Best Higher Ed Social Media Ideas of 2014

As promised, here is a run down of my favorite social media ideas from colleges and universities that I saw in 2014.

Great big 'ole caveat: Though I follow hundreds of colleges on social media, of course I missed way more posts than I saw, so this is most certainly an incomplete list. Please comment with additional examples you would like to share!

Enjoy, be inspired, and if you would like more articles like this, you can follow this blog on Facebook and you can follow me on Twitter.

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Professors Read Mean Reviews - Lehigh University

Inspired by Jimmy Kimmel's "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" segments, Lehigh had the brilliant idea of having professors read some not-so-favorable reviews from A brilliant idea brilliantly executed. Original post.


Beaver Nation - Oregon State University

We are all dealing with the cold reality of Facebook's algorithm changes - either post content that people want to engage with, or no one will see it. Period. Which makes anything that feels like branding or a commercial a pretty dicey situation.

Oregon State's "Beaver Nation" campaign is a great response to this - a way, to paraphrase Marie Antoinette, to have your reach and enhance your brand too - involving a series of profiles and videos of alumni/students/faculty who are are doing great things and have really compelling stories. Original post.


Bluff Boxes - University of Portland

My blog, my rules. Which is why I'm including one of my projects. But I promise it's a good one!

Together with some fabulous co-workers, I recently completed a campaign - check out the Bluff Box website for more details and a fun stop-motion video that I worked pretty darn hard on - where we invited alumni to send a small care package to their old dorm room.

It was promoted solely through social media, and more than 200 alumni took part. It was great at getting young alumni to give back in a small but meaningful way, and it had the added benefit of current students feeling the love from alumni and (hopefully) planting the seeds for them giving back one day. Original post.


Hand-Delivered Acceptance Letters - Marquette University

One of my all-time favorite ideas, and one that other colleges have put their own spin on - notably Butler University, who sent their mascot (a real bulldog!) Butler Blue III on a road trip to personally deliver some acceptance letters, which of course was live-tweeted. Original post.


Say Something Nice - University of New Hampshire

I can't help but be a sucker for "art project" experiments like this. Stuff that is unexpected, different, fun, fresh, unique, clever, creative - pick your adjective! - and makes people feel better about themselves for having participated in it and/or watched the results.

 This is the type of video that would be a welcome addition to anyone's social media feed, not just people who are connected to UNH. (Which, of course, is the secret sauce to making any #hesm video go "viral.") Original post.


"Humans of" Pages - Cornell University and UCLA

Inspired by the mega-popular Humans of New York and its many copycat pages, some students at Cornell and UCLA created a college-focused "Humans of" page that offer really fabulous windows into the unique cultures of their respective colleges and the people that make them special. Original post.


Golf Cart Memories - Georgetown University

During reunion weekend, Georgetown had the great idea of giving alumni rides in a golfcart and having them tell stories on camera. Original post.


Anatomy of a Crazie - Duke University

Duke shows what you can do if you give fans the same type of hyped-up promotion that athletes typically get. A really fun way to show off and reward school pride! Original post.


When the Students are Away, the President Will Play - Truman State University

A really clever video from Truman State University, perfectly tailored to the winter break period that is typically deadsville for higher ed social media. Original post.


Graduation Tweet-to-screen - Minnesota State-Moorhead

Minnesota State-Moorhead went full bore with integrating social media into commencement with a screen that showed (curated!) live tweets. Pretty darn awesome... I have no idea how they convinced the academic side to allow it.  :)  Original post.


An integrated campaign - Humboldt State University

When used for marketing, social media is always strongest when it works in conjunction with other pieces, like this fantastic video from Humboldt State. Be sure to check out this website for the full effect of this video in conjunction with a photo gallery and a feature story. This is pretty much the dream scenario when you can make it happen - video, photo, and text all together in one place, and easily usable on the website, on social media, as a press release, and in a variety of print publications. Beautiful. Original post.


Georgetown Stories - Georgetown University

You should definitely poke around the website to read up on the project, but in a nutshell - Georgetown is following 11 students throughout the year and will be telling their story through a multimedia presentation of videos, vlogs, social media, photos, etc. It's a full-on documentation of the lives of everyday students, and it's really, really freaking cool. Original post.


