Living Systems Institute website live

You can’t have missed the rapid rise from the ground of the new Living Systems building next to Geoffrey Pope, and now there is a new website to match!

The Living Systems Institute is a new £52.5 million investment from the University which will pioneer novel approaches to understanding diseases and how they can be better diagnosed, building on our significant established research strengths in human, animal and plant diseases, and incorporating innovative diagnostic imaging technologies and powerful mathematical modelling capabilities.

The new website is fully mobile responsive and features a parallax background when you scroll up and down. As well as web cams and videos of the building going up, the site also contains further information about the Living Systems Institute research and details of the recruitment process.

Living Systems Institute site

The Living Systems Institute website is now live

View the site: www.exeter.ac.uk/livingsystems.

Ed Creed
Web Marketing Officer for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences

The ‘Inverted Pyramid’ web content model

You have about two seconds to ‘hook’ your reader – so the first words on your page and the structure of your copy is incredibly important.

A technique called the inverted pyramid can be used to structure your copy in a way that puts the most important information at the top and the less essential at the bottom. This means if someone only reads half your page they still leave having consumed your key messages.

Eye tracking studies have shown that people spend more time looking at the top left of a page – the place your profile picture is usually displayed on social media sites. They read the first few words of the first paragraph; if that doesn’t hook them they will read the first few words of the second paragraph. If they still aren’t interested they will leave for another website.

Using the inverted pyramid encourages you to put the most important information first (where people are most likely to see it) – this includes the who, what, where, when, why and how – then the more general (or background) information further down.

Inverted pyramid

Inverted pyramid for web writing

The inverted pyramid analogy shows that the points in your copy are made in descending order of importance.

The inverted pyramid was originally (and still is) used by journalists to give structure to news stories. It means a reader can stop reading when they have satisfied their curiosity without worrying that something is being held back. It also meant that, back in the days of having to typeset newspaper pages, sub-editors could cut the bottom off a story without losing any essential information.

Jenna Richards
Web and Digital Communications Officer (Research)

 

Google’s mobile update: Are we scared?

mobilegeddon2You may have heard about Google launching its new mobile-friendly algorithm on 21 April to boost the ranking of pages that work well on mobile devices. By ‘mobile’ Google is talking about smart phones, such as devices running Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone. This latest of their regular updates was announced in February, and they had started introducing a ‘mobile-friendly’ label to search results on mobile devices back in November 2014. Google’s aim is for users to ‘find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.’

Should we be worried?

The February announcement prompted many search engine optimisation companies to strongly urge people to make their sites mobile friendly before the 21 April ‘deadline’, or risk seeing their pages plummet down the search rankings. Some even christened it ‘Mobilegeddon’. Whilst it would be reckless to ignore the impact of mobile use on the web, not only was it somewhat unrealistic to expect websites all over the world to be made completely mobile-friendly within a couple of months, this has turned out to be a bit of an overreaction. According to Google’s FAQ on the mobile-friendly algorithm,

  • mobile-friendliness gives individual pages – not whole sites - a ranking boost in searches carried out on mobile devices across all languages and locations;
  • not being mobile-friendly doesn’t penalise your pages’ ranking in searches carried out on desktop, laptop or tablets;
  • good content still gets well-ranked even on mobile searches: ‘The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.’

Google’s algorithm uses over 200 unique ‘signals’ – factors in web pages that determine how it ranks search results for any query, including keyword placement, the freshness of the content, and the quality of links to and from a page.

We’re not scared!

So whilst this mobile-friendly change is significant, and we need our pages to work for mobile users, there’s really no need to panic just yet. We, like Google, want to ensure pages are mobile-friendly, because mobile traffic to the site has been increasing year-on-year, although it hasn’t yet overtaken desktop. But a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy the introduction of the new search algorithm won’t necessarily help with that. There are no quick fixes for making sites usable on mobile devices.

We already have a long-term strategy to make sure our web pages are viewable, usable and findable on all devices, including smart phones, tablets, and desktop screens, by moving to responsive design, which means our content adapts to the wide variety of available screen sizes.

But making our content easy to access on all devices is more than just a technical issue. You can’t just drop existing content into a responsive design and have it magically work well for mobile. The content itself needs to be doing the right job for both our site visitors and the University, so it needs reviewing and reorganising to ensure good usability for pages that rearrange themselves in different screen sizes in responsive web design.

Making our sites responsive

The Web Team have been working on responsive design for a couple of years now, and we have already optimised a number of our sites for mobile.

Pages from these redesigned sites are now labelled ‘Mobile-friendly’ in Google search results on smartphones, and as we create more responsive sites – and others are currently in production -the Google crawler will pick up on mobile-friendliness as soon as it recrawls them. We’ll be monitoring our redesigned sites to see that they perform well generally, and we can test new pages with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

We are planning a phased roll-out of responsive redesigns across the University site, and of course we want to achieve this as effectively and efficiently as we can within a reasonable time frame, whilst also ensuring our pages deliver a good quality experience for our site visitors, no matter what devices they are using.

Sarah Williams,
Web Editorial and Marketing Officer

Accommodation website redesign

The Accommodation website is one of our most important sites in terms of the student experience, receiving over 1,790,000 page views a year. From researching courses and applying, accepting an offer of a place from the University, the next step is ‘where to live?’.

Current and international students also have a range of needs regarding accommodation information, as do parents of prospective and current students who have a vested interest, questions and concerns about where their son or daughter will be living during their time at the University of Exeter. So the site has a wide range of audiences who all need clearly signposted information, and of course the University wants to promote the wide range of available living accommodation options and locations on all campuses that we, and other external partners, provide.

This site has a major refresh annually, in advance of each application cycle, which is a great opportunity to assess the existing site and make improvements.

accommodationsite

Site specification

We chose to build the site in a new responsive design, as increasingly students and parents are researching and comparing accommodation on mobiles and tablets as well as desktop computers, and this would bring the Accommodation site in line with our recently launched responsive Undergraduate and Postgraduate websites, and with Google’s new search algorithms which prioritise mobile ready sites.

Some items on the wish-list for this site refresh included:

  • Site design to work with the University Living branding used across accommodation promotional materials
  • Clear calls to action, particularly on the homepage
  • Links to social media on every page, particularly highlighting the Accommodation Office’s blog
  • Integrated micro-site dedicated to accommodation on our Cornwall campuses. Although in organisational terms, accommodation on our Cornwall campuses is provided and managed separately to our Exeter campuses, students need to have access to the general living information that the University provides on our central Accommodation website but we must avoid any confusion regarding locations of accommodation at our campuses.
  • Information about each residence available on a single page
  • Interactive map to display each residence in relation to the campus and other facilities eg sports, cafes, bus stops.

Analysing navigation

To help dictate the navigation for the site and identify any pages that were relatively unused and therefore perhaps unnecessary or could work better, we used Google Analytics to establish the most popular pages and devised a navigational structure which would clearly signpost information for each audience.

Identifying content types

We identified the types of content we would need on each page such as image galleries, tabs, accordions, static images, forms, the interactive map, virtual tours, videos, quotes, tabular information (such as fees for each residence). This enabled our designer to work to a clear brief when designing and building new templates, essential as we had a tight deadline for the project.

Building the site

Our designer built templates which made efficient use of content, for example there is only one image size used throughout the site, however images can be used at full size for a large top image, or the smaller size for a gallery on a residences page – the site automatically resizes the image accordingly. These efficiencies save time for the Web Marketing Officers populating the site with content and save on content stored in the media library, while keeping file sizes relatively low means loading times are not impacted negatively.

Clever gallery coding means that you can load multiple images into a gallery and automatically scrolling arrows appear and the images will run in a slideshow, however if you only load one image, the arrows will not display and the gallery won’t rotate – another time saving efficiency for people building the pages and efficient use of content and templates.

The residences pages are a huge part of the site and use multiple content types all on one page, which provides some challenges in the site build, particularly when considering how content will reshape to fit the device a user is looking at the site on.

