As social media managers, I'm sure we all like to think our channels are relaxed, engaging and not at all corporate but I would wager that for much of the year, they're a lot less fun than we'd like to admit.
There are a few exceptions over the course of the calendar though - the end of term and holidays are always good for something light-hearted. There's also Clearing which, yes, needs to be taken seriously; but are you even doing it properly if you're not filling your timeline with GIFs, memes and videos suggesting your campus is some kind of fun-filled utopia?
And then there's the one you probably realise you need to start thinking about - graduation.
Out of all the 'fun' times, throughout the year, for a social media account in Higher Education, graduation is, without a doubt, my favourite. There's something about having an intense run of days where you get to watch your students transition to graduates and share that journey with their family and friends, that is just immensely enjoyable. The atmosphere, both on campus and online, is just packed full of positivity and good vibes.
In my time at Warwick, I've worked on seven different batches of degree ceremonies. They've taught my colleagues and me an awful lot about how we should approach our social media coverage of graduation, and I thought some of those learnings might be useful to you as the class of this year's moment in the spotlight begins to loom large.
So, with that in mind, here are ten tips to level up your graduation social media. If you would like to find out even more then you can download our free Social Media 101 Guide.
1. Use Twitter
For all of its flaws, Twitter is still unbeatable for coverage of live events, making it a must-do for your graduation coverage. Just think - there's no chance of you posting too much, you can throw in quick images, videos and GIFs to make your tweets pop and you can really generate a buzz, at what is otherwise a quiet time of the year. If you come up with a snappy hashtag, you'll make it really easy for your students, and the rest of your campus, to get involved in too.
And, speaking of hashtags...
2. Create your own, consistent graduation hashtag
At Warwick, we always use #warwickgrad - it's been our established graduation hashtag for a number of years now. You'll note that there is no year referenced in the tag and I believe this consistency has really helped the hashtag spread over time. It's easy to share with our internal network of digital champions, encouraging them to get involved too. It also means that any stationary we have with the hashtag on doesn't have to be reprinted next year.
You can track how your hashtag performs, by using tools like TweetArchivist and TweetBinder. Last summer, #warwickgrad was used in 1,198 tweets by 366 different users and generated 16,333,408 impressions - which was a 32% increase compared to the summer before (another reason to keep your hashtag consistent year-on-year). The hashtag also trended in Coventry throughout our week of degree ceremonies - not bad, eh?
3. Push your hashtag on Instagram too
Instagram is another great place to be during graduation, so make sure you shout about the hashtag there too. Also, make sure you get involved and be super generous with your likes and comments - search for other relevant hashtags, as well as geo-tagged posts and give that content some love. From experience, what may seem like a simple comment of 'congratulations!' from your end could really make the day of the person who shared that post.
4. Keep Instagram's native video options in mind
Don't make all of your Instagram video content the professional, polished stuff - use your phone and make the most of Instagram's own tools like Boomerang and Hyperlapse. Why? Because, there's every chance that Instagram's algorithm will reward you for doing so. Last summer, our best-performing post on Instagram during graduation was a simple Boomerang clip.
5. Make the most of Facebook
Chances are your institution's Facebook page will receive a spike in traffic during your graduation week, so make the most of those extra eyeballs and make sure you are sharing your best content. For Facebook, that means video; video that shows real students and real emotion - something that gets a reaction. Make them so good that people won't be able to resist sharing them. In terms of going big on videos for graduation, Facebook is undoubtedly the place to do it.
6. Don't go too mad though
We all know Facebook's algorithm doesn't appreciate spammers, so make sure you adopt a quality over quantity approach. Last year, we found that posting one awesome video a day on Facebook (along with some subtle nudges towards our other channels in the caption) worked perfectly, sending our organic reach flying.
7. Look to alternative sources of inspiration
We had a clear plan for the videos we shared on social media last year - they were short in length and turned around overnight, so they actually featured footage from the previous day's graduation action, rather than just general stock footage. Our inspiration for this wasn't from the sector but actually from looking at how touring bands use video. Last year, I really enjoyed watching how the band Creeper used video on each day of their headline tour. These videos were made up of clips from the previous night's show. The editing was tight, they were exciting and captured the energy of a show. Also, they served two audiences; those people who were at last's night show and who might spot themselves, and those who would be watching the band that night and getting even more excited at the prospect of the show.
We wanted to do our own version, so we did, and ended up will a wonderful set of short films that got yesterday's graduates teary-eyed about their brilliant day, and got today's grads pumped for what was ahead of them.
8. Play the alumni card
If you've never tapped into your alumni networks during your graduation weeks, then you are missing out. From experience, your institution's graduates will be thrilled to share their own memories of getting their degrees, which really adds an extra layer to the content you can put out. Also, your alumni will love seeing coverage of this year's ceremonies too, so make sure you don't overlook them!
9. Go Live!
It doesn't look like live video is going to be treated any less favourably in the algorithms anytime soon, so make the most of this preferential treatment and go live during graduation. Take time and think of the best ways to use it. Show graduates being robed and having their mortarboards fitted, do a behind-the-scenes tour of an empty hall before the doors open, or just do a bunch of live vox pops with your new graduates once their ceremony is over.
10. Throw out a Snapchat filter
This is something we've not yet tried at Warwick during graduation week, but hopefully that will change this summer. Get your designer to create a cool geofilter for your graduating students and cough up a few quid and put it on Snapchat for them to use. You can keep the cost down by making your geofence tight around the venue for your graduation and also by being smart with your dates and times. Instead of booking for the whole week and having to pay for all of the overnight slots, where no-one will be around to use the filter, schedule each day individually and run the filter from 9am-6pm.
So there's ten tips to get you started - happy graduation.
Are you looking to plan any graduation content? Are you prepared for Clearing 2017? Get in touch with our team of digital experts, who can ensure your social media marketing is at its best ahead of summer.