Our Influencer Interview Series is one of the many ways we keep up with the most innovative higher education marketers along with relevant educational professionals. With these interviews, we aim to gain insight into successful marketing campaigns and educational developments taking place at schools all across the nation.
For our first interview in this series, we touched based with Kelly Bennett, Manager of Social Media and Marketing Strategy (and ’11 alumna) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Kelly has been recognized for her out-of-the-box concepts on social media by outlets such as University Business Magazine and has spoken at conferences such as Higher Ed Social Media and PR News Social Summit 2016.
For her interview, we focused on questions split into these two major categories:
• Social Media
• Higher Education Marketing
Q1: What social media channels is Miami currently utilizing? If there are any that have seen more success than others, why do you think that is?
Because our audience is so broad (prospective students, current students, alumni, Miami community), we do our best to “Go where the audience is,” which means being on almost every social media platform available.
Our most followed accounts are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Snapchat has been very popular and I attribute this to the fact that the content on there disappears within 24 hours; so if you don’t check it, you will miss it.
Instagram has been very successful and we use this platform to share a lot of user-generated content, which captures movements and emotions authentically.
Q2: How much of an impact does social media make to prospective students when they decide where they want to go to college?
I’d definitely say it plays a major role in a student’s decision when picking a college. Social media is a way to connect with students and give them personal attention when they tag the university in a photo or a tweet.
To ignore that interaction would be a huge missed opportunity, especially if another college is making the effort to respond.
Q3: How do you come up with new ways to connect with students as social media continues to change?
Great question! Because social media is always changing I try to stay at the forefront of trends. Miami was one of the first universities on Instagram and Snapchat, and because of that we were able to gain a huge following right off the bat and become examples in the higher ed. space.
Being able to trust an instinct, and start experimenting with a platform while it’s fresh can garner great results. Working on a college campus where the students are the first to get on these platforms is a huge advantage.
Q4: Can you give an example of a social media campaign you oversaw that was really successful? Why do you think it was so successful?
A campaign we did on Snapchat was an interactive Valentine’s Day campaign playing off one of our campus traditions.
Legend has it that if you kiss your loved one under Upham Arch, you’re destined to marry and thus a “Miami Merger” (a married couple who are both Miami alumni) is made. Miami has one of the highest statistics of alumni who marry each other and the university mails a valentine to these couples each year.
To play off this tradition, we asked followers on Snapchat to screenshot an image we posted of Upham Arch and “write in” a valentine. We received about 30 submissions and added the submissions to our Story. This was a fun way to interact with our followers, on a topical holiday, while incorporating a Miami tradition.
Valentine’s Day Snapchats featured on @MiamiUniversity’s story:
Examples of submissions received from students:
Q5: What advice would you give to smaller schools who are trying to establish themselves as a university on social media?
Start small. Don’t worry about posting all the time, but make the content you do post worthwhile. It will take off over time. Also, don’t be afraid to share user-generated content. Often times, students will see that you shared their friend’s photo in Instagram and will comment and tag each other in excitement.
One step further, don’t be afraid to run a few campaigns or contests that say “tag a friend for a chance to win….”
Finally, our Snapchat Takeovers have been so successful because students post on their own social media to “follow them on Miami University’s account” while they show a day in their life.
This grew our Snapchat following by 40% in 6 weeks.
Higher Education Marketing
Q1: What recent marketing trends have been the most impactful to you and the way you market for Miami?
Honestly, user-generated content over the past few years has been huge. We even incorporated it into our viewbook and PSA. Having students as your biggest ambassadors is an authentic way to show prospective students the experience they could have at our school.
Also, the trend of live video, particularly Facebook Live, has been a way to engage with a lot of our alumni audiences. For a time, we were focusing most of our efforts on Instagram and Snapchat. But having the ability to live stream events, like a glee club concert, has been a great way to make alumni feel connected to the university.
Q2: How have you seen students responding to your marketing efforts? Do you think they appreciate attending a university that is active on social media?
Students definitely appreciate our marketing efforts. When it comes to events, students often say “I only found out about this because I saw it on Snapchat or Instagram.”
At the end of the day, we’re trying to give students the best college experience possible, and if we can do that by informing them of events, or responding to a question or issue, or even just by commenting on a great photo they’ve taken on campus, we’re doing our job.
Q3: An important part of marketing as a university is standing out from other competing universities. How do you think you do this?
I feel that having our students be the voice of our university and showing their authentic stories, whether through showing a day in their life on Snapchat, or sharing photos of their experience, helps us stand out. Students truly do love it here, and it shows.
Follow Miami University on Social Media!
For additional insight on the marketing efforts that Kelly Bennett is making on a daily basis, be sure to follow Miami University on social media through these channels: