5 Things Connected Campuses Do Well

Businesses can take social media lessons from some colleges and universities

by Jason Falls |

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jill Carlson, the Inbound Marketing Manager at Argyle Social.

Colleges and universities are using social media more than ever before to connect with alumni, students, prospective students, and their communities. But there’s a big difference between who’s doing it well and who’s just doing it to, well, just keep up in a US News and World Report kind of way. And the universities that are dominating social media seem to have a few things in common.

1) Serve “cake” and “broccoli”

Schools will always have campus points of pride to report, such as Higher Education accolades, professors’ published research, students’ awards, and campus updates. But as schools craft their social media strategies, it’s important to balance the “broccoli” (content that is important and good for the school) and the “cake” (content that is fun and delicious). If you share enough cake, your audience will consume the occasional broccoli.

Broccoli Cake
awards human interest pieces
published research crowd-sourced content
Higher Ed. news contests

2) Show the big picture

It’s not unusual for schools to have hundreds of social properties across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, all managed by different teams, staff members and even students (think clubs). Socially savvy universities ensure students, faculty, prospective students, and alumni can find and access all social properties by listing them in an index, like UNC and University of Oregon, or by creating lists within Twitter, like Harvard.

3) Coordinate cross-channel messages

Just as schools synch direct mail, phone-a-thons, email campaigns, and newsletters, it’s important to integrate social media into these campaigns. UNC’s “The Carolina Way” campaign included ways to participate via email, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The best social universities meet their audience where they are and invite collaboration and participation.

4) Define the why and what

Some schools use Twitter to inform current students of on-campus happenings, from building closures to theater auditions. Others use it as a way to connect the college to the world, so real-time on-campus news that may not be relevant to an alumnus 1,000 km away isn’t shared via Twitter. The best schools can define why they post and what they post and segment audiences accordingly. UNC’s Office of Development has a mission statement that defines the why and what to avoid mission creep. Since social media is opt-in, it’s more important than ever to target content to the right audience.

5) Defend your social properties

Both internal and external pressures can challenge the integrity of a school’s social properties. Whether it’s boring content passed along to you by a coworker –“Can you link to my monthly newsletter on Facebook?”– or misinformation posted on your school’s Facebook page –”See you at the game at [wrong time]!” — have an actionable plan for dealing with threats. Social properties have become the new homepage. It’s time to defend them as such.

What best practices have you seen from universities and colleges? Share any tips or advice you might have in the comments!

Jill Carlson is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Argyle Social. Argyle helps businesses drive results through social media and Jill’s job is to find more happy customers. When she’s not pushing candy on coworkers she can be found walking her dog, Rosie Bojangles. You can reach her @carlsonjill on Twitter.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).