Social media and statistics

This is part of a series of reflections on this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop. So far the posts have looked at themes surrounding digital transformationand organisational change.

Read an introduction and the other posts.

But away from those big ideas were some other useful insights about our jobs. This post looks at some advice on social media and the use of statistics.


Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

IWMW 2014 kicked off with a fabulous presentation from Tracy Playle of Pickle Jar Communications: Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway. I learnt a great deal about social media in a very short space of time.

What you need is a content strategy

The bottom line of Tracy Playle’s presentation was that you do not need a social media strategy. What you need is a content strategy. You need to look at the role social media plays in the wider marketing strategy. As with everything else, you need to look beyond the silos.

Your plan needs to look at the audience engagement journey throughout the year, and use social media in the most appropriate way. The website needs to connect with other channels. She gave the example of a webpage about sleep. This may be of most relevance at 2am the night before an exam. So that is when you should push it on social media.

This again touches on Neil Allison’s talk about user experience. Digital communications need to work seamlessly with real life interactions.

But the strongest point made was that good social media requires balls. The content may have to be controversial, and it has to be something that makes people laugh, because that’s what people like. You won’t have a strong media presence decided by committee. That sometimes scares us in higher education, but it shouldn’t.

Tracy Playle also shared some eyebrow-raising insights about universities. There was one suggestion that students who choose to attend Newcastle University may do so because of Geordie Shore.

Sector statistics

More analysis came later on from Ranjit Sidhu of Statistics into Decisions.

Among his findings are that the most popular hashtag for universities is #yespimpmysummerball (with 188,279 tweets and 17 million impressions). On top of the Geordie Shore revelation, that is another tough lesson to swallow for proud universities.

Ranjit noted that mentions of universities on blogs and forums is down. But Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all platforms we should be looking at.

Facebook has become “the university noticeboard”. Universities generally undervalue Facebook as a marketing tool. But Ranjit noted that in the past year or so it has become a mature market, particularly for international students. If you have a relevant story for a student in an international country, you could potentially hit a large market.

As for the web, Ranjit has found that the homepage is in decline, and is nothing like as important as it used to be. Users are much more course-focussed. This reflects what we see in our analytics at St Andrews.

Course pages are vitally important, particularly as students are expecting higher standards in return for the tuition fees they pay. But according to Ranjit, exit rates on university course pages are high. Students are getting there, but then they go back to the homepage, then they try again, then they exit.

We know from our own experience that it is hard to get course pages right. Hopefully we will be able to improve on them soon.


Read more posts about IWMW 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *