I am sure you all have words of wisdom when it comes to which posts do the best on your social media channels. Unsurprisingly, for me the most engaging posts are beautiful pictures on Facebook or tagging others in tweets and Facebook posts.
This blog post is part of a series of posts highlighting social media champions in Switzerland. We’ve previously portrayed Katja Wenk, Web and Social Media Officer at the University of St. Gallen and Yan Luong, Social Media Manager at Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS). This time we have the pleasure to introduce you to Roger Stupf and his team at the University of Zurich (UZH), who manages the university’s social media presence during a one-year pilot project.
Roger Stupf, Head of Web & Information Management, in front of the University of Zurich
The perfect (social media) storm
It’s that time of the year again when students come back to campus. Energy is high, there are no papers to write, and students are running around signing up for classes and settling in. Our experience helping several Swiss universities shows that September is the perfect month to get the attention of students. Social media engagement surges as students are eager to know the school and each other, and pick the rights spots to study, eat, and live.
Since the Fall semester has already started in the U.S., we did a little research and present below a list of 10 cool ways to engage students during the first weeks back in school. Pick what you like and implement away!
1. Ask alumni and current students for advice
This a great way to engage alumni and current students and remind them of the excitement of their first days on campus. See Stanford’s post asking alumni and current students to provide their advice for the entering class.
2. Help new students discover campus through Foursquare
I don’t have to remind you about the heavy use of mobile devices by students. Foursquare is a simple way to engage users throughout campus. Simply put, Foursquare allows mobile users to check-in at specific locations and get access to deals and promotions, tips and recommendations by other users, and discover others that also frequent the venue. More recently, foursquare has allowed location owners to push messages to users who check-in. Although Foursquare might not be the first channel you think of when structuring your social media plan for the year, consider using it to engage students while they are out and about on campus. It is also a great project for a student intern, who can easily set up locations and create lists.
3. Create useful lists on Foursquare
Indiana University at Bloomington has very smartly created a series of lists on Foursquare leveraging special occasions (in their case “Welcome week”) to help new students find their way and participate in their “get to know campus” events.
You might have an event on campus involving several locations or buildings. Lists are a great way to help students discover event locations and encourage sharing with others. In fact, you don’t need an event to make a list. Many schools have created “Campus Tour” lists for visiting students. See how Syracuse University created a list with the favorite campus places of a famous alumnus.
4. Create your own Foursquare badge
Indiana University rewards anyone who has visited the list of locations in their lists with a special badge. Want to create your own badge? Complete this form.
5. Share landmarks in the community
If your campus is urban, it is a good idea to highlight places that students frequent or that are either historic or famous. New students will discover a new place and alumni will get a chance to reminisce and feel the emotional tug to the school and surrounding community. A great way to not always talk about your school!
For example, Tufts University shares landmarks around campus for new students: Davis Square. See the Facebook post below and notice how many comments come from alumni.
6. Offer advice to incoming students
I mentioned asking alumni and current students to share tips and advice. You can also leverage research done by some of your departments. For example, Tufts offers advice to incoming students on how to keep the move-in green.
— Tufts University (@TuftsUniversity) August 21, 2012
7. Let Students Decide
It might be time to update that Timeline cover on your Facebook page. This is an easy way to let students choose from a final selection approved by your department.
Harvard University turned to students to choose a new Timeline cover. Particularly for back to school, you might want to choose an image that is landmark or hallmark easily associated with the school that hopefully elicits some emotional connection. The image for Harvard speaks for itself, don’t you think?
8. Let them tell their story
The first day on campus is an important milestone for first year students (and their parents). UC Berkeley (Cal) recently asked students about their move-in experience. Many responded and shared their impressions, fears, hopes, and more. The image below shows the final product of all the stories shared.
You can also just ask students to use a specific hashtag to follow and share their experience during the first week of campus (see University of Southern California‘s post). Just make sure you acknowledge and leverage the content. Cal’s use of storify to bring together all the tweets, photos, and comments is a great example.
