Why you should stop posting your content and start posting theirs
Facebook, eh. People keep saying it’s had its time, but it’s still the largest social media platform, with almost 1.8 billion monthly active users, and a huge growth in advertising revenue.
It’s the living room of social media platforms. You use Facebook to chat to friends and family, organise your social life and hang out with people who share your interests.
For organisations, it’s a tricky one to get right. If all you do is play the success trumpet and shout at people about things you think they should do, you risk alienating your audience.
As a result, you fall foul of the algorithm. And that’s a Bad Thing®.
I’m working on our Facebook strategy right now. The first draft is almost finished, and I’m at a stage where we need to determine the content mix that’s right for our audiences.
It’s clear – based on things we’ve done that have worked*, and things that other organisations do that work well – that user-generated content needs to be a big part of that mix.
*how about a nice example? Here you go.
Back in the summer, I met with two colleagues: one an academic from the University’s events management course, the other a representative from our ace schools and colleges liaison team.
We talked about school proms: something I know absolutely nothing about, but that the students and staff from the events management team do. With the help of our schools and colleges team, they were helping pupils from seven local schools plan their proms.
It’s a lovely project, involving real people and communities. We knew that the pupils, parents and teachers from those schools had a lot of pride in their school communities, and that we could use our social media presence to mobilise those communities.
So we discussed ways of using social media to engage those audiences.
There was one objective: develop brand affinity with the University. Our goals on social media were around engagement and positive perception. We wanted to get lots of likes, comments and shares, and hopefully some positive mentions.
We asked the pupils from each school to make a video about why they should win a package of support worth £5,000 from our events management staff and students, helping to make their prom an unforgettable experience.
We posted the resulting videos on our Facebook page over the course of a week, with a call to action for our fans to like, comment and share to show their support for their school. We asked the schools to share the posts, mobilising their own community.
The resulting videos generated loads of engagement and reach, without a need to boost posts, by mobilising a highly-engaged audience with a very simple call-to-action.
This one, by the pupils at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, generated 2,650 reactions, comments and shares, and reached nearly 70,000 people. That’s organic reach.
Silverdale School’s video reached 41,757 people, generating 1,600 reactions, comments and shares.
In total, we reached 186,188 Facebook users who were not fans of the Sheffield Hallam page. That’s a lot for an organic campaign, and the stats show that the social media activity directly supports our business objective of developing brand affinity with the University among a key target audience.
We were looking for examples of positive perception as well, and a few people left nice comments about our work with the schools.
“So lucky to have this opportunity. Thank you Sheffield Hallam. Please like and share!!”
“A local school working with a local university a perfect combination.”
So user-generated content works well on Facebook. No great revelation, but it’s nice to have the evidence.
Plenty of universities are already onto this, of course. I took to Twitter to find some examples, and the excellent Matt Horne pointed me to Newcastle University’s Facebook page, where they regularly post photos and videos taken on campus by their students.
And, as you’d expect, US universities are very good at making entire campaigns around student content.
So, we’ll be doing more of it on Facebook. It has the potential to support our business objectives, and it’s in the strategy. We’ll also be measuring its performance, and when it generates engagement and reach, we’ll ask ourselves why.
But, as always, don’t let the cart lead the horse. User-generated content isn’t a silver bullet, and it shouldn’t be the only type of content university posts. But it’s a key part of the mix.
Joe Field, social media manager