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Social media panel 2018: Loughborough University’s marketing team

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

When it comes to high-performing marketing teams in the world of Higher Education, there are few as impressive as the one at Loughborough University. They regularly leave awards ceremonies clutching a batch of silverware and some of their campaigns in recent years have been spectacular – both in terms of innovation and results.

What social media channels worked best for you in 2017?

We’ve seen the continuation of growth on our Snapchat and Instagram channels this year. Engagement with students is at an all-time high with Instagram slowly beginning to outperform Snapchat. Facebook and, surprisingly, LinkedIn are also hugely popular and successful with our alumni and alternative audiences outside of our students.

And which channels flopped for you last year?

We’ve seen a decrease in Twitter’s impressions and engagements outside of our institution-wide announcements and big, hard-hitting content this year, despite steadily rising follower numbers. The team have 100% turned away from G+ this year instead looking to Knowledge Panel posts.

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

Staying relevant with one of our primary audiences, our students. The team have totally revamped the way we approach Snapchat and Instagram this year, with a more strategic approach that hones in on forward planning.

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

Keeping up with students is always going to be one of the challenges we face, particularly after investing resource in channels that one day could be the big thing, and then be the next social taboo. YikYak is a good example of this.

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?

Paid is going to be hugely important in 2018 as Facebook further throttles reach and Twitter becomes less popular with our audiences. As a team, we have to reinforce the message that social ‘isn’t free’, whilst being really smart with our targeting, innovating wherever possible, and maximising budgets.

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?

Absolutely not. Facebook is alive and kicking with our audiences; everyone checks Facebook, even if they say they don’t. We have to be nimble, keeping our ear to the ground with what Facebook is prioritising at that current moment to maximise reach. The massive power of the share is clear on Facebook, so it’s about creating content that makes people want to share with those that matter to them. What can we offer our audiences that’s so important, they just can’t ignore it?

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

Our numbers on Snapchat have remained steady (but high) for the past 6 months. It’s still such an important channel; we received over 1,000 followers in a week in September during our Open Days. It’s about being smart and cross-promoting wherever possible. Impact certainly hasn’t lessened but we need to bear in mind that both are important, and people are checking both channels; how do we switch up content to keep it fresh?

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?

Facebook and Whatsapp are clear examples of the failure of Stories on certain channels. However, Instagram is a different matter and is hugely important. This time last year, Facebook Live was ‘the thing’; but Facebook has appeared to move away from it, shown by the recent lack of push notifications to followers, and there are no new ground-breaking features. We’re always exploring with Live and there’s more we can do on Instagram around this.

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?

Podcasting hasn’t had a huge impact at Loughborough, and isn’t a priority area for us at the moment. If we were to start podcasting more widely, it would be dependent on finding the right characters and themes.

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

It might be something none of us have even heard of! Facebook will never go away, and whether at the end of 2018 a victor will have emerged from Instagram v Snapchat will be interesting to see. At the moment, we’d loosely pin it to Instagram.

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

There’s potential for Snapchat to go under – loss of confidence from investors, bad financial performance, a viable alternative with Instagram Stories. If there was one, that would be the guess, but it’s possibly unlikely. We’ll see what their UI redesign and other updates bring. Remember – this has happened before in Snapchat’s history before the launch of their lenses updates – we wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull it out of the bag again.

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