The future

We continually monitor site statistics and communicate with our client so that we can assess whether further improvements or developments need to be made, and we will be running user tests to inform those developments and assess the success of the new site.

Our aim is to keep improving the site to provide the best information that we can for our website audiences, and help to ensure that the accommodation part of the student experience is a positive one and runs smoothly.

Helen Leslie,
Web Marketing Officer, Professional Services Team Leader

Chinese social media—a new way to engage with students

China has its own series of social media channels that are designed with the Chinese audience in mind and different to the ones we are familiar with in the UK. Instead of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp; the two most popular channels in China are Sina Weibo (the equivalent of Twitter) and Wechat (similar to Whatsapp).

As part of a new international marketing campaign we started investigating Chinese social media channels as a way to reach our prospective Chinese students. We launched the University’s corporate Sina Weibo account in November 2014 and this month (March 2015) have just launched our presence on WeChat.

By having an account representing the University on both Sina Weibo and Wechat, we are introducing Exeter to Chinese students, keeping our current Chinese students connected with us, reaching out for prospective students, communicating with them, and providing them a fabulous University experience.

Sina Weibo

Sina Weibo is a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Sina Weibo is a platform where people can express their opinions, share their personal experiences in the form of text (usually around 140 characters) and attach photos, videos and longer articles. Sina Weibo has over 500 million registered accounts, and out of them, 143.8 million are monthly active users, 66.6 million are daily active users. weibo

The university account on Sina Weibo was set up in late November 2014. We have over 1,300 followers on Sina Weibo.

On Sina Weibo, we “weibo” quite often each day. Normally, 2 to 4 messages go out every day, attempting to be enough to capture people’s attention but not bombarding them. The content could be anything ranging from University photos to University events. In a nutshell, anything that may be of interest for our prospective and current students and also showcases the University’s improvements and achievements.

On average, our posts are viewed around 3,500 times and occasionally, it can surge to 7,000 times depending on how explosive  the news is. We also get “likes”, comments, “reweibo” and questions every day. For example, during February, a number of students contacted us on Sina Weibo and told us about the difficulties they had when trying to pay their tuition fees. For easy and obvious questions, we helped them directly if we knew the answer. For some tricky ones, we directed them to SID and as far as we know, all of them have now been able to pay.

Wechat

Wechat is a free app mainly based on smartphones and tablets. It is similar to WhatsApp but offers a greater deal of functionality. Based on the Internet, Wechat can be used to send free text, voice messages, videos, pictures and make free video calls. Figure shows that as of January 2015, Wechat has more than 1.1 billion accounts and of them, 468 million are monthly active users. WeChat also has 100 million users outside of China., It is the most popular app among Chinese. wechat

Our University’s account was promoted on 10 March, 2015 and we have more followers every day. In just over 2 weeks, we have gained over 250 followers on Wechat.

Our followers on Wechat will be able to view all of our articles, which are about the most important news about the University, such as our China visit events. Our followers will be able to ask questions via Wechat, and they will get a timely response. It is like a mini website too so our followers are able to find information such as accommodation, maps, applications and the contact details of relevant departments very easy and quickly.

Laura Li
Chinese Social Media Officer

Remastering the Postgraduate Study site

PG Study home page on an iPhone 5

PG Study home page on iPhone 5

In February we launched a completely new Postgraduate Study website. Like last year’s redesigned Undergraduate Study site, the new responsive design adapts to mobile screens as well as desktops and laptops. Making our sites viewable on mobile devices is important. Mobile traffic to the Postgraduate site increased by 265% in the past year; and April’s release of Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm for searches on mobile devices will make optimising for mobile users even more imperative.

Although modelled on the Undergraduate site’s responsive design scheme, it was by no means a matter of pouring postgraduate content into an existing design and changing the colours and images.

Research

Before deciding about the new site’s design, content and functionality Web and Marketing staff conducted a great deal of research  to work out what prospective postgraduates want and how best to deliver it.

