Felicity joined the team back in September, having previously been based at the University's School of Medicine. With a background in publishing and communications, Felicity is a bit of an all-rounder but in this position she mostly focuses on the University's social media activities and website content. On an un-work-related note she like ponies, cats and the great outdoors.

I’m leaving, but not quite yet

For those of you who don’t yet know, I’m sad to announce that I’m leaving the Digital communications team.

This was not an easy decision to make, and one dictated by force of circumstance – I’ve moved to live in the French Alps.

This is where I live now, not to make you jealous or anything.
This is where I live now, not to make you jealous or anything.

Up until Christmas I am working remotely, and still contactable by my University email address (fw72@st-andrews.ac.uk). My last day of work is the 23rd of December followed by annual leave over the Christmas period.

However, this is probably not the last you’ll hear from me. There is the possibility that I will return in the new year on a casual contract to pick up some slack until my successor has been recruited. This will mean that planned project work can still go ahead on time and any impact that my leaving has on the team will be minimised.

I’ve very much enjoyed my time with the Digital communications team and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been offered. 

One of the highlights of working in digi comms has been seeing Agile project management in action. Any experience I’d had with project management in the past could probably be best described as “winging it”, so it’s been a great learning opportunity to see the Agile project management framework applied so meticulously, which is really the only way it ever should be applied.

Another aspect of the job that I’ve really enjoyed has been working on the long form pieces that the content team produce. Being granted the creative freedom to research and develop pieces of work like this from scratch has been great fun and learning some html in the process has been very valuable. 

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Of course, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is working with such a wonderful team. I’ve been lucky to work in such a supportive environment where everyone feels valued and personal and professional development are so strongly encouraged.

 

How we fixed our YouTube channel

If you don’t live in the UK and have visited the University’s YouTube channel recently, you may have noticed that our videos were not working. This problem was brought to our attention about two months ago by a colleague in Admissions who contacted the digital communications team reporting that some of their team were having problems playing videos on the University’s YouTube channel whilst they were visiting schools in the United States.

After investigation from our team using various VPN services, we confirmed that this was indeed the case and that none of the videos were working in the US. This represented a serious problem as a large proportion of the University’s student population is international, and videos form an integral part of student recruitment.

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A check of the video manager settings in YouTube’s creator studio did not reveal any reason why these videos would not be visible in the US, and there were no copyright strikes against any of our content either.

A copyright strike is when you’re penalised by YouTube for uploading copyrighted content. Penalties include features being removed from your account and restrictions being applied. Find out more about copyright strikes on YouTube.

With these two options exhausted, we decided to try downloading one of the videos and uploading it to a different account to check whether the problem lay with the videos themselves, or with the University’s account.

The video that we uploaded to a different account worked across all regions, meaning that the problem lay with the University’s account rather than the video content. Having exhausted all possible options from our end (or so we thought), the time had come to contact YouTube support.

We submitted a support call detailing the extent of our problem, and a YouTube support staff member replied to confirm that there was a policy set against our content which was blocking our videos being played in the US in addition to Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

To resolve the issue, we were advised to log in to video manager, click on the dropdown menu next to edit and choosing the “Block by Country” option. Then deselect the countries that the video is blocked in. The only problem was that the “Block by Country” option mentioned wasn’t appearing in the dropdown menu.

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We reported this to YouTube support and they escalated the issue for investigation by their internal review team.

YouTube’s specialists examined the video and found that there was a block policy set on our content – a fact we had already established. They suggested that to fix this problem we needed to set the correct usage policies for our videos, and referred us to the Google Help Centre for more information about usage policies and match policies.

A usage policy is a set of rules that specify how a content owner wants YouTube to handle their videos. This allows content owners to choose whether users can view their videos (depending on criteria such as geographic location) and whether YouTube displays advertisements with the video.

To set a usage policy for a particular video you need to select “edit” in video manager and then select the “Monetization” tab that appears below the video. Here you will see “Usage policies”, and a dropdown menu offers a selection of options. To make a video visible in all countries, make sure the “track in all countries” option is selected.

Thanks to the help of YouTube support, our videos are now back up and running in all regions and countries.

A to Z of social media

The world of social media moves at a fast pace, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to keep up with all the latest platforms, technologies and terms. To help, I’ve compiled an (almost) A to Z list of common social media terms alongside explanations.

This list is in no way exhaustive, but I hope you find it useful all the same.

