Goodbye golden hour, hello Golden Dragon

When I first starting working in communications in 2005, crisis communications plans looked very different to how they look today.

For a start, there was a big focus on media relations, and how they could help you get your messages across – through interviews, regular statements, etc.

And, of course, we had the magical ‘golden hour’. The golden hour was essentially the time that you had from the start of a crisis unfolding to formulate and agree your handling plan, before people started to make their own assumptions about what was happening, or you were lambasted for not saying or doing anything.

one hour

Fast forward to 2017, and not only do I feel much older than I did in 2005, but those crisis communications plans look pretty different too. And, while the media still play an important role in a crisis, that golden hour has pretty much disappeared.

These days, with so many people plugged into social media day and night, often the first way an organisation finds out that a crisis or issue is brewing is through Twitter or Facebook (incidentally, this is one of the main reasons why I think organisations should hand overall responsibility for social media to their communications practitioners, but there’s probably another blog in that).

Last month, at about 6.30pm one Friday evening (it’s always a Friday), we started to see some direct messages and mentions on the @sheffhallamuni Twitter account, complaining that adverts for a postgraduate open day featuring both Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield were appearing on the Breitbart website. If you don’t know Breitbart, it’s a fairly ‘extreme’ news website – and I use the term ‘news’ very loosely indeed. In fact, much of its content is just plain offensive.

Both us and the small team running the @sheffielduni account moved quickly to agree a joint handling line that we could use on Twitter as a statement and in replies to specific mentions or questions. We did this simply by DMing each other straight away (I was getting a takeaway at the time. In 2005 it’s unlikely I would have been able to deal with an unfolding incident from the reception area of the Golden Dragon).

Twitter crisis1

As we posted replies, explaining that we’d be contacting our advertising partner to ensure they updated their list of websites to ban, the advertiser very helpfully stepped in to say they had removed Breitbart immediately from their list (once again, there’s probably another blog post on the perils of programmatic advertising, but that’s for another day – and in fact, Damian Tambini from LSE has already done so far more articulately than I ever could as part of a research project into how advertising is fuelling fake news).

This also prompted some positive responses from some of the people who had initially made their feelings heard.

Twitter crisis3

Now, while this wasn’t necessarily a major crisis, it had the potential to create some uncomfortable reputational damage if we had failed to act quickly. The lessons here are pretty clear: try and set up a system in which you have people in place to check social media out of hours; and it helps to have a good working relationship with partner organisations’ comms teams – it’s likely you’ll need to work with them at some point.

Spring roll anyone?

Ally Mogg, head of news and PR
@allymogg

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®.

The annoyance factor is real

The annoyance factor is real

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.

Got an example of user-generated content done well? Ping it my way – here, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

Chris Husbands: Why I both love and hate Twitter

It began – as some good, and many bad ideas do – over dinner with a couple of friends in 2011, one a national policy-maker (@johndunford), one a leadership development consultant (@LshipMatters). They persuaded me to sign up to Twitter, and, five years on, I have accumulated over 10,000 followers.

Twitter is equally seductive and maddening. There is always another tweet to check, and I’ve reached the conclusion that some people seem to spend all day locked to their smartphones twittering.

giphy

It is always frustrating: if you are an academic, communicating anything in 140 characters is a real challenge, and the danger is that you say things you don’t quite mean – even if you manage to avoid the elephant trap of typing errors, spotting, yes, just a split second too late that you have missed out a crucial letter. Some words are best avoided altogether, given the potential for a single letter slip to lead you into embarrassment.

And yet: I stay there. Partly, my Twitter presence is an aspect of institutional marketing and communications: I will always tweet, retweet or celebrate institutional achievements, and I take every opportunity to project the University. My handle is @Hallam_VC after all.

Secondly, I do find things out on Twitter – I pick up links to reports and papers I would not otherwise come across. My routine is to quickly save things to an Evernote archive, which I have lightly indexed around a series of tags to help me find things later, and I will read them on trains or early in the morning.

This is perhaps the most useful aspect of Twitter – access to things I would not typically or routinely come across.

And I do engage in debate – although less so than I used to. I don’t like to see ideas which are ill-informed or misdirected go unchallenged. But this is, really, a mug’s game: I’ve learnt from Twitter that any idea, no matter how sensible and evidentially grounded, will attract the snorting derision of someone – and you can be pretty rude in 140 characters (you can be very rude in about eight characters, actually).

