Let’s be honest. Many of our social sites are boring. We are quick to post the expected – photos of students on the quad, news release headlines, event tweets. We all use social tools to push information out. But, why not use them more regularly to pull information in?

There are rich opportunities to use social media tools to collect information about your brand, your pending creative campaign or your messaging strategy – all while creating engagement that is priceless. Here are five ways universities and nonprofits could use these media to fine-tune their own marketing objectives while also making your audiences feel like they played a role in developing your campaign.

1. Imagine if, after your institution collects its market research, you use your social tools to further refine your learning?

  • Your research indicates that your brand is relatively unknown or understood. By using a strategic visual campaign on sites like Pinterest or Instagram you can measure the reaction to your brand concepts through pins and shares.

  • Redesigning your magazine? Why not post the cover concepts and seek out feedback through social media?

  • Have a new viewbook concept? Throw your spec on Pinterest and see which design gets the most support.

  • And for the brave, why not use the visual social tools to test out new logo or mascot approaches? The feedback will create buzz, excitement for the final decision and buy-in because they were given an opportunity to share their thoughts.

2.  If you are developing a new messaging platform for your university, why not look to LinkedIn to seek feedback?

  • A lesson from Coca Cola with the Share a Coke Campaign - as the campaign went crazy viral with consumers asking for their names and phrases to be placed on the bottles, Coke was also collecting adjectives, affirmations and authentic statements about their products that they could then use in subsequent ad campaigns.

  • Imagine if you asked your alumni to self identify around your tested brand themes. Would they share with you reasons they are proud to be graduates of your university? Facebook could garner responses by the masses. LinkedIn could refine the messaging and would attract engagement from the up-and-coming donors for your institutions and also the business-minded alumni who would add a maturity to your messaging.

3.   Use your social sites to project the strong image and feeling you need to stand out from other institutions.

  • Visit the Red Bull Facebook page and see how you are bombarded with adrenaline. They are also global with posts in every language imaginable – Spanish, Finnish, Russian, you name it. They use their Facebook page to project the Red Bull lifestyle – adventure, fast living, action.

  • Why not look at your Facebook page as a way to present specific emotions and attributes of your institution? If you are a liberal arts university, stimulate the imagination and look and feel highly creative. Ditch the corporate and expected design for something that makes visitors feel they are in a unique world.

4.   Nurture a conversation while also pushing out information.

  • Every university quad is packed with students with earbuds. Ask to photograph them, and then post what they are listening to. Challenge others to post a photo of themselves and share their musical tastes. As this happens, pepper in staff and faculty you want to feature and include them in the posting. You spread the word about having some interesting professionals with your own social tools.

5.   Feel like your ideas about talking about your university are getting stale? Take a lesson from Oreo on how to create new vision for an established brand.

  • Read about the Oreo Snack Hack at 360i here: https://360i.com/work/oreo-snack-hacks/ - perhaps one of the most incredible uses of social tools in recent history. With more than 5 million engagements, they seeded the campaign with ideas from consumers about ways they used or ate their product. The result was a viral sensation and led Nabisco to rethink some of their cookie flavors, designs, recipes on their Web sites, etc.

  • What if you asked alumni to talk about ways they are using their degrees uniquely? Degree hacks, if you will.

  • How are students working out in your campus fitness center? Ask them to share their gym hacks? The possibilities are endless and their responses will add some unique value to your branding efforts.

It’s easy to slip into the patterns with social tools, but when you look at them differently – as ways to inform your work, they can become exciting. Rethink your social tools!

Five Unique Ways

to Use Social Media

to INFORM Your Brand

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