Finals Week Encouragement - Flagler College

Flagler invited alumni to give words of encouragement on its Facebook page, and then they took all the comments, printed them, and put them up all over the library during finals week. I always love it when a social media project can go from online to offline, and I particularly love it when you can actually show people that their engagement on social media leads to real, tangible results for students. Original post.


Outcomes Infographic - Smith College

With student debt at record highs, job prospects for young people still lagging far behind the economic recovery, and the rise of MOOCs, colleges have to do a lot more to prove that attending college is still worth it. 

This is crucial work for everyone working in higher ed marketing, and Smith College offered a terrific example of a way to present this information in a fun, informational, and engaging way. Original post.


Puppy Instagram Takeover - Ithaca College

We all know that animals rule the internet, but it's not always easy to find ways to feature them in higher ed. (Great examples here and here.) So when you've got an awesome club that is totally worth highlighting that just so happens to involve cute puppies? Well, that's social media GOLD! Original post.


Meet the Class of 2014 - George Fox University

Soon after graduation, George Fox created short bio pages featuring dozens of new alumni. Content like this is great because it's so versatile. While I'm sure it was not easy to get so many students to respond to the Q&A's (getting a student to respond to an email is pretty much the equivalent of finding a $20 bill in a jacket pocket: wonderful and so unexpected when it happens!), now they have a treasure-trove of good stuff that can be used from social media to admissions to fundraising. Original post.


Profile of a Beloved Staff Member - Creighton UNIVERSITY

In just a few short minutes, you can see so clearly that this man represents everything Creighton hopes to sell prospective students on - this is a place where you'll be cared for, where you matter, where people know your name, where you're not just a face in the crowd, etc. Watch this, and you get a real sense of the community of that place and the people that exist within it. And not only is the messaging wonderful, but it's a lovely bit of film making too. Original post.


Footprints in the Quad - University of Michigan

Somewhere on its campus, University of Michigan painted footprints emblazoned with the logo on the sidewalk. I love small, silly, unexpected things like this, and I think it's really smart given our current culture of always being on the lookout for something cool to share on social media. Ever since Instagram came along, I definitely find myself looking for funny/interesting/unique/surprising things any time I am walking around campus or around the city, and I can only imagine what I would do if I stumbled across something like this on my own college campus. Original post.


engaging parents - western washington university

From Matthew Anderson, who implemented this idea at WWU: “This isn’t what I would call a clever or time-consuming idea, but I love it for its simplicity. I’m a firm believer in the drip, drip, drip value of social media — that our brand image comprises not several major campaigns but rather the culmination of many small interactions and responses with our communities — and this, at least to me, is in line with that.” 100% agree. Original post.


Graduation video... about shoes - Bates College

Graduation videos can be pretty rote - students saying thank you, a walk across a stage and a handshake, hats being tossed, proud parents - can have life breathed into it by, as dear old Dickinson would say, telling all the truth but telling it slant - but Bates College put a fun spin on the standard grad video by asking grads about the shoes they decided to wear on the big day. Original post.


Faculty Selfies - Green Mountain College

Green Mountain College asked several faculty members to take selfies, and they got some brilliant, hilarious results. There's something fabulously joyful about this series of photos that shows professors with cats and professors with toothpaste in their beards and professors who cut their faces while fishing. 

It makes them seem so real and so personable, and you really can get a better feel for the true personality of a professor in a goofy selfie than a serious posed shot in a lab or whatever. Original post.


Dead week coffee delivery - university of portland

Yes, yes... another one of my projects. So sue me.  :)  Finals week is a tough time on campus, and students are super stressed out. So why not bring some joy and brightness into their lives with a spontaneous coffee delivery? A little act of kindness like this can go a long way, and it's little things like this that students will remember long after they graduate. Original post.

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Here's to a great 2015, everyone!

Again, please comment with things I missed (believe me, I know I missed a lot of great ideas), and if you would like more articles like this, you can follow this blog on Facebook and you can follow me on Twitter.

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