Don't feed the trolls.

Don’t feed the trolls.

I’ve learnt that no-one really believes that your opinions are your own – they are always traceable back to your role or your job, and I take ever more care about what I say. No Twitter argument is ever really settled, though some tweeters seem determined to simply grind their opponents into submission. I utterly despise the overt bullying, aggression and unpleasantness which it has legitimated amongst too many individuals and groups.

Twitter has its uses, but it is a dreadful time waster and an excuse for lazy or slovenly thinking; and I write that, and then I’ll find a link to a report which forces me to think hard about something I thought I knew well, and I will be engaged again.

My advice? Like any tool, make it work for you, and don’t let it use you. And don’t get hooked.

Professor Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor
@Hallam_VC

Six principles of doing video better

There’s been a massive growth in online video consumption in the last two or three years. According to the latest stats, half of us are regularly watching video on mobile devices.

screen-shot-2016-03-30-at-15-27-57

And the trend is set to continue. No big surprises, then.

But the definition of video is changing: we watch video on a plethora of platforms, in a number of different formats.

We watch disposable 15-second clips, filmed in portrait and covered in scribbles and doodles, on Snapchat and Instagram. We watch two-minute semi-professional instructional videos, product reviews and comedy skits on YouTube. And we watch live streams on Facebook and Periscope.

Video has grown sideways as well as upwards.

This trend brings a problem for the content producers: saturation. As organisations cotton on to this trend, they shift their focus to producing video content, and social media users become overloaded, swiping and scrolling past your carefully-crafted video.

So there’s a need to adapt. These are some of things I’ve been doing to adapt. You might find them useful too.

My six principles of doing video better

  1. Make shorter videos. Vine may be dead, but short viewing times are here to stay. They say a photograph should say one thing – it should have one idea to communicate. Video needs to be the same.
  2. Subtitles. People are watching with the sound down, so bite the bullet and sub your videos if they’re for social channels.
  3. Make it about people. If you can, make it about your audience. Who are they? What do they want? Tell them a story that answers those questions, and I guarantee they’ll engage with it. This graduation video is an example of it working for us.
  4. Do less, but better. Stop posting badly-edited, shaky smartphone videos, and invest in a decent bit of kit. Even a basic camcorder on a tripod will get you better results. Look at how the most popular YouTube vloggers do it.
  5. Make paid-for promotion a part of your strategy. If your videos have a call-to-action, or you’re trying to achieve huge online consumption of your content, stump up for a bit of advertising. You don’t need a huge budget to reach new people on social, but you do need a budget.
  6. Make it for the platform it’s being distributed on. Someone looking for pretty things on Instagram wants a very different experience to someone searching and browsing YouTube.

These are principles I’ve adopted over the last few weeks, and they’re working for our social channels. During graduation fortnight we posted eight graduation-themed videos on our Facebook page, including a live broadcast from Sheffield City Hall.

Those videos generated a combined organic reach of 185,000 over two weeks, and a couple of the posts generated a ton of comments from users who wanted to share their own pride in being a Sheffield Hallam student, graduand or alumnus.

We did OK for likes, comments and shares on Twitter too.

Lastly, it’s important, as always, not to get too dazzled by the technology. As communicators, we’re sometimes driven by output, and there’s always a danger of us falling into the ‘we need a *insert output*’ trap.

So start with the goal, then move onto the audience, platform and output. Keep asking why. If you’re sure video is the right medium for the story, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you plan the video. You don’t need to storyboard it, but you should definitely think about these things:

  • Concept – what’s your ‘elevator pitch’ for the video?
  • Narrative – how is the story told? Down-the-line, over-the-shoulder, voiceover?
  • Locations – what do you know about your locations? They bring with them a whole range of challenges.
  • Pace – how many shots will you need in the edit? How fast do things move?
  • Technology – what kit do you need to make it happen?

I hope that gives you some food for thought. I’m always keen to hear how people approach video, so let me know your own tips for creating engaging video content – in the comments, or over on Twitter.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

Social strategy in four (easy?) steps

LONG POST ALERT!

TL;DR: Writing strategies for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Long process, loads to do, need help. Watch this space.


I’m currently leading on a very exciting piece of work: a set of platform-specific social media strategies for the University’s corporate social channels.

Until now, I’ve argued that we don’t need a social media strategy – we have a communications strategy which directs our approach to all of our comms, and social media is a set of tools we use as part of that.

That’s still true. We don’t need an over-arching social media strategy. But we do need to know exactly what we use Facebook for, what we use Twitter for and what we use Instagram for.

We’ve come a long way over the last year, developing more collaborative approaches to social media, opening corporate channels up to student takeovers and becoming much more serious about our approach to content planning.

So it’s an opportunity to take things to the next level.

Taking things to the next level

Taking things to the next level – there will be challenges and pitfalls, and an enormous monkey

The starting point for these platform-specific strategies is identify the priority platforms. I’m looking at Facebook first – because it’s just huge, with 1.7bn monthly users – followed by Twitter, then Instagram.

In fact, let’s call those platforms The Big Three.

Why are they a priority? Because a lot of what we do on social media is about recruitment and retention of students, and those channels tend to be where most of our engagement happens with that target audience.

Added to those three, Snapchat and Yik Yak are lurking in the background. We were late to the party with Snapchat, so our network is less developed than it is on The Big Three. That doesn’t mean those platforms are out of scope, it just means I’ll get to them when they emerge as priorities.

Additionally, I’m doing a similar piece of work for our LinkedIn presence. It’s a very different platform to The Big Three, so is completely separate to this work.

Of course, there’s a process to follow here. Although there’s knowledge and expertise in our marketing and communications teams, much of what we do is instinctive. So we’re starting from scratch.

Step one

Step one is putting the team together. Initially, we have representatives from across our mar-comms teams, from content specialists to internal comms experts. That group might expand, and we might break into smaller groups for specific pieces of work.

Step two

The next step is to establish some goals. This bit is essential for an effective strategy. We’re looking at business objectives first (get people to an open day), then aligning them to goals we can achieve with social media (track clicks, measure conversions).

Basic stuff, but without it we’re jumping straight into tactical stuff.

It’s very easy to get sidetracked during this step, as we either get lost in the possibilities, or we get dazzled by shiny things. When this happens, it’s important to ask ‘why’.

“What’s our objective?”

“We could do with a social media account for X audience.”

“But why?”

“So that we can achieve Y.”

Bingo. That’s a goal. Everything leading up to it is tactical, and can be shelved for now.

Step three

The next thing to do is an audit of existing channels. Specifically, what we’re doing with the corporate Facebook page. With the main Twitter account. With our Instagram account.

How do we use Messenger? What are we doing with check-ins? Reviews?

What works well as an organic post to our timeline? What generates engagement? What works well as an advert?

Who’s doing it well, or better than us? What works well for them? What are they doing that we’re not?

A lot of this is about the technology. How are we using it? And what does that say about us?

What does our use of social media say about the culture of the University?

This is a huge piece of work, and needs to be focused on each channel separately. The aim here is to look at functionality, audience and competitors. Top level stats like the size of the network are less relevant right now (unless ‘to grow a bigger audience on X channel’ has emerged as a goal).

What’s clear from this step of the process is that knowing your audience is essential. And that knowledge needs to be qualitative, as well as data-driven.

Step four

Finally, once we’ve established the goals, done the audit and audience research, we’ll be ready to work out what content we need for each platform. That’s when we’ll have a strategy.

There’s a mix of content to be determined. ‘Shouting about’ things and endless promotion switches audiences off, so we’ll need to be conversational and human.

The annoyance factor is real

The annoyance factor is real

We do need to promote things and raise awareness of stuff, but we need to do it in the right way, and at the right times.

Our content needs to be tailored to each channel. The days of ‘have you put it on social media?’ are over.

Audiences choose their platforms because they want to experience that platform. If we want to engage an audience on Instagram, we need to make a thing for Instagram. And knowing that audience, what they want from a platform, and what they’re OK with from us, is fundamental.

Your audience: who are they and what do they want?

This is such a big piece of work (really it’s three pieces of work) that I expect it will take two or three months to ‘complete’. And, even then, it will never really be finished. We’ll need to review and adjust regularly, depending on what happens to each platform.

I’ll post more about our strategies for our social platforms as the work develops. It’s still very early. If you’ve got questions, or you’d like to know more about the process, drop me a line or a tweet and I’ll tell you what I can.

And if you’ve got experience of writing a social media strategy, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

Clearing 2016 – three ways we used social media to make a difference

A-level results day. It can be an incredibly stressful time for students and, depending on what happens, it might involve them changing their study plans very quickly.

At Hallam, hundreds of members of staff (and student ambassadors) from across the University worked tirelessly to help those people, recruiting new students to the University through the clearing and confirmation process. Like previous years, Clearing 2016 was a huge team effort, bringing staff from every department together.

Our social media presence has grown significantly over the last few years, and the way we use it during clearing and confirmation has changed. This year, we wanted to do a few things differently.

Firstly, we wanted to tell our clearing story: the range of people involved, the excitement on the day, and our enthusiasm for changing people’s lives.

We also wanted to reply to everyone who took the time to message us about how excited they were to come and study here. No, really. Everyone. Engagement with our new fans and followers was really important, and we wanted to get it right.

Lastly, we wanted to use the technology to add real value to the clearing process at Hallam.

This is how we did it.

Telling our story

Our promotional content focused – as it often does – on our students. We found four students who came to us through clearing, and we created visual content based on their experiences.

Because we wanted to reach new audiences, we did a lot of advertising on Facebook and Instagram with our student stories. We also did some organic posts with them.

This organic post reached over 13,000 people, had over 4,500 video views and got a bit of engagement, with over 150 likes, comments and shares. Our paid-for posts obviously reached many more people – people who fit our target demographics and who didn’t already like our Facebook page.

Engagement

We knew activity on Twitter would peak between 7am and 2pm, based on previous years. We’d get questions, in the form of @s and DMs, and we’d get notifications from people happy they’d secured a place at Hallam.

So we assigned a team member to each stream on Twitter: we had someone looking after notifications, one person looking after DMs, and someone else ready to post relevant, interesting and useful content to our timeline. The system worked well, and it meant we replied to every message.

In total, we sent 190 tweets during Clearing, and 35 DMs. We received 353 mentions, and our tweeting behaviour over the key two days of Clearing was 92 per cent conversations and 8 per cent updates. 72 per cent of our tweets were with new contacts, and 28 per cent were with existing contacts.

To increase engagement further, we set up a Facebook Live broadcast from the clearing suite, featuring one of our ‘faces of clearing’, Ben. This live video reached over 14,000 of our fans, and got shared nearly 30 times.

We used the live stream to answer questions, show the buzz in the clearing suite, and humanise our operation. We did something similar with our Instagram and Snapchat stories, which even featured a surprise appearance from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Husbands.

Adding value

Our biggest change this year was to open up the application process through Facebook’s Messenger service. On results day, people could begin the application process by sending a direct message to our Facebook page.

Once they’d done so, one of our dedicated Facebook triage team would ask for their qualifications and other details needed to create an application. Or, if they didn’t meet our requirements, they’d sensitively let them know.

It was exactly the same process and conversation that new applicants would experience if they called our clearing hotline and spoke to an adviser. But on a social media platform.

We used Facebook’s functions to enhance and manage the process. We used saved replies for parts of the conversation, and we tracked conversations with the labelling function. We also added a note to each conversation, identifying the status of the application – either ‘application created’, ‘didn’t meet requirements’ or ‘other’.

In total, we put around 20 applicants forward through this process, knowing that if just one of them converted, it would be worth our time and effort.

Overall, this was our biggest social media operation yet, involving two separate teams: one dedicated to engagement and publishing, and one dedicated to facilitating the application process. A whole range of Hallam people took part in our social story-telling: from students to the VC.

As a result our content across social platforms was genuine, engaging – and it was about people.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

Thought leadership from the top

Today Sheffield Hallam’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Husbands, has published a blog on the BERA website about how social media has transformed professional communities.

In his BERA blog, he says that: “Social media has brought together teachers, policy wonks and academics in virtual coalitions. Some say that there has been nothing like it before, though those who do largely overlook the ‘teachers’ centre’ movement of the 1970s and 1980s which also, in admittedly local settings, also brought together like minded teachers who formed networks which brought about change.  But even so the scale here is quite remarkable.”

Prof Husbands is a prolific blogger and tweeter. He writes a weekly blog and uses it as a channel for communicating with staff – it’s a great way to keep in regular contact to discuss topical education issues, celebrate successes, and just tell people what he’s been doing.