Analytics

Social media analytics are data sets that tell you what has happened – how well a post has performed, how many people clicked on a link, how many followers you’ve gained in the past months and so on.

Brand advocate

This is a very satisfied customer that goes on to recommend your brand or product to others, often via social media. It is often very worthwhile for brands to engage with and reward their advocates in order to encourage future endorsements.

Crowdsourcing

This is when you obtain something (usually information or input) by enlisting the help of people via the internet. It can be anything from funding to ideas, but in terms of social media it usually relates to content.

DM

This is shorthand for “direct message”. Sometimes people may alternatively use PM for “private message”, but they both mean to send a message privately on social media as opposed to posting publicly.

Engagement

This is a broad term that covers all interaction on social media. In terms of posts, it includes link clicks, profile clicks, comments, shares and so on.

F4F

This means “follow for follow” and signals to other users on Twitter or Instagram that if they follow you, you will follow them back.

Geofilter

These are special overlays that Snapchat users can apply to their photos based on their geographic location. For example, during graduation we had a special geofilter available for Snapchat users in the University’s main quadrangle.

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Hashtag

Hashtags function a bit like keywords in that they are a way to categorise your social media content and make your posts searchable by specific topic.

Influencer

This is someone with a large social media audience who is capable of setting trends and driving awareness. Brands often pay influencers to market their products: this is known as influencer marketing and the Kardashian sisters social media profiles are a good example of how this works.

Klout score

This is a rating of social influence online based on the size of users’ networks and how other people interact with their content – a large score indicates a user that has significant influence.

LinkedIn endorsement

You can endorse your connections skills on LinkedIn. Endorsements boost a profile’s credibility because they provide validation that you have the skills you claim.

Meme

A meme is a symbol or idea that spreads virally on social media. It can be a saying, a video or most commonly an image overset with humorous text.

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Microblogging

Twitter and Tumblr are microblogging sites in that they allow users to broadcast short messages to a network of other users. Think of microblogging as a cross between traditional blogging and instant messaging.

Newsjacking

This is when brands and organisations capitalise on the popularity of a current news story or event in order to raise their profile. Perhaps the best example of this the Super Bowl XLVII’s infamous power outage.

Organic reach

This is the number of people who see a social media post without any paid distribution.

Pinned tweet

A pinned tweet is one that sticks to the top of your profile’s wall. This is a good way to draw attention to an important announcement or boost engagement as it will be the first tweet that visitors to your profile will see.

Quote retweet

When you retweet on Twitter you have the option to add your own comment too. This means your individual input or opinion can be added to the retweet.

Response rate

This is the time it takes the admin of a Facebook page to respond to queries or messages. To achieve a “very responsive to messages” badge, admin must respond to 90% of messages within a 15-minute timeframe – no mean feat.

Sentiment analysis

This refers to the analysis of the attitudes, emotions and opinions of social media users in relation to a brand or product. There are quite a few tools available to help with this.

Thread

In terms of social media, a thread is a sequence of responses to an original post or comment, so basically a virtual conversation.

URL shortener

URL shortening tools convert a regular URL e.g. http://www.facebook.com into a condensed format. This is particularly useful when posting links on platforms with limited character counts like Twitter.

Vlogger

Quite simply, someone who blogs via video rather than writing – some examples.

Who to follow

A Twitter feature that gives you tailored suggestions of accounts to follow based on the type of content you share and the accounts you’re already following.

Parents/guardians of new students survey – the results

Following on from the launch of our new taught postgraduate course pages, and as the next stage of our digital prospectus project, the digital communications team have been developing new undergraduate (UG) course pages to improve the way that UG courses are advertised on the University of St Andrews’ website.

The first stage was comprehensive research and development, including competitor analysis, a survey of prospective students and workshops with staff from across the University.

An issue raised during the staff workshops was that we hadn’t considering that parents often play a big role in the university decision-making process. To rectify this oversight, we ran a parent/guardian survey to see what information they considered important when helping their student decide where to study.

Continue reading “Parents/guardians of new students survey – the results”

Content curation and storytelling using Storify

I’ve written before about the importance of using authentic, user-generated content, particularly in relation to social media in the context of higher education.

In the past few months, we’ve endeavoured to follow our own advice with the University’s central social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and have been asking our followers to share their content with us. Continue reading “Content curation and storytelling using Storify”

Prospective undergraduate student survey – the results

As I wrote in a previous blog post, we’ve recently been undertaking some work with a view to redesigning the way undergraduate courses are advertised on the University of St Andrews’ website.