  • We reviewed 30 home and overseas competitor universities’ postgraduate recruitment websites. We found producing a professional, user-friendly, comprehensive PG website with all the relevant details in one place would set us apart from many of our competitors, with easily accessible costs and funding a big potential differentiator.
  • We examined sites of non-HE organisations - think tanks and consultancies who trade on their expertise in key subjects, creative agencies for how they showcase their achievements and ability to make a difference, PG referral sites such as FindAMasters and Prospects, and training and skills sites.
  • We reviewed feedback from postgraduate surveys and focus groups conducted by Market Research to understand what information applicants want.
  • We looked at recommendations from external surveys and reports including last year’s HEFCE report ‘What information do prospective postgraduate taught students need?
  • We reviewed analytics reports for traffic to the PG Study site to see what are the most visited pages, where in the world our visitors live, what devices they use, how many visit more than once and how many pages they view.

Our discoveries helped us understand more clearly how to meet our main aim of improving the quality of the information, access and experience for users of the site to support recruitment.

We aimed to make it easier for prospective students to:

  • find programmes relevant to their academic and personal interests, so effective search would be critical;
  • research these in detail, including easily accessible costs, funding information, module details and staff research expertise;
  • make contact with the University, including via social media and opportunities to visit;
  • find important information about student life, accommodation and student support;
  • discover how an Exeter postgraduate qualification could enhance their employability and knowledge of a subject area;
  • apply for postgraduate study or research.

A much clearer and more direct approach to giving the details of particular offerings should make a better experience for prospective students, and prominent and plentiful calls to action would promote engagement with the University

Programme pages

The variety of programmes we offer reflects people’s varied motives for postgraduate study. We had to allow flexibility in each programme page’s content, and ensure they would display correctly in course search results. Content analysis and planning presented a few challenges. You have no idea how many different programme durations we have until you have to allow for all of them in one content template!

College Web Marketing Officers, together with Marketing Managers and Programme Administrators thoroughly reviewed all the programme information in the new page layouts to ensure its accuracy, and enriched it with video, images, profiles and quotes.

We separated taught Masters from research degrees in the navigation, as their audiences are quite different. We created separate templates for them in our content management system, along with a choice of additional templates allowing optional elements to be bolted on as necessary.

Our research showed all the key decision-making information needs to be available in one place, so we made sure when a site visitor finds a programme of interest they have direct access to all they need to assess its suitability, without having to hunt around.

  • We imported programme structures and module descriptions from the iPaMS database for those programmes where up-to-date data was available. Where it wasn’t, programme structures were created manually in the CMS.
  • We included the appropriate English language requirements within each programme page.
  • We incorporated current funding lists generated from the central Funding database either within individual programme pages, or as a discipline-level page within the Postgraduate site, linked to from a call-to-action button on the relevant programmes.
  • We added further call-to-action buttons for online applications, enquiry forms enabling questions to be sent direct to College Admissions contacts, and links to subject sites.

Search

Every page provides a tailored postgraduate course finder combining taught and research programmes, with filters by type, location and study mode.

Because postgraduate programmes cover very specialist topics, we built in the ability to add targeted key words to our programme page metadata to ensure programmes are found for specific search terms in the course finder.

The postgraduate search facility also integrates options to search for staff research interests and funding opportunities from any page in the site.

General information pages

Supporting information about study, support, admissions, visits, student life, careers and money matters needed thorough review and reorganisation, as duplication and complexity had burgeoned in the old site. Moving it into responsive page layouts was an opportunity to have a clear out to provide more streamlined and focused information.

Responsive sites can’t have a deeply nested site structure, so working out how to organise this information in the main top navigation required a lot of thinking through and testing.

Testing

Personas

Prospective postgraduate students come from a wide range of ages, places and backgrounds with varying motives for taking up postgraduate study or research. They can be passionate about exploring a particular discipline, wanting to return to academic study, looking to enhance their career prospects or change careers.

From their market research, Marketing created a set of personas – fictional site visitors, fleshed out as individual characters with personalities, motivations, back stories and attitudes. At various stages we tested whether or not the way we were setting the site up would assist them in successfully answering their key questions, even before we had anything to try out on real people.

