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 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.


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.


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.



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


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.


  • 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.


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 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:


Reed Hall at sunset

The Forum

The Forum decorated for Christmas

E pumpkin

A Halloween pumpkin with the Exeter E carved into it


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>


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

Knowing your audience and capturing interest

Jane Tanner

Jane Tanner, Web Marketing Officer for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies

Count to ten!

That is how long you have to spark interest in your web page! A visitor will decide within approximately 10 seconds whether he or she stays on your page or bounces off elsewhere.

When we create sites, we act as though people are going to pore over each page, reading our finely crafted text, figuring out how we’ve organised things, and weighing their options before deciding which link to click.

What they actually do most of the time (if we’re lucky) is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their eye. There are usually large parts of the page that they don’t even look at. In fact they act like Ginger!

So how do you capture their interest

Analyse your audience

Firstly find out anything you can about your audience. An understanding of your visitors’ mindset is a critical factor in capturing their interest and attention. A postgraduate and undergraduate student will be looking for very different information.  An academic may be looking for something else completely.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my users? Make up a persona for each category of visitor and put yourself in their shoes.
  • What do they come to my website to do and in what sequence?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • What is their level of English?
  • What is their level of understanding of my subject?

And don’t try and guess what your users are thinking. Ask a student or organise a user-testing session. We can help with this.

Identify your target audience

After a thorough analysis you should be able to determine the specific audience that you are reaching and what makes them tick. This is your target audience. Gear all of your website content to these people and provide them with the information they are seeking in a way that they will appreciate.

Focus your website content

  • Get to the point straight away. Put your key messages at the top of the page with your key words and phrases in the first two paragraphs;
  • Use their language.  Think about the words they will be looking for and will understand. If you have to use technical jargon, make sure you pad it with lots of everyday language so that it is easy to read and understand.
  • Anchor your reader.  Use eye catching ‘call to actions’ to lead your user to the information you want them to read. This could be apply for a course, book an open day, watch a video or download a brochure.

More about writing for the web can be found on the web support site.

If you need help with anything you can always ask your Web Marketing Officer for assistance.

Jane Tanner,
Web Marketing Officer for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies

The basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Getting your website or web page in the top 5 of a search engine results page is what we all strive to achieve. This basic guide will get you started with everything you can do while using our content management system, SiteManager by T4.

Well written, unique content

Search engines look for well structured, uncluttered, original content. It actively penalises content that has simply been copied and pasted from elsewhere, or is very hard to read unstructured text. Google especially favours web pages that are easy for humans to read and understand.


Make use of the drop-down menu in the tool bar that usually says “Paragraph” or “Format”. Use it to separate and highlight your content as I have done here with the steps. Search engines use this as an indicator of importance and relevance.

There should only ever be one “Heading 1″ on a page, this should summarise the whole page in just a few words. Headings should then follow in an hierarchical fashion so that it’s easy to scan through a page and work out what the proceeding paragraph is about.

Do not use bold for headings. It is ok to use it in moderation within paragraphs, it should be used for emphasis within a sentence and nothing more.

Page (Section) and URL names

One of the most effective changes you can make to your page is to include your target keywords in the name of the page (section in T4) and in the URL. Try not to use acronyms as search engines have no idea what they mean.

In T4 SiteManager you can set the page name and URL on the General tab when you modify a section

T4 Page name and URL example

Note the name and Output URI fields

In the above example the page name is very descriptive, but would be too long for a URL, in the Output URI field you’ll see this has been shortened to just contain health-safety, much better than HaSECaM!


Links to and from your page are very important. Search engines analyse the sites that are linking to you for relevance and authority. For instance; If the BBC uses one of our press releases and creates a news story on their website, they will usually link back to the relevant page on our site. This will help our page massively because the BBC page is relevant, its content discusses the same subject as our page. Secondly the BBC is obviously highly respected so search engine deem it to be an authority on what is a good page to link to or not.

Social media

This has become increasingly important over the past few years, search engines presume that if a number of people are ‘liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘tweeting’ or ‘blogging’ about another site, it’s probably worth looking at. The more people discussing and sharing the item linked to your site, the more influence this has on search engines.

Social media is an important tool for your business, if you require advice on how to use it please see the Social media guidelines section on our website.

Additional help

Every month the web team provides T4 drop-in sessions that you can attend and ask questions about building web sites, please check your emails for dates and locations.

Contact your Web Marketing Officer for more information.

Alastair Brown,
Web Marketing Officer for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Our new research gateway

Jenna Richards

Jenna Richards

An introduction to our new research gateway from Jenna Richards, Web Marketing Officer for Research and Knowledge Transfer.

When an article in the Guardian titled ‘Where are Universities Hiding all their Research?’ dropped into my inbox it got me thinking about what Exeter could be doing to better showcase all our fantastic research. As a University we weren’t showing off the impact of our research to our best ability and there were loads of great stories out there just waiting to be told.

So I started planning…

Fast-forward a year and we have just launched the new research gateway – a feature-led page designed with multiple audiences in mind which showcases our research and its real world applications.

