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15 things we’ve learned from a week of social media panels

Estimated read time: 12 minutes

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned an awful lot this week thanks to our series of social media panels. We picked the brains of a bunch of University and brand marketers, some education thought leaders and some actual, real students too, and boy did they deliver.

Obviously, if you haven’t already, I would strongly encourage you to check out our panels in full – something you can do in the following places 👇

Meet our panel of University marketers

Say hi to our panel of brand marketers

Get to know our panel of current students

Revel in the wisdom our panel of education thought leaders

As editor-in-chief of this place, I wanted to pull out some of key learning and talking points from these panels, which is exactly what I’ve done. I’ve found 15, laid out below, but would love to hear from you if something else really caught your eye – either leave a comment below or drop me a line.

Anyway, let’s get stuck into those headlines, shall we?

panels key learnings summary graphic
15 things we learned from a week of social media panels

Facebook is NOT dead

Don’t believe the hype, people! Reports of Facebook’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

None of my panellists believed that Mark Zuckerberg’s big blue social network is dead – in fact, it doesn’t even seem to be ill. It’s still the biggest player when it comes to advertising and, even if they don’t admit it, a lot of young people still check it.

Our student panel also backed this up; Facebook was the joint most-used network in 2017 (with YouTube) and was the winner when it came to being the one social channel they would struggle to be without.

Now don’t @ me, a panel of just five students doesn’t represent an entire demographic…I know that. But still. Interesting.

Snapchat could be in trouble

Another finding that could be seen as bucking a trend; despite its cool reputation, Snapchat wasn’t really cutting it for our panellists. It was the most-mentioned channel when it came to talking about spaces that flopped for our panellists in 2017, and there was a general consensus that the ephemeral space could struggle in 2018.

It also didn’t fare too well with our students, as can be seen by their choice of one-word descriptions of the channel; if your target audience thinks you’re ‘unnecessary’, ‘self-obsessed’, ‘fleeting’, ‘dying’ and all about ‘vanity’ then you should probably be worried.

Instagram is killing it for marketers

When our two panels of marketers were reflecting on what spaces worked best for them in 2017, Instagram was the over-whelming winner. That combination of ‘paying tribute’ to all of Snapchat’s most-loved features but also having proper analytics and a solid ad platform seems to be paying dividends.

It was also a popular choice for our students; Instagram was their second most-used app last year and a couple of panellists highlighted the fact that, now Instagram has all of those extra features, there’s no point in them going elsewhere, i.e. Snapchat.

YouTube and Facebook are big for students

We’ve already seen that our students are still using Facebook regularly. Their other most-used social space? YouTube.

What’s interesting here is that YouTube didn’t come up that often when talking to our marketers. Sure, it get a few mentions – and Barney Brown did flag it as a very important space for the University of Cambridge in 2018 – but perhaps it should command more of your attention? 🤔

With that in mind…

On YouTube, young people want to be entertained

If you are taking aim at YouTube this year, for God’s sake make your content entertaining. Just look at what our student panel had to say about the site – two of the five one-word descriptions of the site used the word entertaining and, when you look at the influencers and celebrities they’re following regularly, YouTubers come up time and time again.

There’s great potential to do something brilliant on YouTube, just don’t suck – ok?

Expect spending on social to increase in 2018

No shit Sherlock – particularly with organic reach I perpetual decline.

Everyone has a different challenge facing them

I suppose this also shouldn’t be too surprising either – after all, we all have different audiences and different goals – but I was probably expecting at least a couple of recurring answers to the question about challenges.

I guess proving ROI and finding resources to do this stuff properly could each be classed as a winner for this question, but neither of those are new for 2018.

On the right channels, Stories are a winner

There was overwhelming love for Instagram (and, to some extent, Snapchat) Stories from our panellists, but with the caveat that they need to be intentional, well thought-out and have some sort of purpose.

Also, they don’t need to be everywhere – not wanting to point fingers, but Facebook, this means you. Leave them on Instagram please.

A brand’s ethics are important

Our students all talked about being conscious of the ethics of a brand, with some even saying they boycott certain brands because they’re shitbags (admittedly, they didn’t use the word ‘shitbags’, but that was definitely their list).

This all points at needing to be better at articulating your story and really getting under the skin of what makes your brand or organisation tick. It’s about who you are as well as what you do.

When it comes to leaving a social channel behind, make up your own mind

There’s no absolute answer when it comes to thinking about what social channel you should put in the bin like rotten festive leftovers; as our panel of thought leaders said, drop the ones that aren’t working for you and concentrate on the ones that are.

So, yes, that could mean ditching Snapchat. But it could also mean chucking Twitter. You’ve got the data, you know what your goals are…it’s down to you.

LinkedIn is growing in influence for Universities

This was an interesting one; LinkedIn got mentioned a few times by our panel of University marketers as a good driver of traffic and a space to build interesting connections. It seems that the long-awaited merger of University and company pages is finally paying dividends.

Are you paying much attention to your institution’s University page on LinkedIn? If not, maybe you should.

WhatsApp is also a grower

Another social channel mentioned too many times to ignore was WhatsApp. Our students use it as a free alternative to texting, more of our marketers are exploring its potential and it sits in those vague, generic bubbles of ‘messaging apps’ and ‘dark social’, both of which are getting plenty of folk excited in 2018.

In some ways WhatsApp has been easy to ignore these past few years – used by many and generally just there, in the background. Perhaps 2018 will see it stick its head above the parapet?

There’s definitely an interest in podcasting

When it comes to creating serialised audio, our thought leaders are certainly in favour and our marketers seem keen too – although are perhaps a little unsure on where and how to jump in.

As a fully signed up podcast addict, you won’t get any arguments from me on this. It’s a wonderful medium, is full of potential and is becoming more accessible all the time. It’s also a space where you can entertain, engage and inform all in one go.

Why else do you think we’re launching The Native Podcast next week?

Young people aren’t as glued to their phones as you’d think

Stop scoffing at this. More than half of our student panel seemed confident they could go a considerable amount of time without their phone. The idea of going off-grid got mentioned a couple of times too.

I guess the big thing to take away from this is not to overlook the power of non-digital spaces to reach young people. But you knew that already, right?

Everyone loves the University of Glasgow

They’ve long been one of my favourite social media teams and it seems I’m not alone in my admiration of the University of Glasgow’s social media content. Their #TeamUofG campaign came up again and again when our thought leaders listed their favourite campaigns of 2017 and I am not surprised at all.

What really stood out for you from our social media panels? Either leave a comment below or drop me a line and let me know!