Social media panel 2018: Phil Chatterton, Hootsuite

Estimated read time: 14 minutes

Hootsuite isn’t just the world’s most widely-used social media management tool. Oh no. They’re a great source of news and insight whether you use their product or not. They also do a load of great work in the field of Higher Education, which is where Phil Chatterton comes in. He’s Hootsuite’s Industry Principal for HE. He’s good. Really good.

And, he’s on our panel of thought leaders.

When it comes to social media, how do you think education providers did in 2017? Were there any campaigns or accounts that really caught your eye?

Overall I think education providers are split into two groups: those that are rapidly progressing towards a social strategy and those still engaged in the “Tribal Discussion” phase of whether social is strategic or not. The latter group is falling behind quickly as the former group rapidly advances.

Some examples that caught my eye: Purdue University had an amazing “Day of Giving” this year shattering the record by raising over 28 million in under 24 hours in large part using social. The University of Glasgow in Scotland had a great year on social as well. They raised their brand and captured a greater share of voice compared to their peers. They managed to win top social team in the UK.

Harvard pushed the envelope by focusing on user centric design of their social experience. Georgia State and Arizona State teamed up as two of the most innovative Universities in the US to examine how social could be used by executives and how social can improve customer service and student engagement with great results. Western University in Ontario, Canada is focusing on how to leverage advocacy with alumni to get better organic reach.

There are honestly too many examples to name!

What do you think was the biggest challenge for those institutions and their social media usage last year?

There are several big challenges but I will name three.

The first is developing a solid set of metrics to prove social ROI. Institutions are looking at connecting enrolment numbers, support costs and fundraising dollars for example to justify increased expenditure on head count, technology and advertising.

The second major challenge is creating a secure / unified voice on social in the face of a year of difficult events like hacking (phishing, impersonation, etc.) scandals (sexual harassment, bad tweets, etc,), impactful events (protests, marches, speeches) and major crisis (campus violence, hurricanes, student deaths). Campuses are looking to better understand listening tools (sentiment tracking, etc.) and how they can create a unified response across multiple teams and accounts which can be monitored and adapted during times when students and the community are demanding a response from leadership/administration.

The third major challenge is understanding how to work within a set of constrained resources across multiple stakeholder groups. The “Social Campus” now includes almost every group on campus. How can institutions build a great social experience when these groups don’t tend to have common governance, budgets or even social policies?

Do you expect that challenge to persist this year, or will it be something different?

Based on our global survey this year (with over 400 institutions responding) about 60% of institutions are looking to build a defined social strategy in 2018. That is a huge change. That process will be difficult for many schools but it will be an invaluable tool in understanding just what a huge impact social is having.

In terms of security a lot of institutions are building official social policies and account sign-up processes. Many institutions are also doing audits. In our survey 40% of institutions said they shared password yikes!), 20% had a social scandal and 10% had been hacked. This data is doing to increasingly land on the desk of the CIO and CISO. Likely they will start to see social as just as important to secure as email, etc. so movement will occur there.

In terms of governance, social has the potential to save a lot of money and generate a lot of revenue so I am optimistic that we will see different groups getting together to pay for a better social experience. The governance process will need to follow in order to continue to operate shared experiences over time. So I am optimistic that we will see movement for the positive on all fronts this coming year.

Social media is increasingly become a pay-to-play space…are we now at the point where institutions have to stop making excuses for not having a budget or can organic posts still be effective?

I think so. We still hear “we have no money” all the time but at the end of the day a good social experience is a “must have” for any institution that wants to be successful in the coming decade. I don’t think social is a place where any campus on earth can afford not to enhance. 40% of institutions in 2018 plan to spend more on head count and 60% plan to spend more on paid advertising so we are seeing that change in the data already.

As ever, there has plenty of talk recently about Facebook being dead – do you think that’s true?

Facebook isn’t even remotely dead. In fact it is actually stronger than ever. Facebook is highly profitable and has by far the strongest data set of any social network. It is also very actively used by all age demographics and it posts by far the highest engagement score of any social network (used most often and for the longest amount of time). Facebook is also growing to include a lot more capabilities that younger generations like – such as the new Craigslist-like marketplace experience. Facebook also owns Instagram so they get double the data on how to engage with users across different demographics.

Anyone who thinks Facebook is dead just isn’t looking at the data. Yes, younger folks aren’t using Facebook for some things but they are using Instagram (or Snapchat) which is essentially Facebook in a sense. They are designed increasingly to complement each other.

And what about Snapchat? Does it still look healthy to you or has Instagram’ insistence of copying all their key features dealt Snapchat a fatal blow? Is it space that is worth institutions spending time on?

I think Snapchat is much more at risk even though it was the darling early this year. 28% more institutions based on our data are interested in pursuing a Snapchat strategy for next year. 30% more are pursuing an Instagram strategy. I would assume that Instagram is much healthier financially and has far greater development resources so I think that’s not much of a fight. Instagram also had more WAU than Snapchat.

It will be interesting to watch this battle in 2018. I think it’s great to have both of them in the market. I think it is worth pursuing because both Snapchat and Instagram provide a space for authentic user generated content which is engagement gold at the moment. That is the layer where prospective students for example are mining the “real” experience so good to have a presence there.

What do you think of Stories and Live video? Good, bad or ugly?

Better than good. Great! My observation based on over 60 on-site visits this year at HE institutions is that Stories and Live Video get the best engagement scores and the best results if they are well managed and well thought out. If you work with street teams or advocates who can tell a great story in a fun way you will get way more reach than with packaged content.

Should education providers be thinking about podcasting in 2018?

Good question! I think podcasts are a unique channel that can provide great value in areas like campus life, athletics, etc. You can create a huge amount of value from a small number of well thought out questions directed to a guest about an important subject area like student mental health, for example. There is far less to worry about as well in terms of production (outside of great sound and some music) so you can focus on getting great guests and posing them with thought provoking questions. 

To finish, time to make a couple of predictions for the new year. First, what will be the hot social network for education providers in 2018?

I will make three predictions!

The first is that many campuses will look to social for lowering support costs and enhancing the student experience. This will require better integration with ticketing and CRM systems but it will put support into a much better space from the perspective of what students want. In the process institutions will be able to handle more requests for far less money which will enhance ROI.

The second prediction is that social advocacy solutions will increasingly be used to promote research by social influencers. This will significantly increase organic reach without needing to use paid social for that purpose. So an institution that specializes for example in Climate Change (ex: Columbia or UBC) will use influential researchers, reporters and social influencers to spread their research without using paid advertising.

The last prediction is that IT will start to come into the picture as the service owner. Communications and Marketing will reman the “business owner” however in order to open up access to social media management, social risk mitigation, social listening, etc. tools to other stakeholders and enable shared payment agreements … IT will start to become the project owner for social. 

Second, which social network might they be able to drop in the year ahead, if any?

It really depends on the demographic. Twitter and LinkedIn are not social networks for younger generations. On the flip side Snapchat is not a social network for older generations. So if I was in undergrad recruitment I would put more resources towards Instagram than Twitter. If I was in Alumni development I would put more resourcing towards LinkedIn than Twitter but I don’t think that has really escaped anyone at this point. The two bridge networks from my perspective are Facebook and Instagram … they provide value to every demographic.

And finally, can you pick one word or phrase that you think will define how education providers will use social media in 2018?

The switch from “vanity metrics” to true ROI

You can follow Phil on Twitter and find him on LinkedIn. You can also download Hootsuite’s excellent Social Campus Report. You can also learn loads about social media in general on the Hootsuite Blog.

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