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Guest Blog: Taking campaigns to the next level in the HE sector

by Liam Ross

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 28 August 2019

A lot has changed in the last few years on social, as I am sure many of you would agree. With everything we do, we need to be more creative, smarter & more strategic. I am sure that you’ve seen as I have, that organic reach has decreased in power over the last 12-18 months and at the start of 2018.

Times Are Changing

I think we had a period of time where we worked on getting our heads around what this meant – this idea of meaningful social interactions. We realised that we had to evolve the way in which we were using social media or pay the price. Literally, pay the price!

Luckily for us, Loughborough was in a really good spot for this. For us, it’s the creative activity rather than cash that fuels our work. We see huge drops in engagement when we use social as a one-way, shouty megaphone. We may be trying to tell people about our academic research but overall, the day to day person is not interested in this kind of content. They want to know how it relates to them. So instead I and my team at Loughborough use different tactics where we can; Facebook Groups, events and inviting debate and discussions as part of our comms.

For me, it’s really about three things; advocacy, authenticity and personalisation. With these three things in mind, whenever we are campaign planning these are covered in all of the discussions which we are bringing to the table with social before we think about the nitty-gritty of the campaign. I’m going to share just a few examples of how we at Loughborough are using each of these words to form our strategy.


We’ll start with the idea of advocacy. Using our communities as advocates for our brand is one of the most essential tools to combat the decline of organic reach. And as a university, we are in a really great position –  we have students, alumni, sporting bodies and employees which we can call upon. As a team, we did a piece of work around the idea of the #LboroFamily to really map out our stakeholders; who are these people? Who are they talking to? Why are we engaging with them and how do they fit into our plans for social? 

loboro family image

We have worked this idea of the #LboroFamily into almost everything we have done since 2015. It builds a sense of pride, a sense of belonging in a digital space as well as the physical space of our campus. We are a small, close-knit, 

community campus and we really tried to emulate this in a digital sense for this idea of the #LboroFamily. It empowered people to engage with us, wherever they are in the world with just a simple hashtag.

Loughborough University performs extremely well in university league tables relating to student experience and rankings, where satisfaction and student reviews really make a difference. At 4th in the UK league tables, this is obviously something which we want to shout about and communicate to our community, so we created shareable assets to use on social media and as you can see, our community absolutely loved the opportunity for a humblebrag.

humble brag twitter

Of course, all of the comments and activity which these shareable assets create boosts the power and attractiveness of our posts for Facebook’s algorithms; it gets our name and our achievements into news feeds and areas where we would never be able to reach on our own. This forms a really vital part of what we do.



Authenticity – I feel like this might be my personal marketing buzzword from the past few years. To sum this up, our students don’t want to hear from our marketing team anymore, they would rather hear from someone like them. Someone who is proud, positive and passionate about the institution they study at. And undoubtedly, this is probably the same for many of your customers – unless you’re the social media team behind the likes of Innocent or other, equally amazing brands on social. This is a growing trend of influencer marketing. 

People, customers, brands; figuring out the power of using ambassadors with an authentic tone of voice to sell products, services or information to people. A recent UCAS survey showed that 92% of students said that reviews were an important tactic for making their firm choice. Off the back of this, I and the team at Loughborough were inspired by sites such as TripAdvisor; posting student reviews for prospective students to read on our website. This gave our audience a genuine feel of and opinions on their experiences at Loughborough in much the same way as we all do for hotels, restaurants etc. It’s a risky business! We have no control over the reviews, we can’t remove them! 

Of course, our teenage audience is using different social media channels these days to communicate, away from the parent infested waters of Facebook to the likes of Instagram and Snapchat. For us, this is great news as these are really visual and creative channels which allow us to put together lots of fun and engaging content around what student life at Loughborough University is all about. And often, that content is created by our students themselves. This content is usually not polished or story-boarded pieces, but they are a rough and ready portrayal of student experiences which by tap into the very nature of these platforms.

We have found this to be consistently one of the best ways for students to engage with us. Dropping this little sticker into the midst of one of our open day stories received over 50 questions! I’d really encourage you all to think about how your campaigns and your content can be driven by what is generated from your audiences.


And finally, we touch upon personalisation. Such a powerful thing that makes your customers really feel like they’re connected to your brand. At Loughborough, we know how difficult it is to work this into our campaigns – it’s time consuming and across the board more difficult to execute. But we have managed to achieve this every year since 2016. On A-level results day our new students, who have just found out they’re going to Loughborough received a personalised, printed (old school I know!) welcome letter. It was something physical which they could open, hold and share on social media. Behind this, it gave them something digital, on social to introduce them to life at university and the #LboroFamily.

congratulations LBORO family

We managed to put Loughborough Uni at the forefront of people’s minds, against our competitors – we were there for this joyous moment and our new students took to social media to thank us personally and brag to their friends that their university had sent them something. As a social media team, we were able to capitalise on that activity and engage with it in a digital space.

Hopefully you will be able to translate these three focal points; advocacy, authenticity and personalisation into what works best for your own brand, to create engaging social media campaigns of your own in the future.


Liam Ross

As Digital Engagement Officer at Loughborough University, Liam has been influencing the university's social strategy for over four years.

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