Driving engagement with Social Media Management students

The StudyPlus scheme at the University of Sunderland awards home, EU and international students up to £200 of funds to spend on learning resources to support the University’s aims to improve attainment and deliver better outcomes for students. To date, we have around 4800 students benefitting from the scheme, with this number to increase by a further 2700 students in 2020.

A major player in driving student engagement is being active on social media. Our Aspire schemes have an active Instagram account, which our Engagement Partners work with their Student Ambassadors to own the accounts and share exciting content to engage with their students. Instagram has an average of 700 million monthly active users and offers a host of exciting in-app features with which to create engaging content – the potential is huge. I believe social media is the way we should be driving engagement with students to ensure we are up-to-speed with new technology and upcoming platforms, to follow the behaviours of students where they are most active.

Sarah (third right) with her Student Ambassador team during enrolment in 2019.

For the StudyPlus scheme, our social media channels have had great success since launching in September 2018. We are active on Instagram and Twitter and set up our Facebook page last year. However, it seems today’s students are much more engaged with Instagram, SnapChat and TikTok, which is growing rapidly on the social media scene. Our goal this year is to explore new platforms to ensure our reach to students is stronger than ever.

As a previous student at the University of Sunderland and 6 years working in the education sector, predominantly in Higher Education, I bring a wealth of knowledge and passion for marketing and social media. From developing academic relationships across campus, I offered my support to the programme leader for the new BA (Hons) Social Media Management course, to come speak to the students about my social media experience in previous roles and how I am now implementing that in to the StudyPlus scheme at Sunderland. Following this, I was invited back to offer StudyPlus as a real client for the students to use for one of their modules working with a commercial business.

This assignment was part of one of their second year modules, Social Media Theory and Practice, where the students were tasked to create and deliver a 6-week social media campaign. This involved the students building a campaign strategy, create examples of content and templates to use, as well as a marketing calendar which StudyPlus could use in real life on their social media channels. They also needed to delve in to our social media analytics at present to generate specified conversion goals and engagement, whilst considering the latest digital marketing trends, with the aim of reaching out to students to increase engagement in the scheme. They would then present their campaign to me at the end of term during their assessment.

Agreed campaign briefs to choose from:

  1. Increase number of students spending their fund balances
  2. Raise awareness around price-match and better value for money
  3. Second years StudyPlus funds available
  4. Increase engagement with unengaged students
  5. Raise awareness of digital collections

Students presenting their social media campaigns for their module assessment.

As students benefiting from StudyPlus, it was brilliant to see them use their experience and enthusiasm about the scheme, to generate ideas and present ways to improve engagement and make students feel more inclusive. Some of the campaign ideas involved a retro gaming theme, where students needed to pass each level (referring to each year of study) to unlock their funds and earn more rewards, as well as promoting seasonal/cultural events in the year to relate to more students and promotion for digital textbooks to be more eco-friendly in line with climate change campaigns which students actively engage with.

Jenny Wotherspoon, Social Media Management Programme Leader said

It was a pleasure to work with Sarah and the StudyPlus scheme on this module for the students to use a real life client of which they are all benefiting from the scheme at the University. The module is designed to challenge students to identify and evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to social media management in the development of a small-scale social media strategy for a commercial business, factoring in user experience and brand reputation. The key benefit of using StudyPlus was how relatable it was to the students based on their own experiences and how they can help increase engagement and awareness with their peers on a larger scale.