2016 is coming up closer than we think! In just the last year alone, we’ve faced some interesting challenges here at the university.
As director of our social media team here at Truman, as well as primary creator of promotional video content for social sharing, I interact with and interview current and former students on a regular basis. I always ask them where they spend their time. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly, depending on how you look at it), we’ve noticed they’re rapidly disengaging from our bread-and-butter social media network, Facebook, in favor of more one-on-one or anonymous social networks, like Snapchat or Twitter, respectively.
I’m seeing more use of the Snapchat Stories feature, but overwhelmingly people are simply snapping their friend groups directly. The anonymous messaging board YikYak has exploded in popularity at our school among a certain segment of the population, and so far it’s remained surprisingly civil.
The phrase to remember for 2016: Social Pressure
Quite simply, students tell me spaces like Facebook and Twitter are too stressful. They open themselves up to criticism from strangers and friends. They’re tired of reading political fights and attracting comments from people they don’t even know. And they’re telling me they don’t even see the purpose in sharing their day with the masses, because it’s now become easier to restrict that kind of sharing to their established friend group, thanks to these newer mobile apps and technologies.
Keep in mind, they haven’t given up entirely on the big boys – they’ve simply changed their usage patterns over time. I’ve noticed many of those who do use Twitter on a regular basis are either pursuing a specific niche interest with a strong established Twitter community or are simply lurking on their favorite celebrities or public figures. Everyone still has a Facebook account, but they generally use it to keep up with their families, get the scoop on potential dating partners (“Facebook stalking”), or advertise campus goings-on through the Events feature.
Instagram continues to defy the odds
One notable exception: Instagram continues to gain popularity, and that’s one space we can easily broadcast to the masses, as long as we keep the message fun. Instagram keeps its network more tightly controlled, thanks to a restricted API that makes it nearly impossible for third-party apps to schedule posts and draw out significant statistical data. Until recently, there has been no feature to share posts with your friends, or draw in content from other places online, which curbs the spread of unwanted content showing up in your feed. The community tends to snap its own images and therefore Instagram is still a pretty fun place to be.
As a result, we’ve been posting there more frequently and steadily seeing higher engagement on those posts. Nobody wants to see spammy announcements on Instagram, so we’re finding ways to wrap our message in fun, shareable images. We often get the best response from simple images of campus scenery (alumni nostalgia, full-force), which helps us solidify those bonds to the University. And by following people back, we get terrific insight into our students’ lives and what they find interesting and shareable.
Nevertheless, I’m not yet convinced we’re making inroads outside of the current student and alumni population on that network. Not yet, anyway. Our challenge for the next year will be to find ways to reach prospective students without seeming spammy and desperate.
Working out the Snapchat puzzle
This year we dove into Snapchat full-force by encouraging the university population to add us through sidewalk chalking, posters around campus, cross-posts on our other social networks, and a campus newspaper article. Views on our stories currently average about 14% of the University population (a few caveats and assumptions built into that, of course), and we try to keep it populated with footage of events that are happening – or, if nothing else, the weather and our squirrel population, which always seem to be popular topics.
If you want to see a university that does Snapchat right, check out uofmichigan. We’re getting there, slowly but surely.
What’s the most important marketing lesson you’ve learned this year? There’s a nice, quick survey article up on marketingmojo.com right now. Check it out, and let me know if you have anything to add.
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