The page has a regular research feature giving our audiences an in-depth look into an area of research and how this can make a difference. These features alternate with business features aimed at industry stakeholders giving the lowdown on some of the great work our students and academics are doing in the business arena.

The research gateway

The research gateway

We also run three regular ‘in focus’ pieces. In the researcher in focus section our team talk to academics about their research and achievements while partnership in focus delves deeper into the some of the great work we are doing with external partners, detailing how these relationships came about and developed. We also look in detail at our research groups and centres in the group in focus. These features tell you more about the real-world applications of the research being undertaken by the group or helps businesses understand how these groups may be able to work with them.

The launch of the research gateway has made a massive difference to the number of research and business stories we are able to tell. But the journey from idea to launch was a long one.

My first task was to think in detail about our audiences. Who are they? What do they want when they come to the research pages? What do they want to do on these pages? And what do we want them to do on these pages?

Armed with this information I could now start thinking about the kind of content we needed to produce to appeal to those people and just as importantly how I would resource the creation of that content.

When considering content it was important to have the wants and needs of our audiences in mind at all times. For example the business community primarily want to know what we could do for them. Academics (past, present and future) want to know what ground-breaking research we are doing in their area and want more information about our current academics.

It was also essential to prove that the team could create regular copy for this new page. We started producing copy nine months before the page was launched – and have published an average of three articles a week ever since! This is a closely managed process. We are constantly on the lookout for stories and we meet weekly to discuss ideas and set the agenda – I usually have stories planned in at least a month in advance.

The next stage was design. How do we create a front page that directs people to all the relevant places in the research and business sites whilst showcasing our research and providing links to all the stories we wanted to tell?

A general rule in web design is that if 90 per cent of people are doing it that way you should do it too. However 90 per cent of universities don’t take this approach to communicating their research, so we were already breaking the mould. I decided to look at news websites for ideas as they also convey a lot of information on one page and have a similar type of content.

I produced some initial drawings of my ideas and handed them over to our web designer to work his magic. A few months later we had a site that was ready to put in front of users and see what they thought.

The experience of sitting down with target users, observing how they use the site and gathering their feedback is invaluable. Based on their feedback we made a number of changes before the final site was made live.  We quietly put the page live at the beginning of May and have been really pleased with the feedback we have received so far.

It is too early to do any in depth analysis analytics to see how the page is performing but generally views have increased since the page was launched. There is also some evidence that the pages are performing well in search engines and driving visitors to the site.

Future plans are to investigate which types of stories drive substantial traffic to the pages and build on these ideas. We are also investigating how we can syndicate our content to other websites and blogs.

If you have any story ideas please contact

Jenna Richards
Web Marketing Officer for Research and Knowledge Transfer

Mentions and @replies on Twitter

Andy Morgan

Taking the time to actively comment on people’s tweets can be a great way to start conversations and build relationships and networks on Twitter. Mentions and @replies are the tools that allow this to happen

The @ symbol is used to denote every Twitter account’s unique username – the username for the University’s main account for example is @uniofexeter.


When you include someone’s username (with the @ symbol and no spaces) within the body of a tweet this is called a mention.

Followers who see your tweet will be able to click on the username of the person you mention to find out more about them and follow them if they choose.

The person you mention will receive a notification that will appear in their notification tab when they next login to Twitter. Here they’ll be able to see your tweet along with any other tweets that mention them. By default Twitter also emails users when they receive a mention (this can be switched off but many people don’t bother) so it can be a great way of getting the attention of specific people even if they are not following you.

The number of notifications you have is indicated by the number hovering next to the notifications tab

You might mention people for lots of different reasons, for example:

  • to ask them a question
  • to respond to something they’ve said
  • to ask them to re-tweet something to their followers
  • to make a complaint (the public nature of Twitter can make this a very effective way of getting problems resolved quickly!)

Follow Friday

There’s a friendly tradition on Twitter each Friday where you mention accounts that you think are worth following in order to;

  1. get your followers to follow them too, and
  2. acknowledge that you like what they’re up to

You’ll usually see these with the hashtag #FF or #FollowFriday.


If you begin your tweet with somebody’s username this is called an @reply, these can be used to reply to or comment on a specific tweet that has gone out.

@replies are still mentions and therefore the person who’s username you include will still receive a notification, however your response will only show up in the home feeds of people that are following BOTH your account and the account you are replying to – users following one or the other will not see it.

To send an @reply click the reply icon next to the tweet you want to comment on and the compose box will open with the original tweeters username automatically inserted at the start.

@replying in this way will mean that your tweet is linked to the original tweet, and people who see it will have the option of viewing the original message too.

A common mistake

You can still start a Tweet with somebody’s username even if it is not an @reply, however this is one of the most frequent mistakes I see on Twitter.

Many people (usually businesses wishing to promote their products or services to our students) contact the current students account (@uoe_students) with our username at the start of their tweet in the hope that this will automatically be seen by all of our followers – it won’t. Again only the people following both accounts will see it, so fewer than just tweeting normally.

This Tweet would only appear in the feeds of people following both @Head24a and @UofExeterSport

Andy Morgan
Web Marketing Officer for Academic Services