This little group of imaginary site visitors included:

  • a current final year Environmental Science UG,
  • a final-year UG student from China wanting to study an International Marketing Masters in the UK,
  • a local primary school teacher looking for professional development,
  • a redundant engineer in his late 20s wanting to undertake a PhD,
  • a legal professional from Africa looking for a Law Masters,
  • an offer holder for an MA in the Drama department, planning his studies at Exeter,
  • and a mid-career health professional seeking career progression.

It was really good to have them on our team, giving us their perspective at the design and build stage and keeping us from putting obstacles in their way.

User testing

We tested the site on current final-year undergraduate students and used the findings to adjust the structure, labelling and content. It confirmed some things we already knew too, such as search being vital, as at the time it hadn’t been completed, but everyone wanted to use it as soon as they landed on the site.

They also expect universities to be vague about programmes and funding opportunities, because this is what they encounter all the time. They want us to be clear, concise and direct, and give them the facts up front.

Technical testing

We tested the new pages on a variety of different devices to make sure all the information remained accessible.

The next phase

The launch of a new website is only the beginning. We will monitor the site’s performance to identify areas where we can make specific improvements, and conduct mini-projects for developing new functionality and features as we identify a need.

Further planned improvements include:

  • easier access to international qualification equivalences,
  • improvement to the display of research expertise and funding search results,
  • access to full module details,
  • further keyword research for specific programmes.

We aim to keep the Postgraduate site working for us and our prospective postgraduates the way it needs by identifying and responding to changes not just in the technology people use, but to the landscape of postgraduate recruitment.

Sarah Williams
Web Marketing and Editorial Officer

Google Analytics

Logo Google_AnalyticsGoogle Analytics and other similar  statistics package are invaluable if you want to understand how your customers use your site and find out what is working and what isn’t.

When you visit a website that has Google Analytics installed, it places a web cookie on your machine. It uses that to assist Google in reporting the following information anonymously:

  • Time on website
  • Pages visiting (in order)
  • Time on each page
  • Operating system and screen resolution
  • Referring (previous) site
  • Details if users have come through from paid advertising e.g. Google Adwords
  • Rough user location (City / Country / Continent)
  • User network (Can identify organisation networks)
  • Plus much more

 How to use the information ?

There are two ways that I think people should use the data:

  1. To monitor the success of changes made to the structure of the site for the purpose of user experience. The aim here is to increase the amount of time users spend on the site, in the right places.
  2. To monitor the success of changes to content and search engine optimisation tweaks with the aim to increase the number of site visitors.

Analytics reports

googleAnalytics

Click to download PDF report

 

 

 

 

 

Most people won’t need access to all the data provided by google analytics so it’s easier to ask for PDF reports to be automatically emailed out each month or week.

Attached is an example report from the College that I look after. It shows the majority of information that I think is useful to someone at the university who looks after a single website.

Columns

  • Page views – The number of times the page has been loaded, regardless if it is the same person.
  • Unique page views – The number of times a page has been loaded, but not taking into account repeat views within a half hour period from one user.
  • Average time on page – This is a very useful figure but each page has to be taken into consideration as a table of links should only be viewed for a seconds, whereas a blog post like this, you’d hope, will have been read for at least a few minutes.
  • Entrances – This is the percentage of users for whom this was the first page they visited on your site (in one session).
  • Bounce rate – This is another figure where you have to take into consideration what is on the page. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit one page on your site and then leave. Don’t be disheartened however, this may mean that they have come via google directly to the page they wanted, read the page and then left.
  • Exit – The percentage of users who left the site after visiting this page.
  • Page value- This is only relevant for ecommerce sites.

How to get access

Get in contact with your local web marketing officer (WMO), I’m the WMO for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. If you don’t know who to contact, see the Web Team’s Who we are page.

