How to Run a Successful and Safe Student Social Media Takeover

October 02, 2017

In a quest to connect and engage with prospective students, college and university marketing teams are turning to student social media takeovers of official social media accounts. These first-person, student produced narratives help schools to tell stories from new angles, to present an authentic, unmoderated perspective, and to grow their audiences.

Three experts on the topic shared their experiences and processes for letting students take the reigns during a panel at the annual CCA conference:

The panelists articulated their strategies and approaches to running effective student Snapchat and Instagram takeovers.

3 Reasons For Colleges to Try Student Social Media Takeovers

  • A more authentic experience. Social media removes the “institution” and allows prospective students to hear directly from current students. While all platforms offer a more transparent experience, panelists noted: “Snapchat is better for showing an authentic experience” while “Instagram is more polished” and better for a more curated experience.

  • Extend and grow your social media audience. Providing authentic stories and cross-promoting those stories on other social media platforms increases social follows across the board. Plus, it engages both prospective students and current students.

  • Tell stories that would be hard – or impossible – for a marketing team to produce. Stories about international students, unique performance opportunities, or research projects out of the country are compelling, exciting, and brand-building opportunities, but they are hard to source and produce from within the marketing department. Allowing students to tell these stories via social media ensures that they are getting out.

4 Steps to Running a Successful Student Social Media Takeover

All schools worry about students promoting or posting content that is risky, illegal, or simply paints the school in bad light. These four steps will help you successfully minimize the risk and demonstrate the impact of student social media take overs.

Step 1: Find the Right Students

Seek out students that are already engaged with your campus and are having a great experience with your college or university, such as:

  • Campus ambassadors and admissions tour guides

  • Student government members

  • Honor society members

  • Program rock stars

  • Savvy social media ambassadors — look for students with their own blogs or large social media following

  • Ask faculty or staff for student referrals — this helps to increase accountability and share the risk

Step 2: Meet With Your Snapchatters and Social Media Ambassadors

An in-person meeting to plan out the day is important. The planning meeting is not about developing a strict script, but more a brainstorming session to think through the student’s day and identify opportunities to share content.

It’s also a chance to share some general guidelines:

  • Follow the behaviors and values outlined in the student handbook

  • Avoid posting about religious views

  • Don’t post anything illegal

  • If you have a medical school – no pictures of rooms or people to avoid violating patient confidentiality rules

  • Let students take the reigns – trust them to let them show the campus to prospective students

All three panelists recommended running take-overs during business hours – between 9:00 to 5:00 – when activities are generally academic and activity, club, or sports focused.

The planning meeting is also a good opportunity to share results about what’s been popular in the past and some tactical information:

  • Remember to introduce yourself at the beginning

  • Offer context about the photo or video

  • Ensure video snaps include captions

  • Let people know that you are taking “official” pictures and make sure they are comfortable with being included

Overall, encourage them to be themselves and bring as much personality as possible to the day.

Step 3: Promote student takeovers on other social media channels

Cross promotion is crucial to success — especially for Snapchat takeovers. Schools should use the institutional Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to promote what’s happening over on Snapchat. Also, encourage the student to promote the story as well from their personal social media accounts. And remember, if you can find a student with a pre-existing social media following, your efforts will be amplified.

Step 4: Document social media takeovers

Throughout the day, monitor the story, take screen shots to document, and record the outcomes. A few metrics to include:

  • Total stories: 665

  • Impressions: 113,000

  • Engagements (use screen shots)

  • Start looking at drop off rates – very successful is less than 10% drop-off

Example Student Social Media Takeovers

More than just a pretty picture

Beyond “around campus” Snapchat takeovers, George Washington University uses Snapchat takeovers to tell stories that would otherwise be too costly or they simply can’t tell. For example, a student group when to Brazil to conduct research and another student music group appeared on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal.

This is My Real

Virginia Commonwealth launched a successful student campaign on Instagram called “This is my real.” The social media team asked students to show a real day as a student seeking out behind-the-scenes situations, and encouraged the students to avoid just pretty pictures and focus on clever stories with a wow-factor.

Get Going!

With these four steps, you can expand your social media reach, build your audience, and expand a communication channel with prospects. If you need more inspiration to get started, be sure to check out “Tuesday Takeovers” from West Virginia University (WVU) on Snapchat.

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