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Social media panel 2018: Laura Allen, Staffordshire University

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

Staffordshire University made the headlines last August when it announced it would be using Snapchat – and its other social channels – to make offers to students during clearing. To be honest, that kind of innovation alone was enough for us to want them on our social media panel. Add to that already having Laura Allen – the University’s Digital Communications Officer – in our friends list and, well, we knew we were onto a winner.

What social media channels worked best for you in 2017? 

Surprisingly, Twitter has remained strong. We have quite a large internal stakeholder following, and it’s so easy to integrate Twitter into campaigns that we’ve really thrived organically on Twitter – where other platforms have been more difficult to do so. 

For paid media, Facebook advertising has been a great tool for us and we’ve started to bring more of our activity in-house to allow for easier and reactive management of advertising campaigns. This has helped us to achieve our objectives more effectively. 

And which channels flopped for you last year?

Whilst there have been huge developments in Instagram, with the introduction of stories and more sophisticated adverts, unfortunately we haven’t seen a great response. Organically, it works well to showcase the University life, look and feel – but when it comes to campaigns it isn’t as effective as we might have hoped. 

What was the biggest challenge for your organisation’s social media channels in 2017?

Organic engagement. We want to ensure that we’re balancing campaign activity with organic, refreshing content that gets our current audience involved. However, we need to spend more time to ensure that this is given the same amount of time as paid campaign activity. 

Do you expect that challenge to persist this year? Or do you think it will be something different?

We began to address this in 2017, and I hope that this year it will be high on the agenda to ensure we continue to think of new and creative ways of engaging our current student body and audience on social media, always trying to incorporate organic activity and user-generated content into all campaigns. 

Thinking specifically about paid social media, how much of this to you expect do in 2018? Will this be more, less or the same as in recent years?

As already mentioned, we’ve begun to bring more paid social in-house, and in 2017 our use of paid advertising became much more integral to campaigns. I believe it will continue to grow, develop and become more sophisticated. 

As ever, there has plenty of talk recently about Facebook being dead – how important is Facebook for your organisation? Is it dead among your audiences?

Facebook isn’t dead. It’s evolved. Once upon a time we were all actively posting status’ on Facebook every hour of the day (we’ve all seen our own Timehops!), whereas now audiences are using it in different ways; browsing, sharing and being more selective. A selective audience is not a negative thing, it’s a truly dedicated following that love your content enough to cut through the noise of Facebook to listen to you. 

We need to start thinking of new objectives to measure success on Facebook, to suit the way people act on Facebook. We’re unlikely to get lots of comments, but we may get a lot of shares on a post.

Facebook advertising is also one of our most successful platforms in delivering results, perhaps again because audiences are taking action from what they see on Facebook, rather than just talking about it. 

What about Snapchat? For you, is it a growth channel or has its impact lessened since Instagram copied all of its key features?

Snapchat had a huge impact for us over Clearing, and we increased our following tenfold during that time. 

I don’t believe that Instagram have copied all of its features, and I believe Insta’s audience and content is hugely different to Snapchat. On Snapchat, the audience want to see the really raw footage and behind the scenes, where on Instagram the audience still want to be engrossed in a more visually appealing story that leads us to a more fantasy lifestyle. 

I would predict for 2018 that Snapchat will need to continue evolve, as it is doing so, to be more suitable for businesses to reach its customers. I think it will need to pull something new out of the bag to hold the audiences interest. 

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?

I would love to use them more, but they are time-consuming and it’s a challenge to always be in the right place at the right time. We’ve addressed this by providing a behind-the-scenes look of different areas across the University with takeovers – these include student, accommodation and clubs and societies takeovers. We don’t want to be invasive in a user’s stories, so we want the faces of our stories to be our audience’s peers. This has grown our content on stories, and we’ll continue to do this in the year ahead. Perhaps even more so! 

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?

It’s something that was bought to my attention at a conference recently. It will remain a consideration until the moment to use it is right. 

Which social channel do you think will be the most valuable for you in 2018?

Wow, that’s a big question! I’d say it’s impossible to know, as there is constant developments across platforms that we need to be at the forefront of. We have some ideas in the pipeline for Facebook and in particularly Messenger, and we’ve started to make use of LinkedIn more so for advertising. I’ll leave it at that 😉

Are there any channels you use now that you think you won’t be using in 12 months’ time?

I think we’ll continue to have a presence on the platforms we currently do – perhaps it’s time for something new though?

And finally, can you pick one word or phrase that you think will define how your organisation uses social media in 2018?


You can follow Laura on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn

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