Undergraduate course pages are currently housed in the course search portal.

Our aim is to develop a more user-friendly process where courses are listed by subject rather than department (see phase 3 of our digital prospectus business case) and course pages contain more tailored and targeted information.

The first phase of this process was research. Adhering to our commitment to user-centred design, we undertook a survey of potential undergraduate students to establish what information prospective undergraduates are most interested in when considering applying to university.

Continue reading “Prospective undergraduate student survey – the results”

Undergraduate course pages – research and development

Having already designed, created and launched centralised web pages to advertise the University’s taught postgraduate courses we have now turned our attention to redesigning the way undergraduate courses are advertised.

Why?

The rationale for both the new taught postgraduate course pages and the planned undergraduate course pages are covered in our digital prospectus business case.

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Undergraduate course pages are currently housed in the course search portal.

Our aim is to develop a more user-friendly process where courses are listed by subject rather than department (see phase 3 of the digital prospectus business case) and course pages contain more tailored and targeted information.

Research

The first phase of this project was research, and we divided this into four categories:

  • assessing our current content
  • competitor research
  • prospective undergraduate student survey
  • staff workshops.

Firstly, we examined the current content that we have available for prospective undergraduate students including course search, the undergraduate prospectus and School websites.

We then undertook a benchmarking exercise to compare our content to that provided by other universities to identify similarities, differences and points for improvement.

We found that most universities’ undergraduate course pages followed a broadly similar structure with an ‘at-a-glance’ section at the top of the page (generally including course name, UCAS code, degree type and duration) followed by a more detailed breakdown of information below. The presentation of this information, however, varied widely with different universities emphasising different aspects of their student experience. From this, we concluded that we needed to conduct our own research into what information we should be prioritising on our undergraduate pages.

We ran a survey for prospective undergraduate students to find out about the information that they are interested in when considering applying to university. In particular, what information they considered important to their decision-making process and what factors might influence their decision. Results from this survey will be available soon.

Finally, we are also running workshops with staff from around the University to discuss the content we are providing for our prospective undergraduate students.

Our main question to staff was: what content about undergraduate courses do you think we need to provide?

We want to include both information that students think is important, but also information that our staff and academics think students need to know too.

An issue raised in these workshops that we hadn’t considered was that parents often play a big role in the university decision-making process. To rectify this oversight, we have developed a prospective undergraduate parent/guardian survey which we are currently collecting responses for. Results should be available in the next few weeks.

Prototype development

Our next step is to develop a series of prototype pages containing the content that we think undergraduate course pages should include.

This is not a one-size-fits-all exercise as our research has found that, for example, Arts and Science applicants have different needs. Joint and triple Honours degree courses pose additional challenges too.

We plan to work on developing these prototype pages in the coming weeks with the aim of presenting them at the next DCPB meeting. We are looking forward to sharing the results of our work with the wider University in due course too.

In the meantime, if you have questions about any aspect of the digital communications team’s work, please feel free to get in contact with us via itservicedesk@st-andrews.ac.uk.

An agile approach to social media

The world of social media moves at an incredibly fast pace, where often change is the only certainty. This can be challenging in terms of strategy because an element of reactivity is required to accommodate this rapid change.

Can taking an agile approach to social media help to overcome the challenge of uncertainty? Are the two things even compatible? To answer these questions, this blog post will examine the twelve principles of agile and their application to social media strategy.

Continue reading “An agile approach to social media”

How to run an Instagram takeover

An Instagram takeover is when a special guest is invited to temporarily take control of a brand or organisation’s Instagram account, often providing a glimpse into their lives or a behind-the-scenes look at a certain event.

In the context of Higher Education, St Lawrence University runs a community Instagram account that features a different group of students each week – usually a society or special interest group. This gives prospective students an insight into life at the university.

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Continue reading “How to run an Instagram takeover”

Graduation 2016 social media analytics

The University’s social media activities for graduation 2016 were shaped by three main aims:

  • to increase following, reach and awareness by producing shareable content and by capitalising on high profile graduation guests and participants
  • to drive engagement through multimedia content (video interviews), user-generated content and strategic hashtags
  • to experiment with new and previously under-used social media platforms – namely Snapchat and Instagram.

This blog post gives a run-down of performance across the University’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts during graduation week, followed by recommendations for future campaigns.

Continue reading “Graduation 2016 social media analytics”