Last week, we held a webinar on higher education and social media and heard some fantastic social media strategies from The University of Cambridge and City University London.
If you work in higher education, you can watch the webinar on-demand.
On the webinar, Barney Brown, head of digital communications at The University of Cambridge, told the story of how their Under the Microscope series grew from one video to millions of YouTube views.
One day, their communications team found a video on YouTube, uploaded by their Department of Engineering. The video revealed how air flows over a wing, demonstrating how airplanes can fly.
“It was visually compelling,” says Barney. “But it didn’t have a voiceover or explain what was happening on screen.” So the communications team asked for the original footage, cut it down to 60 seconds, and had one of the researchers to record a voiceover.
The series has since gained millions of YouTube views. Their video of a Killer T cell attacking cancer (1,036,727 views to date) is one of my favorites.
With these videos, The University of Cambridge uses social to express their mission: to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research. For example, the video below reveals how a mouse embryo develops over time, helping researchers better understand human pregnancy.
If interested, you can read more about how The University of Cambridge uses Hootsuite to manage their social media in a case study.
How to apply this strategy to your own business:
You don’t need to have genius content
You might not have amazing scientific visuals to share. But many of the videos in the series aren’t breakthrough discoveries; they’re well-known processes that many research scientists will recognize. What I liked about this campaign was how they took something complex and repackaged it into a simple format. This allowed them to reach new audiences. What is common knowledge in your industry that you can simplify and make accessible to a broad audience? For example, at Hootsuite we created a social media glossary with common industry terms. We didn’t invent anything new. We turned common knowledge into a useful piece of content that has been shared over 2,000 times and gained thousands of views.
You don’t need a large budget
The videos are created from footage that already exists in departments. The communication team edit the videos themselves. They get different academics to record the voiceovers. Their professional video studio? “It’s actually a cave of cushions in my office,” Barney says. A few weeks ago, famed naturalist and television presenter Sir David Attenborough recorded a voiceover there. “We have to make things work,” says Barney. “The answer isn’t always to throw money at it.”
Reverse engineer content discovery
Barney’s team looked for a way to gain exposure for the series. They searched through popular apps such as Flipboard and looked for people consuming videos about science and nature. One media brand—io9 by Gawker Media—posted similar videos. Barney contacted them and explained the series. The channel then syndicated the series on their website. This brought the series to a new popular science audience.
Content ideas can be found anywhere
With social media, The University of Cambridge aims to maintain the decentralized nature of their university. As Barney explained on the webinar, “we have over 600 Twitter accounts around the university. So there are lots of different ways of expressing what’s happening at the university and lots of different voices and areas.” One of the things they try to do with social is not to say that everyone has to speak in the same way. “There’s a great benefit to making people with different voices to collide together to share ideas and come up with new innovative things.”
Do you work in higher education?
The University of Cambridge’s YouTube strategy was only one piece of great advice shared in our recent higher education webinar. Watch the full webinar to hear:
Strategy guidance and best practices from The University of Cambridge and City University London
How to use social media across multiple departments and faculties
The key elements to include in your social media strategy