9. Back to School giveaway
Students budgets are always tight. Don’t forget students love free stuff. How about putting together a small back to school package? Check out below Inhabitat’s back to school giveaway embracing green values. Think of vendors on campus that are popular with students. Ask them for some coupons or giveaway for students. Tickets to events on campus or conferences around the area are also good ideas that might not cost you a cent.
The below contest is somewhat complicated as it involves three steps: signing up for a newsletter, liking the page, and then submitting your plans for a greener back to school routine. My advice: Keep it simple. Ask for one thing only. These contests work well when users create content for you (submitting photos, comments, etc.)
10. Connect the offline with the online
Finally, remember that although students might be hyper-connected it does not mean that other means of communication are not necessary.
For example, Indiana University advertised its Foursquare lists with posters around campus to make sure students notice. Create top-of-mind awareness about your social media presence so when there is a call to action, students won’t be encountering these accounts for the first part. Posters, flyers, student newspapers, bus schedules, etc. are all great vehicles to let students know about your online presence. Using offline channels is also important if you are running a giveaway campaign.
I hope the above inspires to take action and engage your students and community. Don’t underestimate the potential of the back to school season to pave the way for the rest of the year. We at swissnex San Francisco will be looking forward to seeing your creativity during the coming weeks.
This interview is part of a series of posts highlighting social media trailblazers in Switzerland. Our last post in this series, featured Katja Wenk, Web and Social Media Officer at the University of St. Gallen. Today, we meet Yan Luong, Social Media Manager at Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS).
As often social media friendship stories go, I met Yan through Twitter in early 2012. Shortly after his name started popping up everywhere. We followed the same people on Twitter, had some LinkedIn connections in common, and seemed to share a bad habit of tweeting at odd hours.
Many tweets later, Yan and I met in Lausanne in May 2012. Having a coffee with somebody you’ve met on social media for the first time might sound like an awkward situation. In my experience, it is the absolute opposite. After all, you know what this person cares about (Twitter), laughs at (Facebook & Instagram), and what he/she does for a living (LinkedIn). Over a few coffees, Yan and I compared notes about our jobs, new tools we are intrigued by, who’s who in the world of social media in Switzerland, and what makes social media users in Switzerland tick.
Owner of a good sense of humor and easy disposition, Yan agreed to an improptu video interview in which he talks about his work at RTS, how he manages 55 Facebook pages, and the Swiss’ obsession with the iPhone.
More about Yan Luong.
With more and more universities hiring a full-time social media expert, we think it is time to put the spotlight on these faces and give you a glimpse into their daily work. During the course of the next months, we will interview various social media officers in Switzerland in a new series of blog posts. Today we meet Katja Wenk, Web and Social Media Officer at the University of St. Gallen.
Still impressed with the professional launch of HSG’s official social media channels at the beginning of this year, I make my way up the hill to campus to meet one of the main players in that launch: Web and Social Media Officer Katja Wenk, who started in this newly-created position at the end of last year.
It has been a few years since I last set foot on the campus when I was still a student waiting to get my master’s degree in communications. Social media was definitively not the main topic of our studies back then. We touched on the subject and our professor pointed out that this would be the next big thing in communications, but that was five years ago and social media was basically nowhere. At least in Switzerland. I hadn’t heard of Twitter and official company or university Facebook pages were extremely rare to non-existant. Needless to say, at that time, my alma mater had no intentions to join Facebook or start tweeting. Today, 27 percent of Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences have a social media manager and 42 percent intend to hire one in 2012.
So here I am, approaching the campus and getting ready to meet HSG’s first full time social media officer. I am eager to ask questions about her daily routine, barriers she is facing, or which Facebook posts get the most comments.
My knock on her office door is answered by her co-worker Markus Zinsmaier, whom I met last fall during the first social media study tour. Katja is sitting behind her desk, concentrating on her screen and my first guess would be that she probably has Hootsuite open to quickly monitor or send tweets before we sit down for coffee and a chat. A few minutes later, Katja and I make our way towards one of the coffee spots in Building A, surrounded by students who grab a quick coffee before their next class begins at 10:15am.
