Check out these creative examples of social media in higher education to build brand and engage community.

If you hold a university degree, chances are your alma mater didn’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account when you were enrolled. They do now. But before you start to feel old, let me remind you that the Facebook Like button just turned four and that Facebook only launched pages for universities in late 2007.

Although universities sometimes appear as bastions of tradition, they actually embraced social media rather quickly, especially in the US. They realized early on that social media was the way to engage the new, technology savvy generation and to stay relevant.

By 2011, 100 percent of American colleges and universities had a social media presence. Universities in Switzerland, however, didn’t become very active on social media before 2010. So US universities are the ones to watch. They have a tendency to jump on new technologies earlier than their counterparts abroad, as recently seen with MOOCs.

Here are seven creative and innovative ways American universities use social media, any of which could be applied to business brands looking to engage their own unique audiences. A note: universities in Switzerland are very quickly gaining ground, so let’s dive right in before I have to change the title of this post!

#1 Brand Visualization on Pinterest

Pinterest may not be your first guess for a university communication platform, but its record-high engagement should silence sceptics. Universities use virtual pinboards to provide hungry students with recipes, inspire decorating ideas for their dorm rooms, and encourage community by letting them share pictures of the school mascot. Don’t forget: Pictures are social media gold.

#1 Brand Visualization on Pinterest

Pinterest may not be your first guess for a university communication platform, but its record-high engagement should silence sceptics. Universities use virtual pinboards to provide hungry students with recipes, inspire decorating ideas for their dorm rooms, and encourage community by letting them share pictures of the school mascot. Don’t forget: Pictures are social media gold.

#2 Living History

Some might call it creepy, but the University of Nevada at Reno has created a community around Facebook profiles for students who attended the school in 1910. The profiles give a glimpse of life at the beginning of the last century, and show what it would have been like if social networks had been around back then.

#2 Living History

Some might call it creepy, but the University of Nevada at Reno has created a community around Facebook profiles for students who attended the school in 1910. The profiles give a glimpse of life at the beginning of the last century, and show what it would have been like if social networks had been around back then.

#3 Tweeting Presidents

Asking the university president to tweet might be unacceptable for some universities, but it is becoming more common. E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, actively tweets and engages with his community. Who doesn’t consider studying at a university where the president turns to his followers for movie suggestions?

#3 Tweeting Presidents
#4 Students Speak Up

Who could talk about life on campus better than the students themselves? Universities including Cornell put the experts behind the keyboard to blog (uncensored, of course). Sorry, but I can’t resist sneaking in a Swiss example here: check out the University of Basel’s new blog Beast (Be a Student).

#4 Students Speak Up

Who could talk about life on campus better than the students themselves? Universities including Cornell put the experts behind the keyboard to blog (uncensored, of course). Sorry, but I can’t resist sneaking in a Swiss example here: check out the University of Basel’s new blog Beast (Be a Student).

#5 Office Hours on Facebook

Stanford University made formal office hours more approachable-on Facebook. They announce the professor, ask for questions, then post a video of the responses.

#5 Office Hours on Facebook

Stanford University made formal office hours more approachable-on Facebook. They announce the professor, ask for questions, then post a video of the responses.

#6 Let?s Play

Life on campus is serious enough, why not mix it up with some games? Social, location-based gaming platforms for mobile phones, like SCVNGR (pronounced “scavenger”) are used by many US universities to help new and prospective students explore campus with a new take on the classic scavenger hunt.

#6 Let?s Play

Life on campus is serious enough, why not mix it up with some games? Social, location-based gaming platforms for mobile phones, like SCVNGR (pronounced “scavenger”) are used by many US universities to help new and prospective students explore campus with a new take on the classic scavenger hunt.

#7 Fun With Food

Franz Kafka said, “as long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” Boston University understands the importance and turned its food provider into a social media powerhouse. Freshmen get a welcome tweet, hungry students earn Munchies or Greasy Spoon Badges on Foursquare, and budding photographers display their talents in an Instagram contest.

#7 Fun With Food

Franz Kafka said, “as long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” Boston University understands the importance and turned its food provider into a social media powerhouse. Freshmen get a welcome tweet, hungry students earn Munchies or Greasy Spoon Badges on Foursquare, and budding photographers display their talents in an Instagram contest.

Share