Launching your college app: tips from the world of social media
We know that students want an easy and familiar way to communicate with their fellow students and tutors, through our research into students’ communication preferences. You may have heard that in-house apps are paving the way forward in communication within UK universities and colleges, in the form of private social media apps. Once an institution has invested in an app, they have the daunting task of getting hundreds, if not thousands of students to engage with the new tool. Here’s some tips we’ve identified through researching some of the biggest and best social media apps and accounts, to help make your in-house social media app launch and adoption a success.
Tip #1 – Pinpoint your influencers, and target them
Influencer marketing is a massive business for brands around the world, it helps them to sell products and services by identifying individuals who have influence over their potential customers (usually by having large followings). When Instagram launched back in 2010, they knew as a visual social media platform, bloggers would be key influencers to help spread the word about their app. Today bloggers are now influencer marketers for brands globally and have helped drive growth for Instagram as a whole.
In your institution, think about who helps to shape the culture and engagement of your students. Maybe it’s a tutor that everyone loves, or maybe the campus café is a hub of engagement, or perhaps there is a department who shouts the loudest. Think about these key influences on your student body, and now see them as influencers who can help drive the engagement of your app. Start to think about ideas of how you could work with them to help your launch strategy. A tutor could ensure engaging with the app is part of their course content…you could run exclusive discounts for the campus café through the app…you could get students from creative departments to help create content for your app.
Tip #2 - Make it fun
Instagram hit the nail on the head with the face filters feature of their app, made popular initially by Snapchat but now synonymous with Instagram stories (which allows users to post and watch temporary videos). They are fun to use, and the addition of a filter makes users feel more comfortable in sharing selfies– therefore more content on Instagram – win/win for the platform! Emojis and GIFs have also become a massive part of how we communication on social media, we use these to convey our feelings efficiently and to add personality to our messages.
Now face filters and selfies may not be the type of content you’ll be sharing, but bringing that kind of fun to your app is important. Think about your audience, your students will be used to scrolling through apps seeing funny meme’s and snappy videos. Your app will be competing with the other apps frequently used by your students. Dry and stuffy content is a sure-fire way for your app to be left un-used taking up memory on your students’ phones. So, think fun when planning your launch plan and content! Nescot College, a Tribal customer, shares fun GIFs and memes with their students using their private social media app Nescomms. They’ve found these visual messages to be more engaging for their students, rather than sharing the equivalent messages in text format.
Tip #3 - Be responsive
Many of the most popular apps in the world offer the ability for instant responses and connections, its part of what makes them so successful. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users expect businesses to provide customer service via their social media accounts. In 2017, research commissioned by Salesforce found that 54% of social media consumers expected businesses to respond to messages instantly. Facebook only identifies accounts as “fast- responders” if they respond to 90% of their messages within 15 minutes.
Make sure that you have a team member or two in your institution always available to respond to any messages that may come through your app. A training day showing staff how to use the app could be beneficial, as you want to ensure they are comfortable and know how to respond to direct messages from their students. Practice what you preach, if your internal teams are not engaged and responsive when it comes to the app – how can you expect your students to be?
Tip #4 - Involve your audience
One of the brilliant things about social media platforms for businesses is the direct contact with customers, that in previous decades would only have been possible in person, or via intrusive direct marketing. Now with the click of a button, you can find out anything you like about your user base. Direct communication via social media helps to increase trust and ultimately gives businesses an insight into what their customers really want. Personalisation of content based on the knowledge gained through social media is also a brilliant tool to increase engagement. The digital music service Spotify annually shares with each individual user their personal soundtrack for the year. This type of campaign not only encourages use of their platform but encourages sharing with friends and social promotion.
Don’t be afraid to ask students what they want to see from your app, and ways they think your app could be improved. You could use your app to share polls or surveys or run a competition where respondents can win a prize. By asking for your students’ opinions, you are not only engaging them in using the app but helping shape the app to their wants and needs. Think about how you can personalise your app content for individual students or groups of students – bespoke content will always be more eye catching and likely to result in better engagement.
Tip #5 – Know your voice
Going back to some marketing theory, the 12 brand archetypes have been used for decades to help shape brand personalities and the stories behind products and services. Once you’ve identified your archetype (or archetypes) you’ll have a better idea of who your brand is and how you should be engaging with customers. Social media apps are another marketing platform for brands to showcase their personalities. Have a glance through Netflix US and Starbucks Coffee for some examples of brands who know their tone of voice and how to use it on social media.
Your app is another platform for you to get across your institution’s message, but are you confident in your unique voice? Hopefully your institution has some brand guidelines and tone of voice guidance, so that everyone in your team is on the same page. It’s important to get across that whilst they should be bringing their own personality to their messages, it is in a professional capacity and guidelines should be discussed so everyone is comfortable with what they can share. Give your teams the tools for success to make sharing easier, you could include a suite of on brand images and videos they can use in their messages – anything to make adoption of the platform effortless.
Inspiration comes in many forms and keeping your eye on social media trends is key to making sure your in-house app stays relevant and meets the expectations of your students. Scrolling through social media apps may already form part of your daily routine, so think about the campaigns you find powerful and captivating when you are doing this. Spending time planning and executing launch and campaign plans is worth it for successful adoption, both for your internal teams and students. We’ve found through speaking to our customers, that effective adoption of their app has resulted in huge improvements in student engagement rates, better communications between staff and students and less time wasted calling, emailing and chasing students.