Social Media for Higher Education in 2018


While looking at current trends doesn’t necessarily make predictions for the forthcoming year 100% accurate, they are however a good way to get us thinking about how we can adapt to the future.

Higher education has very specific needs from social media. From an institutional standpoint it is about engaging potential students, disseminating news and research to the media and public, and maintaining contact with current students. Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn provide easy solutions to a lot of these requirements with a captive audience of users that institutions, researchers and academics can tap into.

Yet, the platforms are swamped with content, some of it is very innovative and entertaining and that can often see content you publish getting lost in the shuffle. Therefore, as we discussed in our series of blogs regarding social media for academics, the content we produce must be visual, engaging and dynamic in order to be seen. Adapting research and other academic content may provide a challenge for this, however there are plenty of examples of great content being produced for social media in the form of videos, podcasts, and interactive games/simulators.

But as the technology advances, so do the opportunities for new features to establish a foothold and ultimately change how users interact with social media platforms. So with this in mind, here are a few upcoming trends in social media in 2018.

1. Chatbots

Chatbots may seem an impersonal touch in the world of social media, but it solves a major issue regarding the timely responding to messages through social media/websites. With most young people preferring social media messaging or website interaction in order to receive quick and to-the-point responses at any time of the day or night, chatbots fill the gaps where human staff would typically be unavailable.

A lot of businesses are already finding success with these; the ultra advanced Siri and Alexa and great examples, and their grounding in artificial intelligence allows them to answer questions, direct to content and even complete transactions giving your social media page or website a self-service point to make interaction as brief and efficient as possible.

2. Augmented Reality

If you are aware of Snapchat filters and games such as Pokémon Go then you are aware of the potential uses of augmented reality. By simply using a smartphone you can add digital content to any real-life environment. Facebook bought AR company Masquerade in 2016 and later that year their Instagram service began to also get filters like those seen on Snapchat.

While at an institutional level we are currently using Snapchat filters to add specific local content to events such as Graduations, the more integrated the technology becomes into social media platforms, the easier it will be to adapt it to our purposes. This may remain just a fun feature for a while, but there are AR apps available that can be utilised in order to create interactive real life content very easily that can be publicised through social media.

3. Going Live

Photos, gifs and videos have become integral at making content stand out in the social media landscape. Things that are typically short, engaging, noticeable and dynamic do far better than traditional text content. However one growing area is live video. With platforms such as Facebook, YoutTube, Instagram, and Periscope (for Twitter) integrating live video options into their services it is easier than ever before to sign into an account, point a tablet or smartphone at yourself and go live.

So far we’ve found this has been received well for inaugural and guest lectures and also informal things such as Q&A sessions with staff etc. The possibilities are endless, you could live stream your research, conferences, give talks, do Q&A sessions about academic topics and the social media platform allows for real-time comments from your audience that you can respond to.

4. Think Mobile

Smatphones and tablets along with improved Wi-Fi and cheaper mobile data plans have made technology on the move the norm, and with it comes a whole host of new rules. These include keeping content like videos, short, subtitled and too the point. Also keeping in mind that Twitter has become the norm for how to compose text with most social media posts now only formed in 180 characters or less (though Twitter is now trailing a more manageable 240 character limit) you can get round this limitation by turning heavier content into graphics such as gifs and photos. Finally, remembering to adapt your content for different platforms is vital. An image you use on Twitter won’t translate fully into Instagram, but an Image created for instagram will still work fine on Twitter. Do your research and plan where your content will go and how you will present it.

See our guide to Social Media Platforms for more

 5. Social Messaging

We’re all aware of social media but social messaging is on the grow – and this ties back into my first point about chatbots – with apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WeChat seeing a significant rise in users that rival the established social media platforms. Tailoring your messages, content and how you reach out to students through these can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible.

For instance you may create a WhattsApp group for students on placement so they can get real-time help with any issues they face from yourself or the rest of their group. A chatbot on a Facebook page can interact with enquiries through Facebook Messanger when you are unavailable or it is outside of working hours.

The nature of these apps are for quick, timely and efficient responses to make sure the level of personal interaction is maintained between institution and student.

6. Be Authentic

In a world where “fact-checking”, “post-truth” and “fake news” are the biggest buzzwords around we need to make sure that all content we produce is correct and authoritative. That doesn’t mean that all content must be dry and official, but rather that young people are becoming far more adept at differentiating between real and fake.

For example, if you want to present your content with an authentic student voice, use authentic students, don’t tightly script them or speak for them. If you want to promote news regarding something relevant to your research or teaching topics through your social media, make sure it is from a reputable and authenticated source. And finally but most importantly, before creating your own content make sure all your facts, stats and even spelling and grammar is correct before hitting publish or tweet.

You can still be fun and informal on social media, you can still blog with a personal voice. All of the information and tips in our previous posts still stand, but you need to be authentic and correct with whatever you put out onto social media as well.

This is a brief, but not exhaustive list of things to think about and keep a look out for over the next year. The rate of change is moving ever faster and just as we adapt to one way of working, we often find that everything has already changed. There are many ways these areas can affect how we work, and some may not quite change how you teach or conduct research but these are areas that moving forward could become very important.