An introduction to Instagram

By Emily Chapman, Web Marketing Officer for HR Services and Communication and Marketing Services

Instagram logoInstagram is an online photo and video sharing social network. Instagram is app based and makes use of the ever expanding technology that today’s mobile phones offer. It was set up by two Stanford graduates in 2010 and was purchased by Facebook in 2012. Moving forward two years Instagram is now the fastest growing social network and the one that receives the highest level of engagement from users, roughly 1,000 comments and 8,500 likes per second.

  • Engagement on Instagram is 15 times that of Facebook’s, with users spending an average of 257 minutes per month on the app.
  • Instagram receives 1,000 comments and 8,500 likes per second. That equates to 1.2 billion likes per day.
  • 200 million people across the world now use the photo app, sharing 60 million images a day.

Photo filters

Instagram’s key selling point is the photo filter, a layer that, when added to a normal photo, gives it the look of professional editing. Some filters enhance the colours in a photo, while others can alter the light, change the focus or even age your photos to give them a vintage or retro look. Instagram currently has a set of around 20 filters which you can use to give your photos a more professional finish. Using a filter is not required though and #nofilter is one of the most commonly used hashtags on Instagram.

Hashtags

If you love your hashtags then Instagram is the social network for you. Using hashtags on Instagram is the best way to get your photo in front of other people. Instagram posts do not work in the same way as tweets (where the content of a post is searchable) so hashtags are key for users to find new content and people to follow.

What’s the most popular hashtag on Instagram? #love which has been used over 696 million times.

Exeter on Instagram

The University has a corporate Instagram account which you can follow @uniofexeter or go to instagram.com/uniofexeter. Over the past year our levels of engagement have more than doubled and we are continuing to build our presence on Instagram alongside our other social media channels.

Instagram is a fantastic way to give our followers an insight into life at the University whether it be through photos of campus across the seasons or photos of special events in the University calendar such as graduation.

Our 5 most popular photos on Instagram so far are:

reedhall

Reed Hall at sunset

The Forum

The Forum decorated for Christmas

E pumpkin

A Halloween pumpkin with the Exeter E carved into it

IMG_6294

The University of Exeter sign

The Piazza

The Piazza on a summer’s morning

For guidance on how to build your community on social media see other related articles on this blog and speak to your Web Marketing Officer.

H1’s and why they’re important to your web pages

Dan Lott, Web Designer

Dan Lott, Web Designer

An H1 or Heading 1 is an HTML tag that is used to display the most important heading of a web page – the Page Heading.

HTML has 6 Heading tags in total. The H1 tag defines the top heading of the page, with the levels H2-6 used for subheadings nested in logical order to structure your text. So any subheadings of your H1 should be marked as H2 tags; subheadings of these H2 headings should be H3 and so on through the levels. It’s important not to miss a level out or to use heading tags to format text that isn’t actually a heading. In practice you rarely need to use the lowest levels H5-6, which are styled using the smallest font, but they are available for that level of structure if it is genuinely required, for example in an official policy document transferred to the web.

Every page should have an H1 and they should only appear once at the top of the page. All of your web pages should have unique page headings because every page should contain unique content. (Note – on the University’s website you should also use Sentence case).

The HTML code for an H1 looks like this:
<h1>Page title displays here</h1>

Usability

A good page heading should describe the content of the page in just a few words, so one of the most important reasons to use H1′s properly is for usability purposes:

  • When you select the H1 tag the text will automatically be styled so that it is bigger and bolder than the rest of the page’s text (including other headers) and this adds visual appeal and a hierarchy to the page.
  • When people are reading online they tend to quickly scan pages for the information they are looking for so your page heading will be the first thing that your audience will read and as such should let them know that they are in the right place and that the content of the page is relevant to them.
  • It will help people who are using a screen reader to access your content.

Search Engine Optimisation

The secondary purpose of  an H1 tag is that search engines place importance on H1’s in their search algorithms (and – to a diminishing extent – to H2’s, H3’s etc.) Search engines such as Google use Search Spiders to index websites and these pay most attention to the content wrapped in H1 tags.

You can try placing keywords (words that you envisage people will use to search for your page) into your page heading to try and help your search engine position, but only try this if it makes sense to – the main emphasis should be choosing a heading that describes the page’s content.

