Facebook is the most actively used social media platform across the board, with 2.41 billion daily active users worldwide.
For businesses, when used correctly it is proven to help with brand awareness, website traffic, lead generation and online conversions.
It is a place where the University can show more personality and interact with followers. A strong visual platform, it is the first stop for many and a place to have a conversation directly with Herts.
Primarily the audience on this platform includes Undergraduates and Postgraduates, with a lesser focus on Corporate, Alumni, Staff and Academics.
Need to knows
First stop for many
Facebook will be most heavily used by students, both current and prospective. It is often one of an Undergraduate's first stops when looking at a brand. Postgraduate students will also be present on the platform, looking at it as a source of information and updates.
Focus on images and videos
Content with images perform significantly better with the Facebook audience than status updates which include only text. Posts that include photos obtain 104% more comments and 53% more likes. Video increases clicks and conversions and is optimised by Facebook to display higher on the algorithm.
Stories over content
It is important not to post just anything, and stories should always be the focus. Content (including video or image) should be relevant and engaging whenever posted.
Adopt a ‘lighter’ tone
Facebook is also a platform that users will expect to see to see a slightly more casual and ‘fun’ side of the brand. Don’t be afraid to post less 'university related' content here. This may be support of a current community or news occurrence (i.e. local news and events), reminders about upcoming events (i.e. Mother’s Day or Plastic Matter Online) or interesting content for students (i.e. encouragement of learning a new skill during the semester break). Keep the tone conversational, but never obscene, inappropriate, or offensive. Always be considerate whether this lighter tone is appropriate for the content. If in doubt, consult a second opinion.
Don’t shy away from using emoji's where appropriate. They can be a great way to show personality and break up text. However, if ever in doubt, don't use them.
Choose content carefully
Like the above, be sure to choose the type of content carefully. Pushing a message that is too 'salesy' can irritate followers. Remember that you have current students and past students as part of the community as well. They won't amplify messages that are salesy but will also comment if they disagree with the sentiment. Facebook is a platform many use to relax and unwind, so try to keep the content light, fun and with a secondary 'sales' message.
Unlike other platforms, it is very easy to go overboard and come off as 'spamming' your followers with multiple posts. People use Facebook as a means to relax and seeing the same brand pop up repeatedly can feel like an advertisement. Follow the below 'ideal posting' segment for more information.
Reply to negative comments
Facebook is a platform that all audiences will come to see a more authentic side of a brand. The way they can do so is through the comments made by real students. Students, especially prospective Undergraduates, will expect to see students speaking candidly about their University in the comments. Are they mainly positive or negative?
Students will also want to see how you handle honest negative criticism. Don't be afraid to reply to comments, good and bad, in a constructive and caring way. Students will appreciate the honesty and transparency. Those making negative comments want to feel heard, so acknowledge any concerns and let them know whether there is a simple solution (i.e. provide a link that addresses their question/concern in more depth) or ask them to call/email the university to talk about the matter in more detail. Try to answer any negative comments as soon as possible, to take control of the situation and avoid it accelerating. If appropriate, sign off this message with a person’s name, as it serves as a reminder there are real people on the other end and can often defuse a situation.
As an example: '"Hi Alex, so sorry to hear you are having trouble with your application process. We have double checked and the website is up and functioning as it should, so perhaps you’ve hit a snag. The below link has a Q&A for this exact process and if that is still not helpful, please feel free to DM us so we can assist you further. Thanks, Sarah".
If you need more time to check the problem or ask for other opinions, feel free to direct them to reach out to a “help” email with more details, letting them know they are heard, we are working on it and trying to resolve there issue of concern.
As an example: "Hi Alex, so sorry to hear you are having trouble with the application process. We are looking into the issue you’ve raised in more detail now. Could you please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on how to get this sorted? Thanks, Sarah"
Always try to take the conversation offline instead of responding repeatedly to complaints within the thread itself – suggest either email correspondence or that they reach out via Direct Message. Keep the response as high-level as possible while still being informative.
When reviewing negative comments, consider what caused them within the context of the post content itself. Keep a spreadsheet or word document flagging concerns, with a column for who is responsible for different types of issues. Consider tweaking verbiage or messaging on the next post, where a strong negative response is received.
