Successful Higher Education Social Media Campaigns

Many organizations want to connect with the social generation, but are challenged to find innovative ways to stand out and attract an audience.

This is especially true for universities. Social media is ubiquitous with student life as the target market are digital natives and have grown up on social. Because of this, universities require a digital strategy that places student collaboration at the centre.

We spoke with three prestigious universities in the U.K. to learn how they’re using campaigns and contests to engage youth, build trust, and enhance their brands.

Social media strategy lessons from City University London, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Salford

How City University London drives engagement with #PhotoContests

City University London is a leading international academic institute in the heart of London. The university’s small social media team manages communications for over 63,000 Facebook and Twitter followers. Despite limited resources, the team wanted to drive student engagement and build a sense of community.

“We looked at our university’s overarching goals and picked the ones that we thought social could help with, including building a sense of community, enhancing student experience, and positioning City University as committed to academic excellence and research,” Sabrina Francis, City University London’s social media officer, shares with Hootsuite in a webinar.

The university launched a photography competition across their social channels. The objective was to share inspiring images of the campus and facilities in order to promote the life and culture of the university.

Using the hashtag #CityPhoto14, the team launched and tracked the competition using Hootsuite streams and keyword searches. Receiving over 100 entries, this competition was a great way to showcase the university, attract new students, and get students involved on social.

Read the City University London case study to learn more about driving engagement.

How the University of Cambridge showcases their best assets with video

The University of Cambridge in England is over 800 years old and remains one of the top education institutions in the world. As you can imagine, the campus and surrounding city is known for its historical beauty. To take advantage of this, the university frequently shares time-lapse videos on its social channels that showcase life—and what yours could be like as a future student—at the university.

One video in particular was aptly named “A Winter Waltz in Cambridge.” Similar to the popular winter yule log videos, this time-lapse featured a winter wonderland city accompanied with a classical waltz. With over 1,500 likes, 35 comments, and 378 shares, the video was a huge success in showing off the campus to a large audience.

The university doesn’t need a large budget for these videos and often uses footage that already exists in other departments. “We have to make things work,” Barney Brown, head of digital communications at the University of Cambridge, says in the samewebinar on higher education. “The answer isn’t always to throw money at it.”

Read the University of Cambridge case study to learn more about content marketing.

How University of Salford builds a community with branded #hashtags

In the U.K., universities have an annual clearing process. This one-day event is a central day that the entire year builds up to—exam results are released and university spaces that are unfilled become available to any unassigned students.

To build awareness and engagement around U.K.’s clearing, the University of Salford decided to launch a highly visual campaign. To get the campaign started, they hung Polaroid-style frames with #SALFIE branded messaging around the campus. Students were encouraged to take a selfie photo of themselves in the frame and tweet it using the hashtag.

Setting up listening streams in Hootsuite, the university gathered all hashtagged images and shared them in an Instagram photo gallery. Taking it one step further, when new students received their welcome package, a small version of the #SALFIE frame was included, along with messaging stating a prize for the best photo. The university could then share key marketing materials using the hashtag in order to reach students.

The university was successful in engaging students with something fun. On top of this, they built a sense of community among new students and promoted the various facilities and campus attractions in the images. Several universities even caught on to the campaign and soon created their own version of #SALFIE.

Read the University of Salford case study to learn more about building communities.

Our final thoughts

For those organizations on a limited marketing budget, social media campaigns and contests are a quick way to boost engagement among youth. Hashtag campaigns and contests help brands gather user-generated content to add a more personal touch to content.

Both City University London and the University of Cambridge shared more great advice in our recent higher education webinar. Watch the full webinar on-demand today to discover:

  • How social media can be used across multiple faculties

  • Best practices, learnings, and successes from the University of Cambridge and City University London

  • What key elements should be included in your social media strategy

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