Kevin Hsu

2 years ago

In recent years, we’ve seen a big shift in the social media landscape. And as the world of social media continues to evolve at the best of times – even during a global pandemic – the very tempo of change is constantly quickening. We caught up with Zoe from Middlesex University to see how their content and strategy have changed amidst this global crisis and what inspiration they can give to you when navigating through these crowded platforms.

How has your content changed since the lockdown first took place? 

Over the past six months, we’ve adapted the tone and purpose of our content – all the same elements are in there, but we’ve really dialed up the reassuring tone– especially during confirmation and Clearing.  

We’re lucky to have an army of Digital Ambassadors who we recruited very carefully to create content for us before the pandemic, so we knew we could trust them to make content from home, with carefully created briefs from us. This home content, though it’s slightly rougher around the edges, really resonates with our audience – having a glimpse into the worlds of different people from Team MDX (and seeing that we’re all in this together) has made our channels feel even more inclusive and authentic. As a result, our audience are opening up to us in DMs and putting their faith in us when some unis are losing the trust of their audience.

What do you think is really important for students to be seeing on social media at the moment?

It’s important for students to see and feel what they always have on our socials and get that warmth and familiarity, but we’ve found that using words and visuals that reflect what they’re going through and their mood has had a positive impact on engagement and retention too. 

It’s also been important to validate that uni is still worthwhile and that we’re showing students what we have to offer. The media hasn’t been kind to universities, yet the adaptation and innovation that’s happened at Middlesex (and at loads of other unis) has been huge – from maths lessons with AR, to virtual mentoring for our creative students on LinkedIn.

How do you stay creative?

It really helps when you work with an amazing team who want to do the best work, and push boundaries to cut through. It’s all about doing what you know works, but with a sprinkle of new, fun stuff – AR filters, sharing people’s pets from home, testing out different formats, being a bit cheeky and playful where you can. 

Make your audience your Creative Directors, get them involved in the process of your social planning and content creation. It’s always been important to use the authentic student voice in everything we do on social – and with things moving and changing so fast, it’s even more important to give our students that freedom.

Plans for the future? (Do you have any plans to explore other social media platforms?) 

Checking out the social landscape is important to keep on top of themes and trends that affect our audience. The big question over the last 12 months has been ‘Are you going to get on TikTok’ – and of course, we’ve considered it and will continue to weigh up the benefits. It’s vital to pull through trends in how the content is made on there to our other channels as it’s so influential right now, and can be easily adapted to ads and other platforms (I’m looking at you Reels)

What are you doing online for prospective and current students to keep them engaged with your institution and excited for the future?

For social, as always, it’s about talking, listening and engaging – offering a helpful, memorable service. We’ve seen a huge increase in DMs and queries on our social, and we know that responding quickly and warmly is always the way to go.  

There’s also a lot of cross-team work going on for prospective and current students – like bigger and better virtual events, more personalisation in our email, expanding how we use the chat platform Unibuddy to talk to more people in the Team MDX community. Having confident and competent ambassadors that we can recommend to do live talks and sessions, live virtual tours, and just generally encourage more interaction than ever makes them stand out from other virtual events we’ve done in the past. 

What has been your most engaged with/ popular post during lockdown?

During lockdown, our Grove building was turned into a PPE factory by our amazing staff – the team worked day and night to make plastic visors for the NHS. We shared their milestone pics on social (they made over 100k visors in the end) and the sense of pride from everyone on Team MDX was one of the best feelings. When ITV covered it, we shared their video across our platforms and it out-performed everything that month – it was the best performing organic video we’ve shared on IGTV.

What content do you like to see on social media? 

It’s exciting when we spot a trend that feels right for us to jump on as a brand. As a team, we’re currently obsessed with watching Reels and TikTok videos and seeing where we might legitimately and authentically fit in with the viral trends we see on there. The ‘Where it started’ one feels really relevant for us right now, and is something we want to explore.

What advice would you give to other university social media teams in this trying time?

Everything we do on social should serve to educate or entertain (or both if you can – that’s the sweet spot). I went to an online conference recently and the general theme was that we should be bringing joy where we can right now, which I wholeheartedly agree with. So, I’d say let’s inject more fun and playfulness into what we’re doing and bring out some good news every week, and something a bit cheeky and fun where we can too. It’s important to listen to the heartbeat of the world right now, read the room and respond to that in a human way, and maybe know when to put the targets and figures to one side for a moment. 

What’s your advice on getting cut through on the four different platforms?

They’re all very different beasts. But here’s my take:

Instagram – lots of different faces and voices for people to relate to, emotions and a little vulnerability, with a sprinkling of humour. Educate, but entertain – bring the joy! 

Facebook – if you’re like us, you’re probably mostly speaking to your international audience on here, and the more mature student too. To reach everyone you want to, targeting your content is key. 

Twitter – get your amazing staff community on board to help amplify stuff – our #TeamMDX share of voice goes up when something happens to make people proud, and during times like World Mental Health Day and Black History Month. 

LinkedIn – this one’s all about the nostalgia and pride – I’ve found it’s super important to ask questions on there too – people want to network and share their experiences, and so it benefits in boosting our profile as well as theirs.

Thanks Zoe! How are you engaging with your students during lockdown and what advice can you give to fellow social media officers? Let us know on Twitter

Answers from Zoe Briscoe, Social Media Manager, Middlesex University