Using social media to tell authentic student stories

Author: Tasha Quinn

With almost 28,000 students from 140 countries worldwide studying at the University of Glasgow we are certainly not short of interesting and varied student stories to tell on our social media channels.

As current students make up the majority of our audience on social media we ensure that creating content for them, and about them, is a priority.

By focusing on sharing content about our current students we find it resonates with so many of our other followers too – alumni feel nostalgic, staff celebrate our students and prospective students get a glimpse into the ‘campus experience’ and want to be part of #TeamUofG!

Here’s a few tips on how to work with students to create content which showcases student life in all its glory.

Open up your channels for takeovers

A whole host of different clubs, societies and student groups take over our Instagram Stories each month. Opening up our channels for students to use takes a bit of trust but it’s definitely worth the risk. By giving the Instagram keys to a diverse mix of our student population, we show our audience a broad view of student life – from the sustainability society to the cheese club! If a student makes a mistake or the takeover doesn’t quite go to plan, it’s not the end of the world - just delete the posts and move on to the next takeover.

By giving students access to our channels it means we are not simply broadcasting corporate messages to an unengaged audience but rather that students have some ownership of the channel - it’s their account too. That peer-to-peer content is very powerful and also honestly reflects the inclusive and multicultural culture, which exists at Glasgow.

Students are universities' most powerful brand advocates

Find out what’s happening on campus right now

The UofG social media team love reactive content! You can be sure that the second it starts snowing we leg it outside armed with a camera to capture our pretty Hogwarts-esque campus in the snow to get those likes on social!

We have found it is hugely beneficial and it is now part of our social strategy to set aside time to create this reactive content - to find out and join conversations our audiences are having, right when they’re having them

For Freshers’ week and graduations, we block out most of our diaries to get outside and simply talk to students and we never fail to meet students with inspiring, moving or funny stories.

For example, when we spotted PhD student Gameli wearing an amazing homemade kilt, woven from material from his native Ghana, we knew we had to talk to him. Gameli kindly agreed to film a quick video with us, it was one of our top videos of the quarter and demonstrated the fusion of cultures and feeling of inclusivity that exists at UofG.

For Freshers’ Week we have successfully used reactive content to capture the essence of student life in quick snapshots by talking to lots of different students and highlighting the range of activities UofG has on offer. Whether you’re a Marxist or a Vegan there is place for you at UofG!

Produce long-form videos

It used to be the case that posting a video longer than 2 minutes on Facebook was a no-go for most social media teams. However, with the way people consume content online ever changing, it seems there might now be a place for longer-form videos if the storytelling is compelling enough.

As part of UofG’s Future World Changers campaign, which we have supported the Recruitment Marketing team on, we have been following several students to help them achieve their world-changing ambitions. One of these students is Jamie, who grew up in care and now has an ambition to reform the care system by putting love at the heart of it. We spent a day filming Jamie to share his story on our channels. At over 6 minutes there was a slight concern that the final video might be too long to keep an audience watching, but thousands of viewers watched right to the end and the video garnered almost 300 comments on Facebook (all entirely positive – which had never happened before!)

Jamie’s story highlights an amazing student as well as the work UofG does for supporting widening participation. We felt very strongly that it was worth taking the time to tell that story fully and sensitively. We didn’t want to truncate the story just for the sake of squeezing it down and risk losing important parts of Jamie’s story.  It was a story that needed time to breathe. For video it’s either very short and impactful or it’s long and good!

 
No Wrong Path

UofG student Jamie grew up in care, experiencing 15 foster homes during his childhood. He has overcome many challenges to begin studying a BA in Community Development. Alongside his degree, he has an ambition to reform Scotland’s care system to improve the lives of other young people. Jamie is a UofG Future World Changer. Discover his story: glasgow.ac.uk/fwc/jamie #UofGWorldChangers ... Content warning: This video contains information about an individual’s experience of growing up in care, child abuse and bereavement. If you are affected by any of the topics covered, help can be found at: gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/students/safetyhealth/ samaritans.org/ If you are care-experienced and thinking about University-study, please contact our Care-experienced Student Support Coordinator, Dan Keenan: daniel.keenan@glasgow.ac.uk For more information visit: gla.ac.uk/wideningparticipation/supportingcareleavers Or propel.org.uk

Posted by University of Glasgow on Thursday, 22 November 2018

Hire student interns

We’ve worked with student content creators for a couple of years: originally, we started with a scholarship scheme and have recently moved to more structured paid internships. The students work with us on social media campaigns and content, host takeovers for student events and societies and act as a great sounding board (they never hold back if they think we have a terrible idea!)

We have found that the content our interns create presents an authentic image of student life at UofG; current students connect with it and prospective students are able to get a real and relatable insight into what being a UofG student is like. Once again, it has given students a sense of ownership and connection to our social channels.

On social media, we try to stay away from a serious ‘corporate’ tone of voice and working closely with our students helps us to embrace this and tap into what they really care about. And sometimes, it’s ok to create content that simply entertains, such as when our interns Rob and Kat filmed a tour of some of their favourite places near campus (it involved a lot of churros!)

 
Exploring Glasgow's West End

UofG students Rob & Kat take us on a tour of some of their favourite off campus spots to unwind during exams. Have we missed your favourite place? Comment below and let us know!

Posted by University of Glasgow on Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Working with students and having the chance to share their stories is one of the best parts of my job and these are just a few tips I’ve discovered along the way.

Ultimately students are universities' most powerful brand advocates and it’s about finding ways to tap into their ideas, conversations and networks. In actively listening (in person with your student social interns and via social listening tools) to better understand what really matters to them (and when) you can create more relevant content that they will engage with. Giving them the reins to your channels can be daunting but ultimately very powerful.


If you want to gather more authentic content from your university community, you can learn more about our tools and get in touch with any questions!

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