Karine Joly No Comments

I asked the 12 higher ed social media professionals of the 2019-2020 Higher Ed Social Media Conference (HESM19) to share 3 higher ed social media campaigns that caught their attention in the past 12 months.

The resulting list featured 36 different higher ed social media campaigns or posts selected via this process.

36 inspiring higher ed social media campaigns 2019

Everybody was allowed to include a social media campaign from their school in their short list. Anything that was self-selected is clearly labeled 😎 .

You’ll find below the list of these 36 higher ed social media inspiring campaigns or posts broken – down by platforms – along with the rationale from the higher ed social media pro) who selected them in the first place.

Here’s a quick menu if you’re interested in a specific platform:

2019 Higher Ed Social Media Conference

11 of the Best Higher Ed Campaigns on Instagram Feed & Stories

”Pronouns, Names: Choose!” Story on Instagram (Dartmouth College)
Erika Boltz, Social Media Coordinator – UF Health
Surprise! Inclusion is super important to me. This Instagram story from Dartmouth was really well done in regards to choosing names and personal pronouns. Something we should all be thinking about for our students as classes go back into session.
Dartmouth Pronouns

”Grad Feels” Story on Instagram (UNC-Chapel Hill)
Sonja Likness, Director of social media & content strategy – Duke University
UNC-Chapel Hill, our friends down the road with the other shade of blue, have done some fun templates on Instagram Stories this year that I’ve made a mental note to copy, er, draw inspiration from—especially the UNC Grad Feels one.
Unc Chapelle Commencement

”Discover Nebraska” Story on Instagram (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Emily Phillips, Social Media Coordinator – William & Mary
We’ve been working on creating a weekly Instagram Story to better inform our students about what’s happening on campus and we knew we wanted it to be more than a list of upcoming events. Finding University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Discover Nebraska series was an inspiration for us. The series uses compelling photos, simple and clean design, and fun graphics to share upcoming events, current news stories, alumni profiles and more with their audience on a regular basis.
Unl Discover

”UM Rebranding” Story on Instagram (University of Manitoba)
Jessica Stutt, Integrated Marketing Manager – University of New Brunswick
This caught my eye as someone who has been through a rebrand in recent memory. It’s always interesting to see how higher ed institutions roll out their new look and feel. I liked how University of Manitoba provided great background on their new visual identity and have leveraged different platforms (including their student union’s accounts) to share this information. See it here as an Instagram Story highlight and a really informative landing page.
Umanitoba Rebrand

”#Tufts2019” Story on Instagram (Tufts University)
Jessica Stutt, Integrated Marketing Manager – University of New Brunswick
I started following Tufts last year after someone gave them a shout out leading up to the HESM conference. They do a lot of great things but I loved this insta story highlight around commencement. Particularly I liked how they start it with some specific messaging that they want to convey before featuring more organic content from the commencement ceremonies. The way they quantify the seniors’ shared experiences was really cool!
Tufts Commencement

Hilarious posts on Instagram (Binghampton University)
Jon McBride, Media Relations and Social Media Manager – BYU
A higher ed Instagram account other higher ed social media admins should follow is Binghampton’s (@binghamptonu). They are a fascinating use case in voice and tone. They do a lot of things, in a lot of ways, that most of us might not do, but as the university Instagram account with the No. 1 engagement rate in the entire US, they’re doing something incredibly right, and I think it comes down to speaking their audience’s language in some pretty hilarious ways.
Binghamton Quote

”Love Ya Lions” on Instagram (Penn State ) 😎
Jenna Spinelle, Communications Specialist – Penn State
I really enjoyed Penn State’s Love Ya Lions campaign, which started during the first home football game of the season. It’s a throwback to an old campaign from the 1970s/80s and had just the right mix of old and new. Alumni loved the nostalgia factor and current students loved the retro vibe.
Hesm19 Jenna Penn

”#WeAreUNB” on Instagram (UNB ) 😎
Jessica Stutt, Integrated Marketing Manager – University of New Brunswick
Shout out to my school – UNB’s digital team has just launched a new campaign called #weareunb, featuring stories of the people at our institution – including students, faculty, and staff. It’s helping to strengthen our community and I love the human aspect of it. It’s just getting started so I encourage you to follow along at our DiscoverUNB insta! Here’s an example. Go explore others!
Unb Weareunb

”The Michigan Wings” on Instagram (University of Michigan)
Emily Phillips, Social Media Coordinator – William & Mary
Okay, so this isn’t from 2019, but I discovered it this year so I’m going to include it on this list. I’m a fan of Kelsey Montague’s work and her #whatliftsyou message and I think there’s something really clever about combining an uplifting message (pun definitely intended) with a branded photo op on a university campus.
Umich Wings

”Humans of Harvard” on Instagram (Harvard University)
Emma Guillen, Digital Communication Manager – Boston University
Lastly, Harvard does an incredible job of capturing the personal stories of their students, faculty, and staff on Instagram in a style that’s reminiscent of Humans of NY. A favorite profile they recently shared was part of a series asking first-year students what special item they brought from home. This particular student, who brought a cold brew coffee maker, found that offering coffee was a great conversation starter. For a university as prestigious and world-renowned as they are, sharing the daily musings of their community helps bring them down to earth.
Harvard Coffee