Hide malicious comments
You can (and should) hide any malicious or outwardly offensive comments. Be sure to hide these rather than delete them. This will hide the comment from everyone except the commenter and their Facebook Friends. Hiding (over deleting) means the commenter doesn't know that you’ve hidden it and won’t attempt to post about this or engage further. To hide a comment, hover over the top-right hand “x” and click “Hide.”
Encourage community interaction
Facebook is fantastic for engaging with communities. With the 'like', 'share' and 'comment' section so easily accessible to users, try to get your followers to interact with your posts. This increased traction, leading to more eyes and more brand awareness. To do so you may want to consider running competitions, creating a room or simply asking a question.
Personalise your business page
Facebook offers more personalisation of their pages than other platforms. Ensure yours is set up optimally. This includes updating the profile picture and cover image. Ensure the URL is clear as to which brand it is. Finally, evaluate the tabs on the page and customise to ensure they are relevant for the business (default tabs are "Timeline", "About," "Photos," "Likes" and "More").
Never target students directly
Targeting student or applicants' directly may lead them to feel their privacy is being invaded. Though, reply to student’s comments is encouraged. Just ensure it is keep top-line and polite, never personal.
Dos and don'ts
|✅ You should always||⛔️ You should never|
|Add Images and videos, where appropriate.||Post too often.|
|Adopt a ‘lighter’, conversational tone.||Post anything obscene, inappropriate, or offensive - if you're unsure, get a second opinion.|
|Consider whether this lighter tone is appropriate for the content.||Delete comments.|
|Support current community or news occurrence.||Be too salesy.|
|Choose content carefully.||Just recycle old posts or posts from your other social channels.|
|Be authentic.||Deviate from the brand personality and platform tone.|
|Follow the below 'ideal posting' segment.||Target students directly.|
|Hide malicious, inappropriate or offensive comments.|
|Reply to comments, good and bad, in a constructive and caring way (see platform considerations for examples & get approval for anything particularly sensitive).|
|Encourage community interaction with questions, etc.|
|Encourage followers to like, share or comment.|
|Consider running approved competitions.|
|Rewrite copy to suit the platform better.|
|Personalise your business page.|
|Add/remove hashtags accordingly.|
|Ensure all assets are the correct specification.|
|Check spelling and grammar.|
|If in doubt, consult a second opinion.|
|Ideal word count||40–75 words|
|Cover Photo||851 (w) x 310 (h) px|
|Profile||180 (w) x 180 (h) px|
|Fan Page Cover Photo||820 (w) x 312 (h) px|
|Group Cover Photo||820 (w) x 428 (h) px|
|Event Cover Photo||500 (w) x 262 (h) px|
|Shared image||1200 (w) x 630 (h) px|
|Photo of Shared Link||1200 (w) x 627 (h) px|
|Featured Photo||1200 (w) x 717 (h) px|
When to post
It is always important to remember not to post for the sake of posting something. If you’re not saying something with your post, it's not worth posting. You could throwback to another post as an alternative to keep the conversation going.
|High||Twice a day|
|Low||Once a week|
|Recommended||Once a day|
|When||Between 13.00 and 16.00|
|Notes||It's OK to share or post every other day to avoid coming off like spam.|
Although this is a great place to start, use the platform analytics to discover what works for your audiences (i.e. how often, what days, what time, etc.). Facebook analytics can be accessed from your page. Go to “Insights” located on the left-hand side, under “Manage Page”.
Undergraduates will heavily rely on it for information and updates, both serious in times of crisis (such as COVID-19) and for more casual information (such as about events or societies).
You can also expect undergraduates to speak candidly about the University on Twitter and Facebook. Do not be afraid to engage with them and the community on there.
What are their preferred social media platforms?
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be their most popular choices. They will expect information targeted to them, so it is important that they are regularly catered to in posts.
Undergraduates use Instagram as a way to keep up to date with the latest things happening at the University (i.e. upcoming events, festivals or workshops), or to simply engage with content they enjoy. We are seeing increased engagement in things like Instagram Q&As so there is a shift towards engaging with the platform for information, but which is more tailored to their specific needs and questions.
Undergraduates are not on LinkedIn too often, but when they are there, they are looking at internship and work experience opportunities and to increase their connections.
What about prospective students?
There is also some overlap between undergraduates and prospective students. Prospective students will be largely interested in seeing on social media how the student life and experience are represented.
