This week on #bufferchat, we explored social media marketing ideas for the higher education industry! The community talked all about the brand voice of a university social account, the kinds of content that connect well with a university community, how to engage alumni, and much more.

In the 2nd chat time, the awesome Nikki Sunstrum, director of social media at the University of Michigan, joined in the discussion as our special guest!

Read on to discover all of the awesome advice that was shared during the chat!

Catch our weekly Twitter chat, #bufferchat, at TWO times every Wednesday for valuable industry insights and to meet hundreds of other smart marketers and social media enthusiasts. Same topic, same place, just at different times – feel free to join in to whichever chat time works best for you!

4 pm AEST (Sydney time)

9 am PT (San Francisco time)

Bufferchat on September 20, 2017 (Topic = Creative Social Marketing Ideas for Higher Ed)

This week’s stats: 
Bufferchat #1 (4 pm AEST): 26 participants
Bufferchat #2 (9 am PT): 84 participants

Q1: What do you think is the main goal of higher educational institutions for using social media? 

From Nikki:

  • In one word? Transparency. #SocialMedia enables #HigherEd to paint a clear picture of our mission, impact & aspirations.
  • Additionally #SocialMedia provides unprecedented access to advocates & adversaries. Empowering us to be proactive & add value.

From the community:

  • “Connecting your audience (students, staff, parents, alumni) to the university! Making them brand ambassadors.” @victori_media
  • “They need to entice prospective students into applying & make current students feel proud of being part of the uni!” @AquamarineMedia
  • “Getting potential students excited about what the university has to offer academically, socially, and culturally.” @laura_bauman

See all the great answers to question 1 here!

Q2: What social media platforms work really well for higher education marketing?  

From Nikki:

  • They can all work and, honestly they can all not work. Effectiveness is dependent on solid strategy.
  • Without proper research, identifying your target demo & your institutional goals for #socialmedia any effort is subject to failure.
  • Furthermore, a clearly thought out content strategy & resources that maximize available platform features are vital to success.

From the community:

  • “Insta: sharing vision. Twitter: sharing news. Facebook: community building. Youtube: media relations. WhatsApp for 1-to-many.” @jwilkers
  • “FB for alumni & parent relations. Twitter, Snap, & IG for quick access to activities, community, & student support.” @ItsJeffHiggins
  • “Facebook – my alma mater has pages for the university as well as the different student orgs, colleges, and alumni relations.” @_lblake

See all the great answers to question 2 here!

Q3: Do you feel like a university’s social media accounts should have a single brand voice or represent many voices?

From Nikki:

  • Tweets can dictate headlines, FB posts generate media inquires & Instagram posts become news articles. Every post matters.
  • It’s become imperative that university accounts be official resources for community members of factual & timely information.
  • That’s not to say the 1,052 subsidiary accounts at don’t have their own unique voices. It’s all about being authentic.

From the community:

  • “Depends a lot on platform you’re using, but I think you have the room to represent many voices. Diversity is a good thing!” @beccasocial
  • “I think there should be a variety of voices that are unified. Have a consistent message but reach many different audiences.” @TriciaTimney
  • “That said – a clear, consistent voice – defined by a social strategy and style guide – will make your voice more valuable.” @CBarrows

See all the great answers to question 3 here!

Q4: What are creative ways to involve current students in a university’s social media presence?    

From Nikki:

  • For 5 yrs has been a voice for our student community. re-credentials it each Sunday.
  • Additionally, we regularly work across campus to facilitate student takeovers across an array of platforms.
  • When you publish personal narratives in #socialmedia it is far more effective than you simply patting yourself on the back.

From the community:

  • “Instagram takeovers by students are high-impact & videos of students talking about what they’ve learnt. True SM influencers.” @ElizabethKF
  • “Students producing content. Blog posts & vlogs. Their experiences. Motivating their peers and sharing that msg through sm.” @minicoopersmum
  • “One small way: We push students to live tweet school events and conferences so that we can amplify them.” @itsapun

See all the great answers to question 4 here!

Q5: How can universities best engage their alumni on social media? Feel free to share your experience as an alum(na)! 

From Nikki:

  • Individual outreach is still very powerful, as is proper education of your expectations for alums to engage.
  • I happen to be at a small advantage because of my profession as far as knowing to tag my universities & use the proper hashtags.
  • Communicate why they should continue engage beyond a ‘Like’ or ‘Follow.’ Give them purpose and partner shared success.

From the community:

  • “A good mix of nostalgic photos + exciting updates that help them feel connected to what’s going on.” @JCT32Team
  • “Celebrate alumni wins, leadership roles. Engage with them from a thought leader perspective. Show their experience via chats.” @tina_josef
  • “Share alum testimonials, do #TBT or #FBF, promote alum networking events, anything that would help your alumni land a job.” @xoxAMH

See all the great answers to question 5 here!

Q6: What kinds of social content have the potential to connect well with an entire university community? 

From Nikki:

  • Timely content is 🔑. The more in the moment you can be, curating a story your community’s passionate about, the better.
  • Leverage platform features to build engaging content. Solicit input, provide live opportunities, acknowledge contributions.
  • Don’t be afraid to be honest & thought-provoking. #HigherEd is 🏠 to brilliant minds & change makers. Put them in your social!

From the community:

  • “Our solar eclipse video did really well. 99.99% totality. Also our white coat video. Video (esp. native video) in general.” @DeraLuce
  • “Posts that highlight a school’s successes–research breakthroughs, student innovations, community contributions.” @claireshegoes
  • “Feeling good stories nurture a sense of belonging within the uni community & envy from prospective students.” @aswinlutchanah

See all the great answers to question 6 here!

Q7: What kinds of awesome social campaigns have you seen universities launch? 

From Nikki:

  • I’m a huge fan of out of the box thinking that adds value to society beyond simply social.
  • Anyone that can move things from 140 character into the real world gets an A+ in my book.
  • truly is one of the best collectives of brilliant, creative & powerful minds I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

From the community:

See all the great answers to question 7 here!


Thank you so much to our awesome community and to Nikki for sharing such great insights in this chat!

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

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Written by Arielle Tannenbaum

Community Strategist at Buffer. In addition to her love of community building, Arielle also loves vegetables, cooking, practicing yoga, meditating, living mindfully, and exploring the connections between health and happiness!