Higher education institutions have been turned upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, many are harnessing the power of social media to keep their students and audiences engaged through an uncertain and disruptive time.
It can be challenging to know what to post that is engaging yet sensitive to the situation. We’re showing you how to nail your social media content during the pandemic, from our webinar Higher Ed Social Media Content Review: Engage, Entertain and Communicate!
Using Social Media to Adapt to COVID-19
During a time where we’re physically distant from each other, social media has been instrumental in bringing us closer together. This is also true for organisations connecting with their audiences in an authentic and meaningful way.
There has been a shift in the content and messaging that currently resonates with an organisation’s audience. People want to see accurate and reliable information foremost, alongside how the organisation is helping the wider community as well as their own team.
It’s also important to be transparent about your challenges; however, spreading positivity and feel-good stories is the perfect content to publish on social media.
You should also be thinking about how you’re positioning your content on social media. Your tone of voice is just as important as the content itself, with online audiences gravitating towards organisations with a supportive, informative or positive tone to their content.
Being a higher education institution also brings some unique challenges, such as most students being disappointed about missing graduation. While some students may choose to hold that against you on social media, many more have accepted that there is nothing you as an organisation can do about it. While you should remain understanding and sensitive on social media, it gives you an excellent opportunity to turn it into something positive and encourage students to share their favourite memories about being on-campus.
The Information – Entertainment Cycle
While COVID-19 is a unique and constantly-changing situation, there are general themes and predictions that you can use to prepare your social media channels.
When the lockdown was just starting, there was a massive scramble for information from organisations across all sectors. Now, there is less new information to share. This is the best time for you to be sharing entertaining content and building a sense of community on your social media channels.
Looking ahead, when more announcements are made by the government, we will enter a second information phase as people want to know how your organisation will be returning to normal.
In March, many universities released updates as Twitter threads. Using an informative tone of voice, they provided vital information to keep their audiences up to date. More recently, universities are starting to share more light-hearted content to keep audiences entertained and build that community, even while distancing away from campus.
The University of Reading shared a great example of relatable, entertaining content that was tailored to the audience that is familiar with the campus.
While social media, in general, is an excellent channel for delivering updates and relatable content, Twitter really shines through as a primary channel during this period. Twitter is specially designed for news and showcasing, playing into the feeling of immediacy you get from interacting with organisations.
Harnessing Social Media Trends
Social media trends can be a great source of inspiration for keeping your audience entertained when you have no news to give them. To get the most out of a trend for your university, tailor it to your specific audience and make it uniquely yours.
Many people have now found the time to dedicate to hobbies, with baking being a popular pastime. One university has taken this trend a step further by baking focaccia that shows the different layers of soil.
Using Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are an excellent channel for delivering time-sensitive updates to your audience. With their vast range of features, they can also be used to encourage audience engagement, at a time when your audience needs entertainment the most. From asking questions to user polls and sharing screenshots, Instagram Stories foster authentic, engaging conversations with your audience to stay connected with them.
Choosing the Right Social Media Channel
While your university may have more than one social media account, each individual channel has strengths and features that lend themselves to particular types of content.
- Instagram and Twitter: The most popular choices for higher education. Suitable for sharing internal information with the public.
- Facebook: Suited to video, creating physical or virtual events, as well as sharing significant, information-rich updates.
- LinkedIn: Important for the alumni community. Useful for sharing feel-good stories, showcasing students helping on the frontline, and alumni success stories around COVID-19.
Upcoming Social Media Content
Now that we know another information period in the information-entertainment cycle will be coming soon, universities can start planning their content. There are also plenty of university-specific dates around the end of the academic year to prepare for the next one.
- Exams: Students will be stressed and would benefit from helpful advice from a higher education institution.
- Summer School: For many international students, summer schools are a crucial part of the academic year. With all the uncertainty around cancellations and international travel, they will be looking to you for confirmation and guidance.
- Returning/new students: In a time like no other, processes will be radically different from anything your students may have prepared for. Creating content to ease this transition will ensure students are happy and confident for the new academic year.
- Online open days/offer holder days: When students can’t physically be on your campus, it is up to you to make the experience as authentic and as immersive as possible.
- A new way of teaching: Many universities will be moving lectures online for the first time; providing new opportunities and challenges for teaching virtually/social distancing.
COVID-19 has presented universities with many opportunities to bring you closer than ever before to your audience. By planning ahead and being strategic with your content on social media, you can develop meaningful connections with your audience ready for when things get back to normal.
If you’re looking for extra tips and some great examples of social media content for your university, our webinar Higher Ed Social Media Content Review: Engage, Entertain & Communicate with Daniel Marrable has some great insight.