However, there are distinct times of year when prospective students will be engaging with the University in greater numbers. Be sure you are not neglecting this audience for topics such general research, open days, prospectus/course information and clearing – in line with the campaigns around recruitment that will be running.
Prospective students will rely on a university’s social channels to help them gather a sense of the brand, which will in turn help them make decisions around applications. Research shows that social media is the first place they will look (before the website) for information and to start forming an opinion of the University. They will also use Instagram as a way to virtually see the campus, the students, lessons, facilities and the surrounding area, to give them a sense of what it will actually be like to study there.
Postgraduates will have pride in their university. Connecting with them through social media allows them to personally interact with the brand. This could be through engaging with content but could also be by sharing their own content which relates to the University, e.g. photos of themselves on campus or with friends.
What are their preferred social media platforms?
Just like undergraduates, postgraduates would be relying on University Twitter accounts for up to date information about the COVID crisis, and would engage with Facebook in a similar way.
Postgraduates are likely to be somewhat more active on LinkedIn than undergraduates, investigating work opportunities and building their profile. Utilising LinkedIn to highlight professional opportunities for postgraduates can therefore be very effective, and any help you can provide to help them grow their network and visibility will be appreciated by them.
Similar to undergraduates, Instagram should be used to showcase any new events and offerings around the University, but again, postgraduates will also engage with content they simply enjoy (e.g. beautiful campus photography, campaign content around Black History Month)
For postgraduate students who are already familiar with the University, there could be an opportunity to engage them with new courses or offerings, so consideration should be given to how to share this information most impactfully across the relevant channels that doesn’t come across as overtly sales led.
Corporate and enterprise audiences
What are their preferred social media platforms?
What about tone of voice?
Staff and academic audiences
Staff and academics will have an overview of all social channels but will be heavily reliant on Twitter to receive up to date information, not just about the University but about issues affecting the sector (Twitter is widely regarded as the best source of breaking news).
However, staff and academics should never use social media to break news or news that has not been confirmed by the university (PR are the first contact for this). We would encourage news being shared via internal channels first (e.g. HertsHub, UHQ emails) and that social media is a way to amplify that and ensure that it reaches more of our audience, where appropriate.
Staff and academics also use Twitter to promote research and other interests. This can be a rich area for retweeting on behalf of the University, showcasing some of the work of the staff and academics. LinkedIn is used currently but not as consistently or actively by our staff and academic community.
How do I engage my fellow staff and academics in using social media?
This group will have a presence on LinkedIn, for more professional and career specific interests, but as a key business engagement platform, staff advocacy on this channel can be a remarkably powerful tool. However, not everyone will know where to start.
To encourage more engagement with LinkedIn from your fellow staff and academics, ensure you:
- Leave prompts for their input.
- Lead by example, with more senior members.
- Ask or motivate their involvement (motivations include elevating their own personal brands by association, driving more and faster revenue generation and more connections).
- Educate them to empower them. There are misconceptions that LinkedIn is just somewhere you go when you’re looking for a job, and those that have been at the University for a number of years probably already have a rich internal network of contacts and don’t see the value. Highlight the benefits of being present on LinkedIn, beyond job hunting, e.g.
- Keeping an eye on competitor institutions
- Keeping abreast of key research sector or industry news and opinions
- Accessing training and development opportunities
- Building a captive audience for sharing of research etc
- Leave them with confidence their input is valued and teach them the basics of posting in association with the university, such as:
- Tag the university
- Ensure you have permissions
- Ensure you’re not sharing offensive content
Similarly, Twitter can be an excellent platform for sharing research and keeping abreast of industry or research sector news. At present there is good engagement with Twitter amongst the academic community, but this could be amplified by regularly tagging the University in posts, linking to relevant areas of the website and encouraging sharing of colleagues content amongst teams or departments (via personal Twitter profiles or professional), to increase breadth of reach.
What about tone of voice?
Our communication style internally is honest, informative and clear. This is particularly true in the UHQ emails, and for content created for staff on HertsHub. These principles should apply to engage with staff and academics on social media too. Even when the subject matter or content relates to complex research, a clear tone of voice and message works best to ensure it resonates with a broad staff/academic base and is relatable for all.
There is a temptation to want to convey the complex in a complex way, but this is not recommended for any of our audiences. Social media is a place for snapshots of digestible information which can prompt audiences to delve deeper, but they should still get a clear sense of the theme/story from the content of your post, regardless of platform.