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By Liam Ross
In the first week of December 2018 I held a new event aimed at social media managers and digital professionals in the higher education sector, #hesmUK. Hosted at Loughborough University, it was inspired by the work of the larger #hesm (higher education social media) community, as well as the connections I've made with peers across the country at other conferences and events. During the day, we heard from 12 different teams from around the UK (and Republic of Ireland!) about the campaigns, tools, processes and philosophies they are proud of in their institutions.
The power of authenticity
Multiple teams on the day spoke about the strength of user generated content over traditional content, and the value of working with student ambassadors to create an authentic voice. If you're not already, my advice would be to start to consider how you could work more closely with influencers in your communities, to not only generate content for you, but also to input and sense-check campaigns and content you may have planned and created. Check out what the University of Nottingham are doing with their Digital Ambassadors for some inspiration.
Social media is a technology, but it's all about being human
Tim Watkins from the University of Reading shared a masterclass in bringing personality to your social platforms. Key to this is establishing a tone of voice that works for everyone - yourself, your leadership, and your audiences. It's important to align this voice with your institution's goals wherever possible. Reaching for that high-risk high reward engagement is about being bold and brave; but know when to fight your battles - if you feel you can defend your brand on social media, ensure you're well informed about the situation in question before wading into that public space.
Content is better when it's outside of the box
One of my favourite factoids from the day - a peer at the University of Bradford rode a rollercoaster 24 times in a row, capturing an on-ride video interview with a student about Clearing. And the University of Sussex team showcased their real world/digital space cross-over content, including hidden robots across Brighton and secret Snapchat geofilters. Take the time to plan out your campaigns and the creative to go with it. Bring your team together and plot that thumb-stopping content.
Advocates are your allies
Not everybody at your institution will have a social media element to their roles, but most of them will be on social media themselves - whether it's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. Help colleagues in your workplace understand why it's important they get involved with your messaging on social media; whether that's a simple share of a press release to a specific friend, or adding their voice to an organisation-wide campaign, it's a win-win situation. With the decline of organic reach being so stark in 2018, advocacy is the name of the game heading into 2019, to help boost your engagement without coughing up the cash.
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