Trends and challenges in social media for higher education

Very Media recently attended the Social Media for Higher Education conference hosted by Akolade in Sydney. With our interests and experience in the education sector, we were keen to ensure we’re up to date with the latest trends in social media.  We thought we’d share our main take home points.

Social media Trends:

1. You need a defined social strategy

Gone are the days when you could get away with simply posting to social media. You must have a defined social media strategy. Western Sydney University’s Associate Director of Marketing Channels, Brad Pidgeon, discussed this in his conference presentation entitled Aligning Your Social Media Strategies. “Amazing content going to the wrong people at the wrong time is pointless,” said Brad. “The aim should be right place, right people, right time.”

And we just love this meme from Flinders Uni’s Carly Hocking. It sums up this point nicely.

2.  Use ‘influencers’ to grow your social networks

Many speakers discussed the power of the influencers. Harvard Business School’s Director of Social Media (Office of Alumni Relations), Robert Bochnak, has the best influencer strategy we’ve seen in a long time. This guy is dedicated to say the least.  His presentation, The Harvard Way, demonstrated how engaging with a growing cohort of young alumni and encouraging them to follow each other on Facebook and Twitter adds to the opportunities to promote your brand.

3. Start thinking outside the box

Network Ten’s Head of Social Media Ben Stavert’s Thinking Outside the Box presentation really hit the nail on the head when it comes to giving advice for growing your social communities. His main takeaways are to leverage what is happening right now, create emotional content and find the most interesting way to get your message across every time.

4. Content is king

Social media is all about content that is real and delivered in real time. According to Flinders University’s Director of Strategic Marketing, Carly Hocking, storytelling is still, and by far, the most powerful way to elicit emotions and encourage action. “A story has no set length. It can be as long as a novel or as short as a tweet. It can be a single image. The trick is to tell the right story for the purposes of each campaign, promotion or message.”

5. Snapchat and universities are a match made in heaven.  

University of Sydney and University of the Sunshine Coast presented their case studies on activity in the Snapchat space. And it’s clear they’re reaping the rewards.  Why Snapchat? The main users are every university’s target audience, so why not? However, you still need to choose your content wisely for this platform. The meme below shows how content varies so differently between Instagram and Snapchat:

social media Challenges

Social media is constantly changing

Did you know that 71% of tweets are ignored? And the continuous changing of Facebook’s algorithms makes it more difficult by the day to be seen. This was a common talking point at the conference, with many speakers and participants recognising the demands required to keep up with every single post or article out there.   

2. Forcing content doesn’t work

Even though social media makes it easier for brands to get their message out there, the audience is still in control of what it consumes, at least to a certain extent. Flinders Uni’s Carly Hocking said we must aim to “end the single smiling student” advertising that so many universities use, and aim instead for more engaging, action-based imagery on social media.

3. Don’t do it alone

It seems many university social media teams are still run by one or two people. In her presentation entitled Producing Effective Targeted Content on a Lean Structure, Swinburne University of Technology’s Director of Media and External Communications, Julie Scott, enforced the notion of empowering the entire organisation to contribute to producing content.


Written by Melinda Rogers, Managing Director, Very Media.

At Very Media we believe that effective communication is all about the story.  And it’s crucial to have a skilled storyteller.  With our expertise in the education industry, we can work with you to shape and share ‘your story’ no matter the scale of your project or the platform you choose.