🔬 Social media experiments with Newcastle University’s Matt Horne

When it comes to working in social media, we’re often scientists as much as we are artists. And, you know what’s a key part of being a scientist, don’t you…experimenting. It’s also the theme of this episode.

Our guest is Matt Horne, Newcastle University’s Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager and master of making the most of experimenting on social media, trying out new tools and, crucially, learning things from those tests.

In our chat we talk about how you can get into the habit of experimenting on social media, why doing so should be part of every social media professional’s skillset in 2018 as well as throwing in references to Zane Lowe, ducks and Ru Paul.

Subscribe to The Native Podcast now on Apple PodcastsStitcher, via RSS or where ever else you get your podcasts.

Show notes

Matt Horne is the Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager at Newcastle University. You can find him on Twitter, on LinkedIn and on Instagram. You should also check out Matt’s excellent blog.

Before Matt joined Newcastle, their social media looked quite different to how it is now – they knew they needed to do it and so, on the advice of Pickle Jar Communications, they decided to create to an internal team and hired Matt as a part of a team of two for a University with three worldwide campus, 22,000 students, 5,500 staff and a whole load of alumni around the world too!

Newcastle has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, around 125,000 follows on LinkedIn, 21,000 followers on its student Twitter account, around 27,000 on it press/research Twitter feed, around 25,000 followers on Instagram and a solid following on Snapchat.

We came in to help with student recruitment, but we pointed out that social media is more than a recruitment channel – it’s customer service, it’s alumni engagement, it’s current student comms, it’s staff comms, it’s research engagement…so we picked up all of those along the way too.

For Matt, taking pictures of pretty buildings in the sunshine isn’t just an excuse to go outside – that type of content gets plenty of 😍 from current, prospective and former students, all for different reasons.

Matt’s willingness to experiment is partly down to his own character and partly because its his job. There are so many new tools that you need to know how to use them – and the best way to do that is to test them. It’s actually built into Matt’s job to get to grips with all these new toys.

Newcastle were particular hot on trying out Facebook Live – including running campus tours where people picked which direction to go using the comments. They also love Stories and, having honed their skills on Snapchat, were all over them when they came to Instagram.

If you’re don’t try things out quickly, someone else will do it and then you’re the copycat.

Matt’s team tends to roll with the ‘better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ method when it comes to testing stuff out. Do it, analyse the results and report back on what you’ve found.

When it comes to deciding if something is worth playing with, you always have to look at where your audiences are and how you can actually measure it. Also, is it something that our faculty teams can use, or is it something we keep for the central team and get the satellite teams involved via the main channels.

Reporting is also hugely important – without the stats, you can’t make decisions and you can’t understand what happened. Matt pulls together a 10-section report every single month to share with colleagues and to help guide his future thinking.

We’re going to do Ru Paul and ducks for the rest of the year.

Matt thinks that social media pros in 2018 always need that curiosity but also be willing to take your skills and keep them up to date – for example, switching from shooting videos in landscape to portrait or square. There are key sills, but you also need a passion for learning new skills.

Matt’s top three tips for making experimentation a natural part of your social media channels

Keep your ear to the ground

Be willing to upskill

Just do it!


5 apps on your phone you use the most

Personal phone: Instagram, Facebook, 360 Air, Acast and the camera

Work phone: Instagram, OneNote, Twitter, Facebook Ads and Outlook

4 people you’d like to invite round for dinner

Diane Morgan, Adam Buxton, Bojack Horseman and Pauly Shore

3 words to describe what it’s like working for Newcastle Uni

Interesting, challenging and bubbled

2 places/events in the world you’d really love to visit but haven’t been able to yet

Japan and space

1 social media platform you love more than any of the others


Find out more

Matt Horne is the Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager at Newcastle University. You can find him on Twitter, on LinkedIn and on Instagram. You should also check out Matt’s excellent blog.

Thanks to #ASDIE18

The Native Podcast is brought to you by ASDIE, the Annual Summit for Digital Innovation in Education, which takes place in London on Thursday 19 July. Book your ticket now, and use the code POD10 to get a 10% discount!


The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

Get involved!

Want to be guest on a future episode of The Native Podcast? Get in touch!

Related Posts