The world of social media is fast-paced and ever-evolving at the best of times, but COVID-19 puts a whole other level of pressure into the equation, making your lives as education social media and communication team members even more challenging. We caught up with Anu and Jenny from the University of Cambridge to see how their content and strategy has 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?
Since lockdown began, we’ve seen a surge of film content created by students and researchers themselves, using whatever technology is available.
Creating a sense of community and support has driven a lot of this content – students have been giving home study tips on Instagram, sharing their experience of Ramadan in lockdown, and the women’s cricket club have been playing a virtual game of keep-ups.
There has been a huge amount of interest in research about tackling COVID-19. And we’ve seen a big spike in follower growth and engagement, particularly on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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 that studies and work at universities are carrying on as they have done, in the case of Cambridge, for the past 800 years. We want to help current and potential students to feel supported, connected and welcome to Cambridge and our community. Seeing content from the community and hearing from its members is especially important now.
We’ve been sharing student-created video content on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to give tips and advice for studying at home, looking after one’s mental health and how to stay connected with different groups around the University.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge since locking down and what have you and your team been doing to overcome it?
Our biggest challenge since the start of lockdown is being able to share information about the COVID-19 pandemic as we are in a situation that is full of unknowns and developing quickly.
We have overcome this by upping the frequency of internal communication within the team, and with colleagues in the research communications and news teams. We use instant messaging a lot!
How do you stay creative?
As well as the serious work chat, we also share random fun stuff with each other. This helps us stay connected but has also been surprisingly useful for sparking inspiration!
We capture ideas on a virtual team board and discuss them in our weekly team meeting, which we always start with a ‘Go Team!’ section to give thanks and recognition to achievements in the team.
We’ve also found that often good ideas come out of 1:1 smaller discussions where we have the headspace and time to bounce thoughts around. This has been particularly true in our preparations for launching on TikTok and developing ideas for mini-film series on social media.
Do you have any plans to explore other social media platforms?
We’ll soon be launching on TikTok, (check out the Content and Advertising Masterclass webinar we did recently – Editor) so look out for @cambridgeuniversity on there! We’re also continuously thinking of ways to develop our presence on social media platforms in China.
What are you doing online for prospective and current students to keep them engaged with your institution and excited for the future?
As mentioned, we’ve been sharing student-created video content and will continue to collaborate with student societies as well as different teams in our Education Services to share tips and advice for current and prospective Cambridge students.
We’re excited to be working with the Cambridge Admissions Office to support the first-ever virtual Cambridge University Open Days and Virtual Tour.
What content do you like to see on social media?
We like to hear directly from people, first-person stories are often the most engaging. We like to see content that joins the dots in some way, that is more than the sum of its parts. And we enjoy content that makes the viewer think, where you get to have that moment of discovery.
What advice would you give to other university social media teams in this trying time?
Establish routines, capture ideas and develop them together. Make sure you get different viewpoints. Challenge each other and not lose perspective. Keep in touch.
Oh, and have fun, informal interaction as well as serious work stuff. Get to know each other. It’s important not to neglect the social side of our relationships with colleagues. In our team, we have daily virtual coffee breaks where we don’t talk about work. We check in with how everyone is doing, encourage each other in our new lockdown hobbies, and share photos of what we’re doing.
Finally, it’s important to set boundaries between work and free time. For example, we’ve agreed to avoid using WhatsApp for work to keep it as a private, non-work space to interact with family and friends.
Thanks Anu and Jenny! 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 Anu Hautalampi (Head of Social Media and AV) and Jenny Hayward (Communications Officer) at the University of Cambridge