It might sound like an obvious thing to write, but first impressions are crucial – after all, you’ve only got one chance to make them.
Which reminds me… hello! I’m Dave; I lead on social media at the University of Warwick and over the coming months I’ll be chipping in with a few guest posts on the Net Natives blog. I probably should have started with that, shouldn’t I? So much for a good first impression!
Anyway… what was I writing? Ah yes, good first impressions! Yes, they’re mightily important wherever they occur, including on social media.
As we jump headlong into another new academic year, we’ll all be meeting lots of new students – both online and in the real world. For many, the experiences they have during their induction period will shape the relationship that person has with their University. Make the induction period a success and chances are you’ll have an engaged and positive student. However, screw it up and, well, you can guess.
When it comes to this induction period, social media can be a huge help. You can share in your students’ excitement at starting their degree, make potentially dull and dry information easier to digest and even help connect them with fellow freshers, to help them make friends before they arrive on campus.
To get you inspired, here are just a few examples of some universities using social media for the induction period, and making a great first impression with their new students.
Loughborough has long been masters of making a brilliant first impression with some excellent induction work on social media, and 2016 is no exception. Taking inspiration from the mighty Willy Wonka (but without the Oompa Loompas), all of this year’s new freshers were sent a personalised golden ticket. That alone is worthy of inclusion in this list, but what I like here is the hashtag #LboroFamily – nothing is more welcoming than the idea of joining a family, it’s exciting and reassuring for their new students.
What makes this campaign so effective is its thoughtfulness and simplicity; personalising the golden tickets with each student’s name, instantly makes it cooler and more shareable. The University is not slacking in interacting with those contributing to the hashtag and even including the faces of their new students on their main social media channels.
The University of Nottingham is certainly not shy about its excitement for Freshers’ Week. Rather than just settle for the busy and well-used #UoNfreshers hashtag, they’ve backed it up with an entire Twitter account dedicated to welcoming their newest students.
@UoNFreshers’ feed is full of retweets, a super strong GIF game and emojis… so many emojis! It’s great to see an institution making so much effort to engage on their hashtag, which will only encourage more students to contribute to it. By having a separate account means they can go all-in with a tone of voice, that perhaps might have been too much for the main account.
One sure-fire way of building excitement is a classic countdown. Everyone loves them (even Siri on my phone gets pumped when I ask it to set a timer for me), so Coventry’s use of a countdown to Freshers’ Week was always likely to be a winner.
Not only is this a clever tactic to get their new students interested, but I also like how Coventry have used the countdown to throw in plenty of useful information and lots of images to help new students get to know their surroundings. The posts shows Freshers what the different faculty buildings look like, as well as parts of the city centre that will soon become part of their daily routine. It’s been really well executed. Also, the interaction with the Coventry Cathedral Facebook page is rather cute.
Going beyond freshers’ week with Limerick
Here's whats in store for next week... pic.twitter.com/3WlIwBU7UL— First Seven Weeks UL (@ULF7W) September 16, 2016
While most of the examples on this list focus on the very start of term, content should stretch for more than just a week or two. This cracking Twitter account from the University of Limerick, along with accompanying blog, all centred around the first seven weeks works great, highlighting a much longer period of support.
The feed is packed full of useful information for new and returning students. It has a great mixture of light-hearted stuff alongside the potentially duller (but still significant bits) such as bus times and finding your academic advisor. Oh, they also gave out free Crunchie bars last week just because it was Friday – win!
Warwick students in the frame
Come on, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to mention my institution, was I? At Warwick, we’ve grouped all our induction content around the hashtag #warwick2016. We also sent our new students a photo frame to pose with and share on social media. We’ll then give them a friendly hello and, hopefully, make that good first impression.
We’ve done this for the last few years now, and it seems to work well, especially the closer we get to the start of term. An added bonus we’ve spotted when running this campaign previously is students using the hashtag to find their course and hall mates. They can then virtually connect with them before arriving on campus and maybe feel a little less worried about the big move.
The real work for all of these institutions is keeping these new, keen and engaged followers in this state for the duration of their studies and beyond. This might seem daunting, but I’ll give you this tip for free…
Just do more of the same.
If you’ve delivered your induction content and welcome messages in a conversational, engaged and caring voice (which, let’s face it, you will have done), then keep that tone as you get back into the ‘business-as-usual’ swing of things. Even if that hasn’t previously been your style on social media – the start of the new academic year is the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself.
Content that is relevant and useful to your students. That’s what you should aim for, and that’s what will help you build an engaged following, who will pay attention to your future social media efforts.
No, it won’t necessarily be easy, but if you’ve used social media for induction effectively then at least you’ll have made that good first impression. Don’t waste it.
Good luck for the start of the new academic year!