Looking for social media successes to replicate at your school?
Because social media for higher education is often more art than science, you will always learn a great deal from what worked at other universities and colleges.
That’s why I asked the 12 higher ed professionals of the 4th Higher Ed Social Media Conference to tell us their biggest success on social media over the past 12 months.
Check out these 12 success stories to get some new social media ideas to try on your own school accounts.
Snapchat launch for Meg Keniston, Associate Director of Marketing – St. Lawrence University
One of our biggest successes is what I’ll be talking about at the conference – the launch of our Snapchat account. Outside of the celebration, there was months of work dedicated to researching and preparing for the launch, and there were a lot of growing pains as I learned the nuances of this platform from the perspective of a brand.
A lot of the hard work was done by my volunteer group of students – St. Lawrence’s Student Social Media Team – who put in hours upon hours of hard work and pushed all of us to think differently about our university’s place on Snapchat as well as pushed us to experiment with various content types and storytelling strategies.
Snapchat student takeovers for Jes Scott, Social Media Coordinator – University of Victoria
We launched an official Snapchat account for our university in the spring.
At first, we focused on showing student takeovers from across the university. One of the things that makes UVic different is our focus on hands-on, dynamic learning that happens outside of the classroom. So a lot of our takeovers showed students working in interested co-op positions, field work or exchange programs. In the fall, we heavily promoted the account for orientation. Now on Fridays, we share snaps from many students showing what’s been going on during the week. Over the past 6 months or so, our stories have received twice the number of views!
Snapchat move-in campaign for Jessica Leontarakis, Social Media Specialist – Princeton University
The best success story for Princeton social media was our “Snap as You Pack” campaign during back to school. In years past, we have encouraged students to leverage a designated hashtag in their move-in posts, but students are no longer on Twitter or Instagram – they are on Snapchat! The campaign asked students to snap princetonu photos as they packed for school. The top winners received a Princeton prize pack, which they picked up from the social media table at the student fair. We received an overwhelming response both online and offline. The campaign showed students that Princeton wants to hear from them, gave Princeton great user-generated content and led into real-world connections between students and the social media team.
Instagram videos for Robert Bochnak, Director of Social Media – Harvard Business School Office of Alumni Relations
I would say our more aggressive use of Instagram. We have moved beyond just posting photos to using the platform in new and interesting ways.
This includes sharing videos featuring user-generated content (https://www.instagram.com/p/BKlVGSmAhAT/?taken-by=hbsalumni) to experimenting with different apps. These approaches have helped Instagram become our top performing social media platform over the last year.
Visual stories for Andrea Limas, Social Media Strategist – University of San Francisco
We have really elevated our efforts on Instagram and Snapchat – our priority channels for reaching prospective students. USFCA’s marketing department has committed to creating compelling stories through professional photography and videos to reach a new a digital-driven generation.
Many of this year’s incoming freshmen and transfer students informed us that our social media channels helped them to decide to choose our school. It worked!
Dancing mascot on Facebook Live for Corie Martin, Director, Web Services & Digital Marketing – Western Kentucky University
Since the beginning of the academic year, we have had great and unexpected success with Facebook Live videos. We started by trying them out when our president and campus mascot went on a bus tour to hand deliver admissions letters to the first admitted students from the WKU Class of 2021. We couldn’t believe how great the response was!
We usually send a professional video crew to cover larger events on campus because their video export quality is so much higher than anything we could shoot on our own, but recently I shot a Facebook Live video of our school mascot dancing around at a student event using my phone. That video had more than 56,000 unique views. I laughed about this with our video production crew. Here we have state-of-the-art equipment and I shoot something with my phone that had more views than anything we have ever done with the fancy equipment!
I think this has everything to do with the video content and less to do with the quality of the video itself. WKU has a well-recognized and well-loved mascot (Big Red, the Hilltopper), so it is never a surprise that anything Big Red does resonates with all of our audiences. We have since used the Facebook Live feature with presidential speeches and other campus events and have had great success. Facebook Live video adds in the ability to see campus activities in real time for those who could not be there otherwise (like parents or alumni), and solidifies their love for our university.
Favorite class on Facebook for Tiffany Broadbent Beker, Web Developer & Social Media Coordinator – William & Mary
Over the summer (an often quiet time for us on social media) our content specialist created and posted a graphic with “My favorite class at W&M was ____” to Facebook and it got over 300 comments, becoming one of our most commented-on posts ever. Folks tagged their classmates and professors, often writing full paragraphs about their favorite class and why. Although not a groundbreaking idea, asking pointed questions has been a great method for spurring engagement and we’re now working to figure out how we can repurpose and re-share this great content.
A commencement hashtag for Chris Barrows, Social Media and Mobile Products Coordinator – New York University
The consistent growth of NYU’s #congratagradNYU campaign year over year has been our greatest success story.
The campaign could have easily capped out at this point – but instead – has continued to grow.
I’m optimistic that this growth will continue to grow as we tweak and expand our actionable marketing efforts.
A community hashtag for Abby Meyer, Social Media Specialist – University of Nebraska Medical Center
At the beginning of the 2015 school year, we launched our on-going community hashtag #IamUNMC. It was important that we established a hashtag unique to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, as there is a UNMC located overseas that is unaffiliated with ours, and #UNMC content on social media is a mix of both institutions. We wanted our community to use this hashtag when socially engaging and sharing about their daily lives at UNMC. In order to influence this behavior, it was crucial that we heavily promote it through multiple outlets, both online and offline. We developed this content stream to curate all #IamUNMC content from Instagram and Twitter, which is featured on our main homepage. We used #IamUNMC life-size frames at university events, such as campus BBQs and new student orientations, and encouraged students to take their photo with the frame and share it with #IamUNMC. We distributed #IamUNMC stickers and magnetic frames to continue to spread the word. We included the hashtag on many of our own Instagram photos and tweets, and awarded swag bags to students who included it on theirs, and continue to do so.
A year later, over 1,500 Twitter and Instagram posts have been shared so far with #IamUNMC from students, staff, and faculty members. With a student population of 3,800, we defined this university-wide engagement initiative as a success in its first year. Consistent exposure of #IamUNMC through these various methods was essential in order to educate our community about the purpose of this hashtag and why they should integrate it into the content they are already sharing. #IamUNMC has also been a helpful tool for us to listen to the overall social conversation about UNMC, and curate user-generated content to share on our primary accounts.
24-hour giving challenge for Michelle Tarby, Director of Interactive Content Strategy – Le Moyne College
The best social media success story we’ve had at Le Moyne in the past year is beyond a doubt our 24-hour Giving Day Challenge (but you’ll have to tune into the conference to hear more about that ;-)
One strategic effort I’ve been especially proud of is the creation of an informal team of alumni and admissions staff to get people working together to achieve our overall campus engagement goals. For the first time, as we work together, everyone is seeing how our stories and efforts can complement each other. Until about a year ago, we were split into three siloed channels, each sharing a different spin on the same message with some significant audience overlap. It takes persistence and careful management to keep people working together, but the rewards are so worth it. We’re currently building a campaign to tell young alumni success stories that address the interests of target enrollment recruiting groups. Without coordination, this would have never been possible.
Software implementation for Tyler Thomas, Social Media & Content Manager – University of Nebraska
Our best success story over the past 12 months was securing an enterprise level social media management and listening platform for our entire University System.
After 6 months of working across the four campuses in our system, we were able to identify, test and launch a new social media tool that allows each of us to leverage the latest technology to reach our individual goals, support our campuses and share in the total cost.
Social media listening for Dr. Liz Gross, Social Media Measurement Instructor – Higher Ed Experts
Besides my teaching at Higher Ed Experts, I work for a student loan servicer.
We noticed that we had a content gap in our customer journey. When a student paid off their loan—a huge accomplishment they should be proud of—they just received a form letter letting them know it was paid in full. We learned from social listening that our customers felt pretty let down in that moment.
So, we worked with our web developers to implement a “paid in full party” on our website, with built-in social sharing. It includes some owned social content (an animated gif with confetti that includes a celebratory message and the hashtags #PaidInFull and #Adulting), that customers can choose to share. Now, we see online celebrations of student loan payoff every single day!
So, what has been YOUR success story in social media for higher ed?
Tell us by posting a comment below!
And, if you want to learn more from these higher ed social media professionals, get 12-month unlimited access to the 4th Higher Ed Social Media Conference (now available on-demand).