We caught up with Paul Hindle, Head of Communications at De Montfort University (DMU). Winner of the 2020 Edurank Youtube Award for the three consecutive year! It’s fantastic to see DMU really cut through the social media noise year after year, and what better way to recognise their success than to sit down and find out what their go-to moves are when it comes to truly connecting with the student audience.
So Paul, first of all, congratulations to you and your team! Tell us a little bit about your social media marketing activity and what your team gets up to…
Thank you and thanks for having me! Our social media is a fundamental part of the overall marketing and communications function here at DMU. We’re very active on multiple channels, both paid and organic. We want to be in the same digital spaces as our students, staff and advocates. So it’s hard to pick a most successful channel as they all work for us in different ways. Facebook still has the highest potential engagement if your content really nails it, Twitter is great for ‘live’ and hopping quickly on emerging trends, Instagram Stories provides some really creative opportunities to share our great stories and (of course) we’re having a dabble on TikTok too, to see if there’s any value we can add in that space.
What does social media marketing success look like to you? What sort of metrics do you set yourself in order to measure how successful your activity is?
Engagement has to be what we’re really after and quality engagement too, so a comment on a post has way more weight than a simple like, say, on an Instagram grid post which can almost be given by people on autopilot. If we can get social posts into timelines and areas where more traditional comms wouldn’t reach, that’s a big success. So a key retweet or particular share would carry much more weight for us than straightforward ‘likes’. It’s great if what we do on social can be proved to influence people, so if a student sought mental health support after seeing our Instagram Story, or a prospective student first heard about us via social media, or a piece we shared on Research opened doors for an academic, that would be a success for us.
Which groups of students tend to engage the most with your social media activity?
A mixture; again depending on the channel. We’ll get lots of interactions with alumni on LinkedIn, for example, and more from prospective students on Instagram. Any content which creates an emotion is consistently our most engaging so we’re always looking for those stories which spark a reaction in our team. If we’re not genuinely loving the content we’re producing, then we can’t expect the people seeing our posts to love it either.
What do you think about the role of user-generated content in universities’ content strategy?
Vital. People want to hear from people like them, in the language, tone and style that they recognise and are comfortable with. So we’ll hand the keys to our social channels to our students as much as we are able. We want to hear their stories direct from them.
What are the topics on social media that you’d like to continue/start including going into 2020, and what really resonates with your student audience?
Mental health, sustainability, environment and climate. This isn’t just a marketing ploy, though. We hope we reflect a culture within the whole of DMU that is taking these issues seriously and aiming to provide solutions and ideas. Our social media can then hopefully provide the reassurance that if people choose to join us at DMU they will be joining somewhere serious about making a difference on the issues that really matter in the world today.
We all know how social media and the seemingly limitless engagement options it presents are always evolving, so what’s next for you?
As mentioned, we’ve recently succumbed to TikTok. It’s just proved irresistible for the creative minds in our social team! Let’s see how we get on, or whether it’s just another Vine. The opportunities on social media are limitless, especially when you consider all the platforms within platforms which can require just as much planning and resource as a whole new channel. It’s a constant juggle to ensure we’re in the right space at the right time.
One social media app you couldn’t live without?
For me, it’s Twitter. I can lose plenty of my day there especially with the constant ‘what’s live’ and bio-picture prompts of who’s ‘just tweeted’. There’s so much information to consume on Twitter, and it’s always good to see what’s cutting through all that noise and whether it’s something DMU is already doing or could look to replicate.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring social media professional?
Make sure you use social media to understand social media. Open personal accounts on all the channels you’re interested in and get involved. That way you’ll always be learning.
A huge thank you and congratulations to Paul and the De Montfort University team, the winners are now live.