Tuesday, February 17, 2015

6 Top Social Media Trends in Higher Ed

In December, I was invited on behalf of Santa Clara University to participate in the Higher Education Social Media Conference 2014 (#HESM14), which featured dynamic mini presentations by nearly 15 college campus social media directors and decision-makers across the country. It was a great learning experience to view real-life case studies illustrating both successes and challenges in social outreach to students. Following are 6 of my top my takeaways and tips in the aggregate:

1. Instagram Mini-Campaigns

While Instagram is a hugely popular platform to reach college students, on its own it's tough to get traction, and will probably not grow your Followers without some oomph. A mini-campaign using a designated hashtag relevant to your desired goal can be effective in boosting your online visibility. The case study we viewed highlighted a special recognition day on campus, encouraging students to post their photos of the event using that hashtag and related ones. The results showed over double the amount of engagement and followers.

Tip: limit your campaign to 1-2 weeks, so you can concentrate the buzz and excitement. Campaigns longer than that can lose momentum before they're over, and typically require a more developed and sophisticated content marketing strategy.

2. Snapchat for Storytelling and Relationship Building

Miami University in Ohio is an interesting case study in the effective use of Snapchat. Karine Jolly posted an informative interview with @KellyABennett, social media manager at MU, who experimented with event promotion and behind the scenes strategies in particular to raise student awareness. She not only posted, but studied what events were screenshot the most to determine what students were most interested in.

Tip: Aim for authenticity, and don't worry about being polished or edited--this platform aims for a realWorld glimpse into campus life. With 77% of college students using Snapchat daily, it's definitely a platform worth considering.

The social media team at SCU during a conference break.

3. Photo Friday (Social Media and Website)

A great way to boost student participation and visibility for your university website and social profiles is to designate Fridays to focus on graphics and visuals. Announce a new theme each week, with a deadline of Thursday afternoon, allowing your social team to organize, select, and edit the best photos if needed. Feature the winning photo on your website, and as your Facebook Cover photo, to help create buzz and encourage participation.

Tip: Make sure the theme and criteria for selection are clear and consistently communicated out, so you have the largest choice of graphics to select from.

4. Tumblr for Creative Expression

Try Tumblr as a microblogging platform that optimizes creativity and graphics, focusing on creative expression for the publisher without the traditional blog format that is more text heavy and reliant on Comments.

Tip: Go for the visuals. Tumblr audiences expect dynamic and strong graphics then those on other blogging platforms.

5. Recruit and Reward Dynamic Social Media Ambassadors

You know you're excited about your brand, but it's even better when others tell your story--the impact of third-party testimonials can be enormous. So, implementing a team of social media ambassadors is a great way to extend your brand and build buzz on your social channels. Decide the criteria you want for your team of ambassadors, (ideally students who are involved in and enthusiastic about campus activities.) Students who enjoy taking photos and clever with captions and a quick story are a big plus, as they can help supply you with a constant flow of great digital content.

Tip: Treat your ambassadors well! Reward them with cool swag to show your appreciation, and let them know you take their roles seriously.

6. Optimize Events With Hashtags

Branding your events with hashtags is an important way to organize online conversations before, during, and after events, and to grow your potential audiences. While the use of hashtags is becoming more common and more sophisticated, many organizations make the mistake of underpromoting them, or using them inconsistently or incorrectly. Conversely, there are instances when events become so popular or dynamic, that audiences start creating their own hashtags to suit their own preferences, and they take on a life of their own.

Tips: Choose hashtags no longer then 6-8 characters, so that they don't take up the entire tweet on twitter. Make sure your hashtag is unique and hasn't been used previously, so there is no brand confusion. Also, try to brand the hashtag so it clearly represents the event it's connected to, and is therefore easier for audiences to remember. Be sure to include your hashtag in all pre and post event promotions, as well as, of course, during any live tweeting at the event.

What social media trends are at the top of the list in your niche or industry, and what do you think future trends will be? Share in the comments.



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