Increasing awareness and knowledge
“I usually start with screening all social media channels to see what has been going on,” says Katja when asked about what she does first thing in the morning. But she quickly points out that her usual position is not in front of her computer screen, ready to tweet or answer comments on Facebook.” I have a lot of meetings to explain to my colleagues what my job entails and how we intend to develop the social media strategy.” Her calendar is filling up quickly with these meetings. Most of them are initiated by her colleagues from other departments, ranging from university professors to administration officers, which is clearly an indicator of the interest in social media on the campus and the high demand for more information about the tools.
Besides making others on campus aware of the new communication tools, she also spends a fair amount of time helping them get familiar with Twitter, for example. Many are eager to start using the channel and willing to learn, but some are afraid. For that purpose, the communications team also provides a handbook for everyone working at the university about how to use social media and how to set up a presence at the university.
Integration of existing presence by departments
HSG launched their official social media presence with a Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel that give information about the university in general, but they also introduced four hubs: HSG START, HSG CAMPUS, HSG PROFESSIONAL, and HSG RESEARCH. These hubs focus on different topics, target a specific audience, and are very much organized like a portal, retweeting and reposting content created by other official pages, such as the library or a faculty. The Facebook page of HSG CAMPUS, for example, frequently shares status updates by the official Facebook page of the university’s library.
The goal in the coming months is to integrate all official university social media channels for a cohesive experience. The HSG campus store’s Facebook page, for example, which has existed since 2010, was integrated into the HSG CAMPUS hub. It now appears in the same orange color scheme and style settings as the hub it belongs to, but it is still administrated separately.
Each hub is managed by a different individual or group of people, while Katja manages the official presence by the university and oversees the integration. She is mindful of each department’s independence, and emphasizes the fact that the integration is voluntary and that she is certainly not giving instructions to these departments. “I am more of a contact point or help desk if questions come up. But branding is obviously important and we support departments with guidelines,” she adds.
Facebook community taken by storm
Of course empowering colleagues throughout the university is a high priority for Katja Wenk, but just as important is building up a strong community around the institution on social media: “You have to get to a point where the social media community knows the university and its channels.” And the university has definitely gotten there quickly. The growth of the community around HSG since the launch of the official presence in December 2011 is almost unbelievable. In only six months, the official Facebook page has climbed to nearly 7,500 likes. Compared to some universities in the US, this number is not earth-shattering, but compared to the social media landscape in Switzerland, it is very impressive. The two Swiss institutions leading with regard to Facebook likes so far were EPFL, who launched their page in June 2010 (3,976 likes as of June 6, 2012) and EHL, who launched their presence in February 2011 (4,718 likes).
Secrets to success
When meeting the person responsible for such community growth, one has to ask for the secrets behind the success. “So what works best?” I ask Katja. She thinks for a second, but quickly names a few examples that have proven to create a lot of engagement. Just as Christina Sponselli, UC Berkeley’s director for social media pointed out a few weeks ago during our last study tour, “pretty pictures go a long way,” says Katja. Polls also get people motivated to interact, she adds. Another post that was liked by many community members was a news story about the “Best Teaching Award”, given out by the students to the most popular teacher at the university. They also ran a few Facebook campaigns to increase their reach and grow their community.
Growing the community with the right objectives in mind
But just increasing the number of Twitter followers or likes on Facebook is not Katja’s primary goal: “If that was my goal, it would be achieved rather quickly since you can acquire new followers and likes easily. It’s about building a meaningful community around the brand and we have yet to see if this new community is also our target audience.” This doesn’t mean that she is not measuring the impact of her efforts. She knows well what posts generate the most interactions and likes and uses tools such as Social Bro to analyze her Twitter community.
It’s 11am and the building is flooded with students again. Two actually interrupt our conversation to ask us if we would be willing to sign a petition. We decline and I realize it’s time to let Katja go back to her desk to tend to her community, internally and externally. I quickly take a picture of her in front of one the signs outside the building, with the tents from the recent St. Gallen Symposium in the background. The university campus has not changed much since I last visited, but the face of the university online has definitely changed from a collection of websites to a whole array of platforms on the social web.
The University of St. Gallen on Social Media
Follow Katja on Twitter.