How to create an H1 title

Most templates that you will use have an element called Heading. These include www Page with Feature Image and www Page with no Feature Image.

Add the text into the Heading element that you want to be the title for your page. The template will then automatically display this text as an H1.

Heading1On templates that do not have a dedicated heading element (eg: www Page) you will need to create your own H1 tag. Follow these instructions:

  1. Create your section and add the www Page template.
  2. Add a name for this piece of content in the Name field.
  3. In the Main Body field, enter the text you would like to be your H1.
  4. Highlight the text using your cursor.
  5. Go to the Format drop down box just above this field and select Heading 1.
  6. You will now see the text appear slightly larger and bolder.
  7. Press the Enter key on your keyboard and continue typing the text to display on the page.
  8. You can also use the above steps to add subsequent H2’s, H3’s etc… as sub titles to the page.

For further details on how to add heading please see Formatting text in T4 Site Manager on the Web Support Site.

By Dan Lott, University of Exeter Web Designer

Building a community and contributing on social media

social media communityOnce you have created your social media channels  you need to ensure you have the time to update and engage with your audience.  Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or one of the countless others, you should remember a few key points:

  • Stay active and don’t give up
  • Understand and build your audience
  • Do not over promote
  • Be human

Stay active and don’t give up

It takes time to build a community, and though it may be disheartening, the key is to keep posting even when you only have a few followers.  Share interesting links and write your content like you have thousands of followers, even if you only have 10.

Respond to anyone that connects with your social media channel (via comments, likes, direct messages e.t.c)  and try to encourage more interaction by asking questions and encouraging users to share ideas and photos. You also want people to connect with each other and not just you so encourage community questions, share tips and get involved.

If you are asked a question on social media you need to answer it without delay, users expect an almost immediate reaction, and a long delay will be viewed negatively.

You have to stay active on social media channels to make them successful.  It is a good idea to create a post diary, reminders in outlook, or schedule posts in advance to ensure your message are going out frequently.

Frequently, but not so much to annoy.  There is no definitive right answer to how often you should post.  Ensure that your content is good and relevant.  If you continually retweet others or ask for users to share your site you are providing nothing new or original and will lose followers. You need to find a balance between sharing and listening.

Understand and build your audience

Knowing from the start the type of audience you are aiming at should dictate everything. What will they enjoy? What do they want to read? What will they share? Will they like? What will make them comment?  When will they retweet?

You also want your audience to know what your account is all about – so ensure that you have a clear “about us” section so your audience knows what to expect.

You can grow your audience by connecting with other social media accounts of interest by liking, commenting, sharing and retweeting.  This will get you noticed by interested parties who will then in turn look at your accounts.

Content is king. If you make your content useful, relevant, interesting, current and worth reading then you will attract and keep a loyal following.  You want to be regarded as a trustworthy source of valuable information so make all of your posts count.  You could write a regular blog or news articles, create an infographic or a Prezi, or run an online poll on a relevant topic – get creative and remember that bite-size and easy to digest information will work best.

The organic reach of posts in Facebook have been declining rapidly recently with Facebook moving more towards paid reach. You can still reach a significant number of people when your post engages users (likes/comments/shares) but it might be worth considering using Facebook advertising which allows for highly targeted campaigns (eg aimed at a certain age in a certain area etc).  Be sure to look at the Insights in you Facebook page to fully analyse your stats before you decide whether advertising is for you.

Do not over promote

Share what your audience will enjoy  and do not constantly sell your business by attempting to attract new members and ask for shares.  If you make your content good enough it will be worth sharing.  That’s not to say you can never ask for shares or retweets – just limit it. E.g. using the #DevonHour hashtag on a Wednesday from 8pm for an hour to promote Devon based businesses is a great example of how once a week you can successfully self promote.

Be human

Although we have to be professional at all times when using social media (see guidelines), you can still show that there is a real person behind the screen.  Some of the most popular posts on our channels are a simple photo of the beautiful campus with a very human commentary.

By Jo Morrison,
Web Marketing Officer for Campus Services