We can confidently say that, without doubt, one of our all-time favourite social media teams out there is the one you’ll find tucked away in the cloisters at the University of Glasgow. Put simply, Team UofG is the best.
If you work in higher education they’re probably already top of your list of favourites and you’ve almost certainly looked at their stellar campaigns with a mixture of amazement and a little jealousy. And, to be honest, even if you don’t work in education specifically, you’ll find fewer social teams out there quite as good at building community and creating audience-pleasing content as Glasgow’s.
So, with all that in mind, you can understand why we were so happy to travel to Glasgow recently and bag two-thirds of Team UofG’s social gurus for this podcast.
Our guests today are Emma Gilmartin and Tasha Quinn from Glasgow’s social squad, who sat down with us and let us take a peek behind the scenes at one of the best teams out there.
In our chat, we talk about how Glasgow’s team has involved, the importance of giving yourself time to create reactive content, how to get your students and your leaders on board and…well…unicorns!
So, apply your temporary tattoo, get coy and be prepared for a look at what goes on behind the Team UofG curtain.
Emma Gilmartin is head of social media at the University of Glasgow. Tasha Quinn is social media officer at the University of Glasgow. Find Emma on Twitter and on LinkedIn, and follow Tasha on Twitter.
Glasgow has a team of three people focussed on social media, although they were a team of one until as recently as 2015. At that point, they realised they needed more video skills so hired Dan Marrable, before Tasha joined initially as maternity cover.
By creating content and telling people it was successful, we were able to invest further.
Emma is head of the team, looking after strategy and creative campaign planning – as well as a bit of content creation. Dan is a content creator and Tasha looks at content creation as well as monitoring social traffic and dealing with responding – including the fund job of answering Facebook messages! They also have someone helping run their Chinese social channels.
While there isn’t necessarily a typical week for the team, there are a few constants. They have a big planning day every couple of months, when they usually get away from the office and brainstorm. On a weekly basis, they have a calendar to track what’s going on but the team is also a big believer in reactive content and allow time to get out there and create things on the fly.
The reactive stuff performs really well – and the team also use social listening to keep abreast of other, trending topics that they can get involved with.
The team does have aim for a mixture of audiences, although would probably count current students as their main target. Mainly, though, they want to tell good stories.
The team doesn’t have a massive budget for paid social, so will quite often look at what content is performing well organically and then boost it – although they do put some money behind certain campaigns, such as Team UofG or Future World Changers.
As mentioned earlier, the team does set aside time for creating reactive content – in fact, it’s a vital part of their social media strategy.
Reactive content is kind of the point of social media – it’s got to be what people are talking about now. We want to be talking about what our audiences are talking about.
Some of Glasgow’s best content has been reactive stuff – from campus porn to, erm, unicorns.
It’s almost annoying that the reactive content does so well.
Aside from creating content, reporting on it is also key for the UofG team – they create a quarterly report for all their key channels and make it as visual and easy-to-understand as possible. Those reports get sent to senior officers. They will also pull together reports for particular campaigns.
Another thing that helps UofG stand out on social is some of the voices they have involved in their spaces – namely student ambassadors and their Vice-Chancellor.
For the student ambassadors, the idea behind the programmes was for them to create peer-to-peer, authentic content…and they’ve been a resounding success. The ambassadors are paid for their work and are also a great sounding board for the team’s ideas.
You’ve got to loosen the reins and give them control of the channel, otherwise it doesn’t work.
As for the Vice-Chancellor, he’d always been interested and engaged in social media and actually used to have a different Twitter account that he used under a pseudonym. Then, a couple of years later, they decided it was time to give him a more open channel and get him more involved and they went from there.
The UofG team does have access to the VC’s account, but it’s almost entirely him posting on there – he has a real balance of work stuff and life stuff – from football to Italian cooking.
One of the key parts of their VC’s output is that he has a natural passion for using social media and has plenty to say, so he is a perfect fit – this should be kept in mind if your leaders are thinking about getting involved. Are they interested? Will they add value?
Glasgow’s audiences are incredibly engaged – probably one of the most engaged in the sector – something that is a mixture of both the fact that the social media team creates content that really resonates with them, but also that there is something in the waters in Glasgow that makes them feel part of the community.
Of course, we couldn’t avoid talking about #TeamUofG💘
The hashtag has had a legacy far greater than we could have imagined.
It was initially an on-boarding campaign but has morphed into something far, far bigger.
As well as creating sector-leading campaigns themselves, UofG love looking across the sector and seeing what other institutions are up to – take the University of Reading’s internet-breaking tweet from the summer.
They also have their own favourites within the sector – York St John, Oxford Brookes, Loughborough, Sheffield, Keele and Manchester have all caught UofG’s attention.
Tasha’s top three tips for shaping a five-star HE social media team
Have strong communication within your team
Take the time to create reactive content – allow yourself to drop things
Don’t be afraid to try new things
Emma’s top three tips for shaping a five-star HE social media team
Have a mixture of skillsets and personalities within the team
Be agile and create content in-house
Have fun, be brave and try things!
5 apps on your phone you use the most
Emma: Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Podcasts and Love Island
Tasha: Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest and Hive
4 people you’d like to invite round for dinner
Emma: David Attenborough, Dave Grohl, the Obamas (as one) and Kim Cattrall
Tasha: Gordon Ramsay, Louis Theroux, Adele and Taylor Swift
3 words to describe what it’s like working for Glasgow
Emma: inspiring, hectic and fun
Tasha: educational, fun and cold
2 places/events in the world you’d really love to visit but haven’t been able to yet
Emma: Darwin in Australia and see more of Asia
Tasha: Fly in a hot air balloon and India
1 social media platform you love more than any of the others
Emma: Twitter and Instagram Stories