, university, universities

LinkedIn is another incredibly important channel for universities.  It’s a good way for them to promote their past alumni and to strengthen their credentials.  Yale have a very slick page.  LinkedIn sees the future in the younger audience and have gone as far as reducing the age of access to 13.  Yes, that’s right 13.  The mind boggles.  It’s a natural fit if you think about it, allowing students to start networking and promoting their “personal brand” from an early stage.

YouTube is obviously a channel than any university’s target audience would frequent.  UCL have a bespoke channel on YouTube for prospective students.  UCD also have a Meet our Students channel.  Some universities and colleges actually host lectures on their YouTube page to give a taste of their product, as it were.  You could lose a month of your life browsing through the content on the Harvard YouTube channel.

What about Google+ I hear you cry?  (Not).  Insead in France actually use G+ very well with an excellent content strategy linking back to their blog.  G+ is a really great channel, visually and user-experience-wise.  And obviously pretty important for SEO.  But I just don’t see it catching on.  However, if you’re posting up content on your blog/Facebook, there’s no harm or huge effort in popping it up on a G+ page as well.

These are the main sites, obviously other ones are in use and I’ve included links through to show some examples – Instagram, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Flickr.   Also some bespoke educational sites too like  iTunes U which doesn’t seem to be faring too well as this article points out.


Corporate Facebook page parody

This Facebook page is doing the rounds on Twitter… @rickygervais just sent it to @Glinner – two of the biggest tweeters in the UK.facebook, parody, social media, strategy, content strategy

Proving the rather obvious point that brands need interesting and relevant content and not just blatant self-promoting drone and facebook, parody, social media, strategy, content strategy
quick wins all the time.   It’s pretty easy to keep posting up photo caption competitions, photos of sunset beaches and cute cat videos in a bid to get “likes” and “people talking about you”.  This social media whoring will not benefit the brand in any sense – whatever the communication objectives are, and it’s unlikely people will even remember the brand name even if they do engage and like and share and so on.

The very core of my business is establishing communication pillars that will help sustain a brand’s social media (and other) presence long-term.  Certainly branding is an important part of the mix, but as communications with consumers evolve, the key is to find a way to present interesting and valuable content to your target audience that will consistently put your brand in a relevant light.

Take South Africa Uncorked – a project I am working on to promote South African wines in Ireland.  In a nutshell, we establish a very clear target – male foodies who are interested in wine and who would like to broaden their horizons and improve their wine tasting skills.  Our objective is to put South African wines on their consideration list when they are shopping for wine to go with a meal that they are preparing.  The facts are firstly that this target is currently more familiar with wines from other countries, and secondly that South African wine is a robust tipple, best appreciated with food.  And so we map out our content strategy to give this cohort tips about wine, recipes that go well with South African wines, information about the country and its wine heritage.  We’ve loads to write about now, and the aim is that it will resonate with our audience and build a connection that goes above and beyond, at best generic entertainment, at worst spam.

Question is will Facebook take it down or will they have a sense of humour about it?facebook, parody, social media, strategy, content strategy

Do you need help with your social media?

USING SOCIAL MEDIA is a hygiene factor for companies nowadays – an affordable and effective way to communicate with your brand ambassadors, customers and stakeholders. All these different channels are revolutionising how you can interact with, inform, help and and learn from your customers, an amazing tool for rewarding advocates and placating whingers.

In Ireland alone, we are massive users of social media and it is a missed opportunity for any company not to be present and interacting with their consumers.  Did you know that we are the fourth heaviest users of Facebook in the world (the heaviest in the English speaking world) and Snapchat has the most penetration in Ireland?  You only have to listen to the call to action on radio ads – you are no longer being sent to the website (a static non-interactive forum) but to their Facebook page.

No company is too small to have a presence on social media; whether it’s to help boost your search engine rankings, act as a customer service tool, learn what your customers want, engage a new target audience, or simply to have an online presence. But the thought of entering into this ever-changing, massively expanding world is daunting: Which sites should my business be on? How can I find the time to keep them up to date? What should I say? It is much more manageable than you think.  With my help you can soon be totally immersed in this world, and wondering why you didn’t do this sooner.

So if you are in need of help with setting yourselves up in the most strategically effective, cost and time efficient way on social media, let’s talk.

WHAT I CAN do for your brand is:

  • Analyse your company structure and business objectives and work up an affordable, hard-working communications and social media strategy
  • Recommend the right media for your business (effective channel strategy)
  • Advise what to say on them and when (distinctive communications and content strategy, tone of voice, conversation calendar)
  • Select the right people within your company who will be responsible for maintaining and monitoring the sites and provide them with the training they need to work as efficiently as possible. I can help you with monitoring the sites, interacting with your followers and find appropriate and engaging content for the sites for the first couple of months until you find your feet.
  • OR I can provide content and do all the work for you – handing in a KPI report to an agreed schedule.

I ALSO WORK ON A CONSULTANCY BASIS WITH AGENCIES, so if your agency needs a dig out during busy campaign periods, help with strategic pitch work, or want to have a chat about how best to set up a social media function in-house, please give me a shout.

I CAN PROVIDE TRAINING AND WORKSHOPS if your team needs to be more conversant about social media. I create bespoke sessions that get them familiar with the business tools – how the different channels are operated, how they can be used effectively with best-in-class case studies. Some of the training sessions I’ve done include:

  • Brand strategy – creating a tone of voice, channel and conversation strategies for your social media
  • Online PR – how to manage your brand’s reputation, and what to do in a crisis
  • Personal brand – how to build your own online presence and reputation
  • Facebook and Twitter for Businesses
  • Snapchat – talking to Millenials
  • Getting the most out of LinkedIn
  • Content is King – how to create and manage engaging and strategic content
  • Everything you wanted to know about Social Media but were too shy to ask (an overview!)

BUILDING PERSONAL BRANDS is also something I’ve helped Clients with.  Due to the confidentiality of this area, I haven’t included this in my CLIENTS page.  This can include reputation management, increasing your online presence through social media and getting you an impressive personal KLOUT score or just teaching you the basics in a very informal and flexible way (lunch hour or after work…).