”#RockChalk” on Instagram (The University of Kansas)
Molly Mattison, Senior Marketing Manager – Adtalem Global Education
The University of Kansas is one to watch in social media. They’ve branded their social media channels around their school chant, including a video Facebook cover, to amazing success. More than 220,000 photos have been tagged with the chant’s hashtag #RockChalk on Instagram, where the KU community has embraced this rallying cry to showcase their school pride.
Ku Rockchalk

4 of the Best Higher Ed Social Media Videos & Channels on YouTube

Students Vlogs on YouTube (West Virginia University)
Jon McBride, Media Relations and Social Media Manager – BYU
I love West Virginia’s student vlog campaign run by Chris Young on YouTube. This is definitely something we’re looking to replicate this year with the rise of vlog consumption. I love the authenticity that vlogging can provide in some pretty unique ways.

”Extra Credit” Video on YouTube (Duke University)
Samantha Paterson, Social Media Manager – University of Calgary
We all struggle with making the “talking head” videos interesting for social media and I LOVE the animation treatment on this Duke University video.

Extra Credit Videos on YouTube (Duke University ) 😎
Sonja Likness, Director of social media & content strategy – Duke University
At Duke University, we’ve started treating YouTube as a place for YouTube-specific content, rather than just a bucket to hold all of the content that we want to embed elsewhere. That means we’ve started on some series content. One of those series is called Extra Credit. We had one talking about whether stress is actually bad for you or not.

Video Thumbnails on YouTube (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Corynn Myers, Digital Marketing Manager – University of Michigan
University of Nebraska’s use of thumbnails on their YouTube channel. Thumbnails can significantly increase clicks on videos and I think Nebraska is doing a great job with their thumbnails.
Unl Youtube

7 of the Best Higher Ed Social Media Campaigns and Posts on Twitter

”The Egg” Video on Twitter (University of Michigan)
Samantha Paterson, Social Media Manager – University of Calgary
It was perfect and created so quickly – the power of a resourced content strategy engine and compelling social strategy.

UMich’s take on Ohio State’s story on Twitter (University of Michigan) 😎
Corynn Myers, Digital Marketing Manager – University of Michigan
University of Michigan’s tweet related to this Ohio State story.
Shameless plug for our owned team and this tweet which broke some metric records.

”What does WVU mean to you” on Twitter (West Virginia University)
Jamila Walker, University Social Media Manager – Old Dominion University
This campaign was excellent. They tapped into the WVU community to submit a video that voted on, would be chosen as the national commercial. I loved how they reached out to those who know WVU the best, students and alumni. Based on the posts and retweets, it was a huge success.

”Back to School Countdown” on Twitter (NYU)
Emma Guillen, Digital Communication Manager – Boston University
One recent social campaign that I really loved was NYU’s back to school countdown for the Class of 2023. During the week leading up to move-in day, they highlighted one interesting fact about the university each day with a captivating photo and impressive stats. With just these simple posts, they created a palpable sense of anticipation – and nostalgia for former students.

”You’ve Been Waiting For This Moment” on Twitter (Marquette University)
Jamila Walker, University Social Media Manager – Old Dominion University
I thought this post was absolutely genius. There was clearly a lot of research and thought that went into this post and it pulled on every heart string. It is a social media post that I would love to emulate soon.

Moving quote graphics on Twitter (Stanford University )
Sonja Likness, Director of social media & content strategy – Duke University
Stanford University’s moving quote graphics on Twitter caught our eye.

”Beyonce and Jay-Z in Norfolk, VA” on Twitter (Old Dominion University) 😎
Jamila Walker, University Social Media Manager – Old Dominion University
Producer Pharrell brought his Something in the Water Festival to Virginia Beach and there were rumors that Beyonce and Jay-Z were in the area. Twitter post went out with a photoshop of the couple in one of the landmarks in Norfolk. ODU hopped on the bandwagon and photoshop Beyonce and Jay-Z on campus. The post received local news attention.

8 of the Best Higher Ed Social Media Campaigns on Facebook

Lizzo in the Library on Facebook (McDaniel College)
Jenna Spinelle, Communications Specialist – Penn State
Lizzo in the library? Yes, please! This campaign was so much fun and generated a lot of buzz for the library online and offline. It also goes to show what can happen when you don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. They also gave out Lizzo bookmarks that were designed by a student and shared a resource for anyone to create their own.

New Photos of the Week on Facebook (RIT )
Emma Guillen, Digital Communication Manager – Boston University
Creating weekly photo albums is a great use of the Facebook platform, and invites followers to experience a week in the life (every week!) on the RIT campus. As an alum, clicking through each photo transported me to an earlier time in my life, and reconnected me with my alma mater. This goes to show that something as straightforward as imagery paired with short captions can have a huge impact.