Chris_Husbands412

For communications professionals, having a senior leader who sees the potential and the opportunities provided by social media is really valuable. We know that social is here to stay. The channels may change in the future, but digital communication is now embedded in our personal and professional lives.

Chris is a great example of how senior leaders can use social media for communication, engagement in debate, and thought leadership. His recent blog about the Government’s plans for new grammar schools in The Conversation pulled no punches.

His blogs for the Institute of Education where he worked until December 2015, are being compiled and edited into a new book, which will be available on their website soon.

 

Ally Mogg, Head of News and PR

@allymogg

LinkedIn 3D conference: 7 key themes and a few takeaways

Cherry blossom in Spring at University of Birmingham

The venue was University of Birmingham’s beautiful campus. Photo by Jonathan Crannage.

This week, I took part in the LinkedIn3D conference at the University of Birmingham, presenting a few stats about our University Page before starting a conversation about content – what works, what doesn’t. I was joined by Higher Education professionals from three key areas: careers, alumni and marketing-communications.

The conference, organised by LinkedIn’s education evangelist Charles Hardy, was opened by the always-brilliant Eric Stoller, and has since been documented comprehensively by Warwick University’s digital comms expert Dave Musson.

The format was free-and-easy, with much of the content on the day being shaped by those in attendance. Some key themes emerged early on, and they’re themes that will resonate with anyone in Higher Education who uses social media to support their work.

Here they are:

One team working

Large organisations have trouble getting teams to talk to each other, let alone work with each other. At Sheffield Hallam, planning for our showcase sessions has spurred us on, and we’re in the process of setting up a LinkedIn working group, dedicated to planning content and finding opportunities to make the most of the platform.

What we’re finding is that it’s difficult to get people from every single area round a table, so start with a core of people who can get on with it. Eventually, others will join in.

Content

Eric Stoller said it best in his keynote: “University Pages showcase the vibe of your institution, through the content you post and the comments people leave.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of discussion throughout the day was about the amorphous subject of content. I opened the marcomms track by showcasing some of the things I’d been posting on Hallam’s University Page. In particular, a nostalgic post about our old campus on Psalter Lane, which has generated 149 likes and 39 comments so far.

That’s a really high level of engagement, and it continues to get more. In general, good content on LinkedIn seems to have more longevity than Facebook or Twitter, which are usually home to fleeting moments. Replying to comments is important, if you want to keep the conversation going, and doing it in a personal way usually gets better results.

Dave Musson talked us through his approach at Warwick: they post once a day, early on in the day, and it tends to get good engagement.

There was a lot of talk of LinkedIn’s interface, how to get round the lack of formatting options, and its lack of native video.

My lightbulb moment happened when the discussion moving towards the idea of alumni-generated content. Jonathan Crannage, digital content co-ordinator at Loughborough University, is a Sheffield Hallam alumnus, and tweeted me during the workshop about his collection of Psalter Campus photos.

That kind of approach to user-generated content would be really interesting to try on a University Page, and I’m keen to try it out.

Groups

A lot of people still use discussion groups to broadcast. At Sheffield Hallam we haven’t cracked that nut either.

The best advice came from Charles Hardy, who said that “groups need watering”. Online conversations take place between a number of people, so if you’re relying on one person opening the door to a group once a week and shouting into an empty room, you’re doing it wrong.

You can start a conversation from nothing, by involving a few people. So ask a question, prod people, and see what you can get moving. Someone raised a really good point about discussion groups: what can we offer our alumni through those groups, that benefits us and them in a mutually beneficial way? If you can answer that, your groups will suddenly become hives of activity and outcomes.

Eric Stoller suggested trying ‘ask me anything’ style Q&As with careers teams in groups. We’ll definitely give this a try.

Engaging stakeholders

This theme was originally about engaging academics, but was extended to ‘stakeholders’ after the morning’s workshops.

There was some discussion of employer engagement through Company Pages (as well as groups), but my biggest takeaway was around blogging. We talked about encouraging academics to blog on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform, but what about careers teams? Alumni relations teams?

If HE professionals start blogging on LinkedIn, University Pages can use that content to engage alumni, and group-owners can use those blogs to start conversations.

Another lightbulb moment: get your VC to blog on Pulse.

