Welsh University of the Year in 2017, two lovely seaside campuses and a host of great social media content; we simply had to get Swansea University involved in our social media panel, so reached out to Kenon Man, their Head of Digital Marketing and 2016 CASE Europe Emerging Marketing and Communications Professional, for a load of learning. He delivered.
What social media channels worked best for you in 2017?
We are continually reviewing our social media channels, but for 2017 our best channels have been Instagram and LinkedIn. Our Instagram channel has a good balance of user-generated content and what is considered as ‘Campus Porn’, which has increased engagement. Our LinkedIn page has had a high amount of engagement, with a good number of likes and comments on each post. Our alumni and current staff are very active on LinkedIn and the platform encourages offline engagement.
And which channels flopped for you last year?
None of our channels flopped, but it is about reviewing our channels and their content to suit how the channels are being used. In 2017, Snapchat didn’t really gain much attention for us, even though the channel was utilised for Open Days and events. I would say we are late adopters to Snapchat compared to other universities, so we haven’t had a chance to define Snapchat’s use within our social media and communications plans or fully explored the potential of Snapchat.
What was the biggest challenge for your organisation’s social media channels in 2017?
The challenge is to transition from an experimented use of a particular channel to a more defined purpose, and creating a set of standards in which the organisation can use as a guide.
I still want to encourage the notion of ‘just have a go’, especially when introducing new channels but when all the intelligence has been gathered, the channel needs to integrate into the wider plans. Questions such as:
What content should be published?
Determining the style, tone and its audience
How is the content consumed, should this platform push our ‘Stock’ or ‘Flow’ content?
Do you expect that challenge to persist this year? Or do you think it will be something different?
This challenge will be ongoing, but my Digital Marketing team see this as an opportunity to inform and educate colleagues across the University to show how Social Media channels can help to achieve business objectives. I feel that the HE sector can start taking a more mature approach towards Social Media because we should have all enough data and analysis to make more informed choices and move away from conversations such as
‘I want a [insert any social media] account because I want to increase my reach.’
‘Who do you want to reach?’
‘Oh, everyone! Everyone is on [Insert any social media]’
Thinking specifically about paid social media, how much of this to you expect to do in 2018? Will this be more, less or the same as in recent years?
Advertising spend will probably be the same as last year as we are beginning to use the spend more efficiently. We have been running paid ads for the past few years and the intelligence gathered is helping us to create more targeted campaigns. In the past, we would have targeted ads by location and subject, but now we are working with more intelligence to create ads that have more relevance to a particular audience.
As ever, there has plenty of talks recently about Facebook being dead – how important is Facebook for your organisation? Is it dead among your audiences?
I think from a marketing perspective it is naïve to ignore Facebook and to remove the platform from the communication mix. Statistics from various sources show that usage is declining among various age groups, but usage is still in the millions world-wide.
Facebook is still popular in international markets, especially in emerging markets where we can utilise the platform for lead-generating campaigns. In the UK, our Facebook demographic is aged between 18-24, so it has been a good way to engage current students on campus.
Facebook is still an important tool, and it will be about adapting our content to suit the platform – maybe it will be a platform target parents or alumni? In the end, Facebook is a multibillion-dollar global business; it would be silly to think that they are going to ignore the declining numbers and the changing environment that is affecting their business.
What about Snapchat? For you, is it a growth channel or has its impact lessened since Instagram copied all of its key features?
We have been exploring Snapchat, but we are still in the investigative stage – determining how best to use and resource the platform, establishing the tone etc. I thought it would be a growth channel in 2018, but with the new revamp of the app, more creative planning will be needed and for it to be tested.
We’ve also seen a huge growth in Stories and Live video over the last 18 months or so – how much do you use these tools and what sort of impact have they had for you?
We are using Live video and stories, these have been great for Open Days and events. Live video has been useful for student recruitment, so we’ve done a mixture of interviews, tours and ‘fun’ engaging content. Live videos tend to have a small number of live views, but viewing numbers increase after the live event. What I am finding is that Live video needs to be supported by other communications to achieve impact – so the live video should be a combined effort of e-comms, vlogs, blogs, website, Twitter etc. Stories have been used to provide behind-the-scenes content and running commentary at events, but we need to use these more often to increase its impact.
Is podcasting on your agenda at all for 2018? If so, what sort of show are you planning? If not, is there any reason why?
We are currently looking to create podcasts, we have started recording interviews discussing student life and applying for courses and posting them on Soundcloud. It is a channel that I would like to introduce to support research and business marketing.
Which social channel do you think will be the most valuable for you in 2018?
Video content is going to be important in 2018 – from user-generated content to professional promotional videos – but I’m going predict that it is going to be instant messaging channels – WeChat, WhatsApp or Facebook Instant Messaging, and the potential use of Chatbots within the channels. As long as we comply with GDPR rules and regulations, I think using instant messaging channels correctly to engage and deliver concise messages to audiences will be invaluable in 2018.
Are there any channels you use now that you think you won’t be using in 12 months’ time?
None. I think for us, 2018 will be about improving the channels that we are using (inc. Google +) and start to further define and integrate channels within organisational functions to support and achieve business objectives.
And finally, can you pick one word or phrase that you think will define how your organisation uses social media in 2018?
Integrate channels into the mix further to maximise potential.