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Summer graduation: six things we learned through social media at The University of Manchester

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Hands up who loves graduation? 🤚🤚🤚

Yep, it’s the most wonderful time of the year to be a higher education social media professional. Graduation is, quite simply, hella fun.

But, aside from being a hoot, it’s also an opportunity to learn LOADS about how to improve your social media presence and content. To prove this, our friend Alistair Beech from the University of Manchester is here to round up what he’s learned from this year’s shindig.

Over to Alistair.

1. Graduates love personalised content

It’s challenging to keep new graduates engaged once they’ve donned their cap and gown and shaken hands with the Vice-Chancellor on graduation day. It’s equally challenging to get them to complete key tasks like updating their details or signing up to alumni networks.

Colleagues in our Development and Alumni Relations team took on this challenge by distributing 30-second clips of graduates’ big moment onstage, direct to their email inbox, alongside other key information and calls to action. The clips helped increase alumni email open rates by 58% and the branded videos were widely shared via graduates’ personal social accounts.

2. Ceremony live streams are as popular as ever

10% more users watched the University’s live graduation streams on our corporate website this year, compared with 2017: with additional views gained through live streams on YouTube.

3. Build hero content around familiar faces

Lemn Poem

Yesterday our Chancellor Lemn Sissay read his powerful poem, 'Making a Difference', to our graduands just before they graduated #UoMGraduation

Posted by The University of Manchester on Thursday, July 12, 2018

The social media team worked with our Chancellor, Lemn Sissay to engage directly with students who mentioned the University’s Twitter account during graduation. GIFs featuring Lemn congratulating graduates and delivering messages of support were sent directly to users, while a recital of his ‘Making a Difference’ poem received over 21,000 views on Facebook and over 1,200 reactions, comments and shares.

4. Animals in graduation dress still drive high engagement

When an Instagram influencer (also an alumnus) tagged us in photos taking her dogs for a walk on campus, we invited them back for graduation. Over 79,000 users saw or engaged with the below photograph of Maru, a Chow Chow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Similar figures were recorded for the cat dressed in a graduation gown, which was tagged to the #UoMGraduation hashtag by a student. Among the pomp and ceremony of graduation day, this content showed the lighter, less formal side of the celebrations.

dogtorate at the university of manchester

5. Wakelet proved a useful tool to capture user-generated content

What to do with all of that UGC now that Storify has closed? We used Wakelet, the free content curation platform and embedded a ‘Summer Graduation’ story on our corporate website, driving traffic to it via social media each day. Wakelet works especially well with Twitter content, with near seamless integration through hashtag and a keyword search functions.

Facebook and Instagram are also supported, but analytics were limited to total views only, so we couldn’t differentiate between views driven from social or our website. Editorially, it proved a useful way of developing a story and highlighting key content, such as interviews with students, calls to action from the alumni team or proud tweets from academics.   

6. Graduation at Manchester is truly a global affair

The most shared news article on social media throughout graduation fortnight? We used social listening to find a Gambian news outlet, Gunjur online highlighting the graduation of HCRI Masters student, Kabiru Touray.

university of manchester international graduate