Like our peer institutions in North America, Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) relies heavily on social media to build our brand. Changes in social media use and a significant drop in organic reach on the traditional social media platforms have forced us to retool and approach our brand-building work differently. In the past year, we’ve been expanding our pool of mostly informal brand ambassadors among employees and students. Here are a few reflections on what is working for us, which we hope you’ll find useful no matter how many kilometers away from Norway you happen to be reading this!
Are people taking over where logos left off?
Brand accounts are seeing declining reach, but guess which accounts are seeing increases real, live people—your friends, family, colleagues and students. We’ve spotted a trend: content shared by employees on their personal profiles generates a significantly higher rate of reach and clicks than the same content shared on our brand accounts.
With platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn emphasizing the personal, we set out to help OsloMet employees and students excel in their social media advocacy.
What do our colleagues need from us?
Our experience turning colleagues and students into brand ambassadors has driven home how differently these two groups practice brand advocacy. In general, employees don’t feel like they have time or the skills to draft posts related to goings-on at the university; they want to share ready-made content. So we’ve learned to serve them high-quality content and make it as easy as possible for them to share it.
Compared with just a year ago, we spend less time formatting content and publishing it to our brand accounts and more time helping employees use social effectively. The support we offer runs the gamut from the simple to the sophisticated:
- How do I upload a profile picture?
- how do I retweet?
- How should I use LinkedIn updates to engage alumni?
- How can I track traffic from my social account to the article I’ve linked to?
We seek to drive home the power of effective employee advocacy when advising colleagues on general social media practice and in connection with upcoming events and initiatives. Where in the past we might have offered to promote their article or seminar on our brand account, we now encourage them to primarily use their own social media accounts to engage with their networks for maximum impact and reach.
What about students?
Unlike employees, students don’t want to share our pre-made content. Students have experience in content creation and spend more time thinking about their online personality and voice.
Our students are creative and personal in how they engage with our institution in social media. We’ve achieved our best results engaging students as brand ambassadors when we equip them visual materials, like roses in our school color—and then get out of the way.
Close up with rose
Student with yellow rose
- Share research stories, vacant positions, upcoming events and success stories.
- Most want content served to them.
- Employee ambassadors have high degree of institutional loyalty.
- Share vignettes from the life of a student.
- Prefer to create their own content.
- Little discernible link between their posting behavior/frequency and their overall satisfaction with their student experience. In other words, most any student can make a good brand ambassador.
Pride case study
Late June used to be a quiet time for OsloMet on social media—students are all done with exams and half the country heads out of town on summer vacation.
This has changed for us the past two years as we have stepped up our involvement in Oslo Pride. The highly visual nature of Pride and the high degree of enthusiasm and support for them across campus has generated unusually high levels of organic social media activity on the part of employees, students and alumni, in addition to giving us high-quality content to publish on our brand accounts. Every photo shared by an employee wearing an OsloMet t-shirt while marching in the Pride parade and every Instagram story created by a student volunteering at our stand in Pride Park helps us tell a story about our values more powerfully and effectively than a diversity strategy collecting dust on our website.
The story members of our campus community are telling about us during Pride week resonates in social media for the same reason our other employer- and student-generated content succeeds—because it’s personal.
Social content from Pride week at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University:
- Brand video on OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University Instagram
- OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University LinkedIn post
- Instagram picture on OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University campus
- Instagram picture of OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University student
One last thing
Our last piece of advice is to remember to say thank you to your brand advocates. It really does make a difference, not least because it will encourage them to continue to tell your story in social media. So take the time to thank the people sharing your content, using your hashtag or posing in a photo wearing your college hoodie. You can, and should, do this from your brand account. But enlisting real people, like your colleagues who work with social media and your university president, to extend their gratitude to your best brand ambassadors will lend your efforts that personal touch. And if there’s one thing we’ve tried to convey here, it’s that that personal touch matters.