This post was authored by GEORGY COHEN and originally published in January 2012 by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI.) It serves as a good follow up to our Dec 2011 webinar. We recently rerecorded the webinar.
We, as community managers and content marketers, are well-positioned to create relevant, useful, and interesting content that serves both our audience’s needs and our goals. We live and breathe those goals, and we know our brand identity almost as well as we know ourselves.
But just because we can do it all on our own, does that mean we should? The truth is, our brand belongs to our community as much as it belongs to us, if not more so. That identity is not a decree that gets passed down; it is shared and, more to the point, it is co-created. While we shape and communicate it, they are out there living it.
It’s tempting to approach community management like we are conducting an orchestra. We want to lead a performance of everyone playing the same song in tune. But I think of it more like the scene from “Big,” where Tom Hanks’ character is playing “Heart and Soul” on the giant keyboard with the CEO of MacMillan Toys. In truth, we are writing and playing the song together.
Simply put, if our brand is a story, our community members are the co-authors. Their investment in our brand is a potent commodity to tap into. Finding ways to leverage that investment is powerful — the authenticity of their external perspective can bring tremendous value to our content marketing efforts. To that end, here are a few ways to integrate our community members into the content creation process.
1. Let their expertise take center stage
Whether it’s through the contact form on our website, an old fashioned phone call, or a query via Twitter or Facebook, we may spend a good part of our day answering questions from customers, prospects, and other interested parties. While we are perfectly able to answer their questions, there are likely experts within our community who are just as qualified to address issues and share their experiences. Queries present a great opportunity to highlight their expertise.
Use your social media channels to solicit responses to a query you feel others may be able to answer. Be sure to share those responses (just the accurate ones, of course) with the original requestor; you can also collect them into a knowledge base of questions and answers powered by your community.
Highlight their responses on your website, give credit where credit is due, and make this type of crowd-sourcing a regularly scheduled item in your editorial calendar in order to keep the knowledge base growing and up-to-date. After all, customer service is often the best marketing.
2. Activate your community in real time
The value of real-time content can be short-term, but high-yield. When a window of opportunity presents itself — say, due to a breaking news item or a special event —relevant content has tremendous potential to be viewed (and appreciated) by a large audience. Once that window closes, however, the content’s value and potential drops sharply. It’s a tricky proposition that requires being in the right place at the right time, ready to turn around and execute on short notice.
The same goes for soliciting content from your community. Activating your community members in real-time will help you see their true colors. Here are some options you can explore:
- If there are current events with relevance to your organization, ask people to weigh in while they’re still hot topics of conversation.
- Repost customer questions, and let others respond with their answers.
- Share reporter queries with your audience and encourage them to post their take.
- Use both online and offline channels to encourage event attendees to post pictures of themselves (preferably holding something with the company logo with a big smile) or share feedback on the day’s activities.
- Got a deadline you want people to hit? Get your community to spread the word for you.
Also, pay attention to what is happening in the world at large. Anything from a particularly striking sunset in your city to Thanksgiving dinner to an awards telecast can spark a conversation and content creation around your brand. Tools such as Storify — which allows you to curate bits of content from various online sources and stitch them together into a narrative — can help tie all of the responses together.
3. Leverage the power of the hashtag
Whether it’s on Twitter or emerging channels like Instagram, hashtags are the topical threads that bind people and conversations on the web. By spurring conversation around a popular hashtag — whether it’s related to an event, a product launch, or just a brand theme — you can not only get your community talking about you, but you can trace and organize that conversation.
Using social conversation tools like Storify or Cover it Live, you can capture tweets from a selected hashtag and embed the collection on a webpage, blog post, or online article. A Twitter widget can simply scroll a raw feed of all tweets with the chosen hashtag (though be aware of the attendant risks of publicizing a feed you can’t edit). Alternately, you can simply mine the hashtag thread for interesting tweets that you can retweet, highlight as testimonials on your website, or use to inspire blog posts.
4. Curate and celebrate
Psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.” Listening to our community members is integral to communicating in a way that will resonate with them. By listening, we can monitor our brand and find our fans (and foes); but, more to the point, it also helps us discover a trove of content and conversation. Turns out, the community is already talking and creating content about us, so why not use it to your advantage?
Tracking terms or hashtags on Twitter, finding blogs that mention certain keywords via Google, and subscribing to tags on Flickr and YouTube are just a few of the ways you can listen to the community chatter. Then, you can curate the resultant tweets, blog posts, photos, and videos to create a community-authored reflection of your brand. Don’t be afraid to celebrate content that isn’t your own. In the end, it doesn’t matter who created it; it just matters how well it tells your story.
5. Reach out and ask them to contribute
Along the same lines as the earlier point about letting your community members be the experts,sometimes getting your community involved in content creation is as simple as asking the right questions. Use your social platforms, newsletters, and other touch points to solicit responses to queries. You want your audience members to be interested in you, so it’s only fair to show some interest in them.
The questions you ask could be about your product or organization, for example, “What should we do better in the new year?” or, “What’s the most interesting way in which you’ve used our product?” Butyou can also use this as an opportunity to get to know your community members, and let them get to know each other, by asking questions that will be interesting to them, such as, “What are your new year’s resolutions?” or “How do you beat the winter blues?” or “What’s your favorite vacation getaway?” These are easy, straightforward topics people like to talk about and for which pretty much everyone has an answer.
6. Get a little chatty
In an e-commerce context, live chat functionality has been shown to lead to increased conversions and time on-site. In a content marketing context, live chat can help make our websites more dynamic, draw visitors who may not regularly go to our sites, and give our audiences the opportunity to shape our content with their questions and to feel heard. A live chat is great content both during the chat and as an archive after the fact. Also, topics that come up during a live chat may inform future content.
Rather than just publishing a Q&A interview or a two-minute video with a subject matter expert or notable individual, schedule and promote a live chat with them. One of my favorite services that deserves more ink than it gets is Cover it Live. As mentioned before, it not only can help you curate social conversation, but also allows you to host and moderate live web chats that you can embed on your website.
7. Add the sound of music
Music is the soundtrack to our lives, so make it the soundtrack for your content, as well. Social music services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, and Turntable.fm have become popular spaces for audiophiles to build networks around musical tastes. Spotify and Grooveshark are centered on the creation and sharing of playlists, while Turntable.fm combines a chatroom with collaborative DJ function.
Find relevant themes — they could be related to travel, holidays, exercise, geography, current events, you name it — and use your social platforms to ask people to suggest songs they think would fit. Create those playlists via Spotify or Grooveshark then share the links. On Turntable.fm, you can create your own room and encourage your community members to join and play songs around a chosen theme.
What other ideas do you have for integrating your community into your content creation efforts?
Reading and sharing news is a big part of my daily job (thanks Google Reader!) Since I spend so much time keeping up with news and top trends in social media, I thought I may as well share a selected few that could be useful to you all. Below find the stories that made my top news list this week:
- Wildfire 2012 Social Marketing Trend Forecast – Wildfire Marketing. Nicely compiled top trends. Not too many surprises.
- 21 Essential Community Management Practices – Mashable. Great list of tips for all community managers out there.
- Using New Media Tools to Promote Faculty Research – CASE. Great suggestions for those of you promoting research.
- How Pinteresting – CASE. If you want to learn about Pinterest, the new darling of social media read this post
- Likes, Genre, Action – Facebook Introduces Clicks to Action – Brian Solis. You can never stop learning about Facebook. Those guys keep it moving.
- Has Facebook stolen your highered FB page? – Karine Joly. More to add to the mystery of Community Pages.
- Should PR handle highered social media? – Higher Ed Marketing. A question that many of you might face as you structure your social media team.
- Twitter to Censor Content in Certain Countries – Mashable. Given the role of Twitter in the Arab Spring, this is an important development.
- Facebook – The Year of Engagement – Social Media Today. The message is clear: think of how to engage your fans.
- Social Media Etiquette – CISION PR. Always good to remind ourselves if we are doing the right thing.
Hope you enjoyed the list. Let me know below what you would like to see more of.