#SHUinsiders – the pilot year

Back in summer 2015 we created the first Insider’s Guide to Sheffield Hallam – an all-encompassing manual to the University and the city, predominately aimed at new undergraduates. The guide featured students who shared their views on the whole Sheffield Hallam experience, and they were christened the SHUinsiders.

Exploring the scope for the Insiders
As a member of the Student Experience marketing team, I was keen to explore using SHUinsiders to facilitate digital student-student communications with the primary aims of

  • enhancing students’ experiences of the University and the city by demonstrating student life (with a secondary aim of supporting recruitment)
  • developing a sense of belonging, community and brand affinity amongst the student population

Going social and working with Joe
In light of the University website redevelopment being underway, we were limited in terms of the presence we could create for the Insiders on the Sheffield Hallam website. So we decided that using social media was a logical way forward, allowing the students to post regular updates as and when they had information to share. The team and I then met with social media manager Joe Field to discuss how we could make this happen, and the #SHUinsiders project was born.

From here, Joe and I took leadership of the project and progressed it through its next stages.

Finding our stars
Over the course of the academic year, eight students worked as #SHUinsiders after being identified through various channels including a workshop, advertising via the Careers Hub, SHU GoGlobal activities, and other social media activity undertaken for the University’s Clearing campaign. The following three are being taken through to 2016/17.

Clarissa Alford, second year history student in 2015/16
Clarissa Allford is our original insider who I met at the Insider’s Guide student workshop. Her infectious enthusiasm about Sheffield Hallam and her positive and likeable character made her an obvious choice. Her interests include vintage, vinyl and music and she truly believes in making the most of the student experience.

Lawrence Penn, first year geography student in 2015/16
Lawrence responded to a job advertisement, and was selected due to his range of hobbies and interests which include cycling, the Peak District and the great outdoors, performing and media. He’s also a huge advocate for the Students’ Union.

Yuvini Hettiarachchi, marketing communications and advertising placement year student in 2015/16
Sri Lankan student Yuvini was identified by colleagues in International Student Support due to her great work on SHU GoGlobal-related activities. She brought an international perspective to the team and was excellent at finding and sharing on-campus opportunities.

Our other enthusiastic Insiders were Katie Blaylock, Gabriel Chiew, Jamilya Ashyrbaeva, John Rowbotham and Abbie Gregory.

Find out more about this year’s Insiders on their new blog site.

How the project worked
During this first year, the Insider’s hints, tips and experiences of student life were predominantly shared via their Twitter feeds, and sometimes through Facebook and Instagram. The best Tweets were shared by Joe via the corporate channel to facilitate greater exposure.

Content was predominantly student-led, and we relied on the students to share information, opportunities and events via their social media accounts, focusing on anything which might improve the student experience for their peers.

I also suggested other ideas for content through a private Facebook group (a method of communication suggested by the Insiders themselves at a gathering we had at Tamper Coffee). This included events we wanted them to get more involved in such as Varsity and Outlines where we offered extra incentives such as free tickets. And various promotional opportunities such as the SHUcard £1 Wednesday offer. Plus anything else, either on or off-campus, which ultimately had a positive impact on the student experience.

In addition, we asked them to get involved in mini projects led by Joe – such as Periscope broadcasts at the opening of Coffee Union at the Students’ Union and the Christmas Fayre in Hallam Hall.

Highlights of the academic year

The #SHUinsiders week-long takeover on the corporate Instagram account was a great success and certainly one of the highlights of the year, as encompassed in Joe Field’s blog post. In fact it was the most engaged with moment on the account, with 1,630 likes and 50 comments.

At the end of the academic year, #SHUinsiders was the second most engaged with hashtag on the account with 852 interactions. Only #sheffield beat it with 1,014, with #wearehallam in third place at 584.

As of 31 May, the highest performing post on the Hallam Facebook account was Insider Katie Blaylock’s ‘day in the life’ story with 63 likes. Katie wrote a diary-entry style account of a typical day in her shoes accompanied by her own photos, and this clearly resonated with our audience.

We saw a very high level of #SHUinsiders activity on Twitter over the academic year, with 432 mentions of the hashtag up till 31 May 2016. Twitter proved to be a quick and simple platform from which the Insiders could broadcast, and an effective way for Joe to share their content via the corporate account.

What we learned
In a nutshell…

  • this type of student-generated content increases interaction and engagement with all our channels
  • the Insiders are helping to create the sense of community we were aiming for
  • they’re also successfully promoting the Hallam experience and student life in Sheffield
  • Twitter has been an effective platform from which to generate ‘live’ posts and share quick updates


  • the Insiders need greater exposure to increase awareness and engagement with their accounts
  • they need dedicated a platform to which we can direct traffic and from where they can blog
  • we need to explore additional platforms more such as Snapchat

The future for the Insiders
For 2016/17, these students have become known as #HallamInsiders with a reduced team of four members. This year, they have been asked to write blog posts on a dedicated area of the Sheffield Hallam blog site, sometimes under pre-determined themes which correlate with the student experience CRM plan (eg reassurance for new students in September/October).

They will also continue to share their experiences, hints and tips by posting regular Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts etc (sometimes guided by our team). And get involved in more projects with Joe Field and the team using platforms such as Facebook Live and Snapchat.

The Insiders and the #HallamInsiders blog have been promoted in the Insider’s Guide, in kitchen packs sent out to halls of residence, and through the corporate Twitter channel. Joe and I will also look into how we can increase exposure even further, working with other social media account holders such as Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union and faculties to encourage them to share content.

Helen Horton, student experience marketing


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