Question posts on Facebook (American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine) 😎
Molly Mattison, Senior Marketing Manager – Adtalem Global Education
This may seem simple, but asking your audience questions to gain their insights is something a lot of higher education institutions miss. This recent post from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine had a 20% engagement rate on Facebook – much higher than our average engagement rates, or industry benchmarks.

”Women in Science: Building a World” Video on Facebook (Colorado State University)
Nitasha Maindiratta, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager – NYU Steinhardt School
I thought CSU’s video was incredible at turning a student’s work into a piece of visually compelling content that honed in on audience’s hope for a better, more equitable world. I also like this video because it resonates with people outside of the CSU community such as myself, increasing brand awareness and social shares.

Tall Bikes Video on Facebook (VCU)
Erika Boltz, Social Media Coordinator – UF Health
I have to start with the post that’s the nearest and dearest to my heart, from my alma mater and former employer, VCU. For April Fools day with my friend and former co-worker after years of lobbying, we teamed up and did a tall bike rental fleet. Tall bikes have a lot of history in Richmond, so this was really true gold.

”The Biology of Positivity” Video on Facebook (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Nitasha Maindiratta, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager – NYU Steinhardt School
HGSE does a great job of focusing on thought-leadership to increase brand awareness and engagement on social. I was a fan of “The Biology of Positivity” not only because I think it was wonderfully made through simple yet compelling graphics, but because it resonated with me as someone who practices mindfulness.

“Let the Games Begin” Video on Facebook (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Emily Phillips, Social Media Coordinator – Wiliam & Mary
I thought the video itself was fun, the student involvement was a nice touch and the plethora of Milwaukee landmarks certainly had this alumna feeling nostalgic! I also appreciate the amount of work that I’m sure went into coordinating all of the filming locations, the participants’ schedules and teaching everyone the choreography.

”We Don’t Have Football. So What?” Videos on Facebook (NYU) 😎
Nitasha Maindiratta, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager – NYU Steinhardt School
I love how NYU took what could be perceived as a weakness in higher ed – a lack of a football team which often cultivates a sense of community among students and alumni -– into an opportunity to highlight other incredible and unique NYU athletes around the world including an award-winning baton twirler, archer, and Nascar driver.

6 of the Best Higher Ed Social Media Inspiration on GIPHY, TikTok & Others

Mascot Rex GIF Stickers on GIPHY (University of Calgary ) 😎
Samantha Paterson, Social Media Manager – University of Calgary
I was quite proud of this one of ours here at UCalgary. Giphy stickers of our mascot Rex took off on Instagram. Our Giphy channel rose to over 8 million views in 2019 because of GIF stickers.

via GIPHY

Branded GIFs on GIPHY (University of Toronto)
Jon McBride, Media Relations and Social Media Manager – BYU
GIPHY is a massive opportunity for brand integration right now. Simply creating a GIPHY channel and getting stickers in there that can be used in Insta stories and otherwise can be huge. Krista Boniface at the University of Toronto has more than 28 million uses of their university GIFs.

via GIPHY

GIF Stickers on GIPHY & Instagram (The University of Chicago)
Molly Mattison, Senior Marketing Manager – Adtalem Global Education
The University of Chicago is one of my favorite higher ed brands in social media. They beautifully highlight the details of their campus, share interesting thought leadership content, but also have fun, including creating branded stickers for Instagram photos.

via GIPHY

#FloridaCheck on TikTok (University of Florida) 😎
Erika Boltz, Social Media Coordinator – UF Health
This TikTok post from UF is adorable (and if you’re not familiar #FloridaCheck is a BIG thing, hence then #GatorCheck). How can you not love anything with President Fuchs?

Warrior Strong on Flickr (Wayne State University)
Jenna Spinelle, Communications Specialist – Penn State
Wayne State University used a series of photos to showcase its tagline, “Warrior Strong.” The collection, which was housed on Flickr and shared to other platforms, was a nice mix of students, faculty, and staff. I felt a connection to the people in the photos and saw tons of authenticity come through. It was a nice reminder that you don’t need a lot of gimmicks if you have compelling people.

Warrior Strong

You and UMD on Multi-Platform (University of Maryland)
Corynn Myers, Digital Marketing Manager – University of Michigan
During the Big Ten Plus Conference (Big Ten schools get together to talk marcomm), UMD presented a case study of a multi-channel opportunistic campaign that I thought was GREAT. UMD wanted to take advantage of tech execs on their campus for a new building dedication and the HQ2 Amazon announcement by launching a campaign aimed at promoting their computer science program and students, their affordable area for start-ups and, ultimately, gain sponsorship/funding from tech companies. They strategically placed cohesive messages in airports, subways, bus stops, online via display, social and paid search and drove all traffic to a dedicated landing page. When UMD presented, they already had 12 high-quality leads. #winning
Umd You

A conference focusing on higher ed social media?

The 7th Higher Ed Social Media Conference (HESM19) is a must-attend event for higher ed social media professionals and teams looking for inspiration, ideas and best practices to get ready for 2020.

Read below what your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Social Media Conference said about their experience.

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