Creative #hesm Strategies with Syracuse University

Marketing Tools & Tips The Data-Driven Marketer

Syracuse University’s social media team joined us on this episode of the Data-Driven Marketer to talk us through their success on all the major social platforms.

Check out the recording below where we interview Robin Wade, Executive Director, Digital, and Jonah Restuccio, Manager of Social Media Strategy to uncover the key drivers of #hesm growth that the university has seen over the past couple of years.

Watch the full interview for all the insights:

Having spent over 11 years in Higher Education and working in digital and print industries for many years prior to that, Robin’s background provides a holistic approach to social media at Syracuse that includes balancing communications, digital marketing, and building partnerships within the University and beyond.

Jonah is a former sports broadcaster turned social media expert, and has been credited with redefining the social media strategy at Syracuse. His creative strategies, content ideas, and lets-try-this-out approach are behind the impressive growth of the university’s social channels across all the major platforms, especially Instagram and TikTok.

Along with host Seth Bridges, this dynamic duo delved into the innovative tactics, team structure, and content build-outs that helped Syracuse University climb forty places to rank 7th overall in our 2021 Higher Ed Social Media Engagement Report.

The Scoop On All Things Social @SyracuseU

Having an alum get elected to be President will skyrocket those engagement numbers, but there’s a LOT more behind the social success at Syracuse University. Robin outlines how their digital-first strategy has helped “social media have a place at the table” and inform content and communication decisions across the university’s communication channels. Jonah credits their success to developing the brand’s voice and meeting the audience where they are. Here are some of the top takeaways from our interview with Robin and Jonah.

Three top posts from Syracuse University - one featuring alum President Biden

Some of Syracuse University’s top social posts that drove engagement across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Humanize The Brand

Developing the brand’s authentic social voice has been crucial to the social team at Syracuse. It’s this authentic voice that is instrumental in building a virtual connection with students (current and prospective), faculty, alumni, and donors. Jonah notes that it’s important on social to “not talk at your audience, but with your audience.” The team also focuses on diversifying the content across different platforms, so the brand’s tone and personality are in line with the audiences consuming it.

Student Ambassadors

The social team does not work alone: a huge part of the content is created by student ambassadors. These students not only create content, but also do Instagram take-overs, share on-campus events, and amplify key messages on the University’s social channels and on their personal handles as well. Jonah believes that having these student ambassadors champion the social content helps digital interactions feel like you’re talking with a student or an alum which in turn helps Syracuse, humanize its brand. And as Robin pointed out: anyone in Higher Ed knows that the most valuable student relations do not end when they leave campus because students go on to become alumni and future donors and will keep rooting for your university for years to come.

Get Creative

Snapshot of Instagram Stickers created by Syracuse University

Syracuse University Instagram Stickers

Branded Instagram stickers, anyone? Jonah collaborated with the graphics team to create a few Instagram stickers as an experiment and saw it generate millions of views. Users love putting these stickers to create a more authentic, branded, social experience. Today the graphics team creates these stickers on a regular basis and the popularity has continued to soar! Although famous on Instagram, these stickers are also used widely on Snapchat and TikTok.

‘Social’ Responsibility

In a post-COVID era, social channels have been a key source of sharing information at Syracuse University. However, with sharing information on social comes the risk of facing instant negative reactions. Last June, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, there were a ton of negative comments associated with social posts from the University leadership’s statement to recognize the injustice. It was a learning moment for the social team. The team realized that socially charged posts must be sensitive and include actionable steps—a statement just doesn’t cut it anymore. Robin also noted, that in a hyper-digital world, collaboration with the Communications & PR team at the university on a regular basis is a must so her team can be better informed and well prepared for all the possible outcomes.

Wrapping It Up

Don’t forget to explore the 2021 Higher Education Social Media Engagement report for all of our rankings and top examples from the best in Higher Ed, including Syracuse. Plus, download the report for some inspiration so you too can be top of the class on social!

If you have more questions about social media metrics or how to be a guest on the Data-Driven Marketer, reach out to us on Twitter.

Maria Mundaden

Maria loves digging into all things digital marketing. From SEO to paid ads to oodles of social media posting and analysis, she's constantly trying to reach potential customers authentically with just a mild amount of stalking. Outside of work, Maria loves to travel with her family, spend time paddle-boarding and bake up some fruity goodness.

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