Also, hashtags work in Pulse. Seriously. Go try it now: search in ‘Posts’ for a hashtag and see what comes up. You’ll be amazed.

Employer engagement

Another theme that morphed and merged throughout the day, fitting into the ‘Engaging stakeholders’ breakout session in the afternoon. I’ll be honest, I don’t have much experience of doing this, and there was very little discussion in the sessions I was in of how to do it.

I’d probably do this through groups, as well as our Company Page, which is currently used more for employer brand stuff.

LinkedIn features

Charles Hardy was good enough to invite critical feedback from delegates on what they want from LinkedIn, and what features they’d want to see in the future. He also broke the news of LinkedIn’s new student app, which launched in the US this week.

I asked for a Pages Manager app. Pretty please, with sugar on top. We want notifications, a better interface, and to get away from our desks.

Native video is happening, although we don’t have an idea of when. But metrics and analytics are on the way, according to Charles. And Company and University Pages will soon be merged, making our lives easier.

So lots of good things on the horizon for HE professionals using LinkedIn, and it’s encouraging that they’re so keen to reach out to a very engaged audience, talk to them and listen to feedback.

If anything in the post resonates with you, let me know in the comments. Especially if you’re doing anything a bit different and interesting with groups.

Joe Field, social media manager
@joemcafield

Graduation 2015: a strategic approach to social

People sometimes ask me about our ‘social media strategy’. The truth is that we don’t have one – nor do we need one.

We do have a communications strategy which covers the strategic use of social media to raise profile and manage reputation.

And that’s the right approach. We don’t have a ‘telephone strategy’, or an ’email strategy’. When it comes to social media, we have content strategies, guidelines and a range of different functions that we provide with social media tools.

What we do with social media directly supports our communications strategy. I’ll use the example of our Graduation 2015 campaign to illustrate how.

For two weeks in November, our students took to the stage in Sheffield’s City Hall, shaking hands with Professor Robert Winston and picking up their certificates.

#throwback #graduation #shugrad #proud #sheffield #sheffieldhallam

A post shared by Camille (@camilleboullz) on

It’s a key milestone in the student experience, and a real opportunity to demonstrate the sense of belonging – or brand affinity – among our student and alumni communities. And, by involving those communities in our social media campaign, we had the opportunity to show how vibrant the sense of belonging among students and alumni is to a range of external audiences.

We also wanted to use social media to enhance the experience of graduates during the fortnight of celebrations. So, working with graduate Tom Stayte and his innovative SquareShare social printing service, we gave them a reason to engage with it. By posting their photos to Twitter or Instagram, and tagging them ‘#SHUgrad’, they could get free printed copies, with details of our Alumni Connect service on each print.

On our own channels, we focused on the graduates themselves, ‘doorstepping’ them at the City Hall, and asking them what they loved most about their time at Sheffield Hallam.

As well as promoting engagement with #SHUgrad at the City Hall, we interacted with social media users in real time, offering personalised responses with a view to deepening engagement as conversations developed.

One of the key themes in our communications strategy is our role in the city region. We hold our graduation ceremonies in Sheffield’s City Hall, right in the heart of the city centre. By focusing on visual, student-led content, in and around the City Hall, we demonstrated our civic pride, and our role in providing education, skills and employability in the region.

Lastly, we communicated the University’s values around equality, diversity, and inclusion, by including a diverse range of students – from a range of backgrounds and academic areas – in the campaign.

The #SHUgrad campaign is a great example of a university using social media for community management. Teams from the university’s marketing, communications and alumni functions worked with students from the start, involving them in the campaign (by getting them to create the graduation video) and interacting with them throughout graduation fortnight.

That approach is fundamental to social media at Hallam: we want to show our audiences that we use social media to talk to, listen to, and get feedback from, student and alumni communities. And, by encouraging social media users to post about graduation from their own accounts (and share our posts) we reached new audiences.

Here are the stats: conversations about#SHUgrad led to 6,871,453 brand impressions, and 11,339 engagements with the @sheffhallamuni Twitter account alone. And the #SHUgrad hashtag trended in Sheffield every day for the whole two weeks.

On a personal level, it was also a really good example of teams from across the University working together, with students, on a key bit of University business. And it’s opened the door to even more collaborative, engaging approaches to social media at Hallam.

Joe Field, social media manager

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