University of Sydney goes cleverly social

Eyes have been opened to creative strategies at USyd where nine communications teams now collaborate on one overall view


With a view of only four out of 36 official social channels, the University of Sydney’s corporate communications team found it impossible to coordinate messaging, content or measurement and reporting - let alone work strategically with its eight faculty comms teams.

Now, with a single view of all channels, the teams have the tools and the time to collaborate and plan strategically. 

Previously, the tertiary education provider's corporate comms and eight faculty comms teams worked in silos because of the lack of a shared and unified view. This left messaging and its effects untidy. 

“We [the corporate team] had no idea what was happening out there, unless we checked all the [other 32] faculty social feeds,” University of Sydney senior social media officer, Liz Grey, told CMO. “The way things were measured and reporting on content and activity was left to different faculties. We wanted to bring that into one place to make it consistent."

Developing its business case for investing in a social media platform about a year ago, corporate comms invited demonstrations from Sprout Social, Hootsuite and others offering social media management platforms. Hootsuite’s demonstration showed effort to understand the university’s business especially well and benefits specific to the institution. This, along with the way Hootsuite integrates with Adobe and Talkwalker’s social listening and analytics, made the decision to select the platform a “no-brainer”, Grey said. 

Plugging into Adobe, the platform underpinning the University's website, Hootsuite allows the team to track audience journey and sentiment. This function helped the team design campaigns and user experience. 

“Now we track people who engage with our posts and then go to our website. We see actions they’ve taken on the site, too, so it's really a full-funnel view that helps us understand our audience better and how we can optimise content to make that journey easier for them,” Grey said. 

Talkwalker monitors sentiment and engagement by country among other things and became especially useful for an organisation with a big offshore customer base. When India’s Covid case numbers were spiking dramatically, the University was concerned about students who were away, what they were hearing, how they were reacting online, and how they felt about returning to study or enrolling as a new student.

The combination of Hootsuite and Talkwalker helped the social team partner with Indian students to develop a campaign called ‘Stay strong India’. This followed an earlier similar campaign, ‘Stay strong China’. 

“We talked directly to several Indian students, including one who contacted us, to get an idea of what would resonate for them and to create something meaningful and authentic. We wanted to show the university cares for its students in this situation and is a human brand, not just a corporate logo,” Grey explained. 

Using Talkwalker, the team was able to compare the University’s sentiment score from visitors per country before the campaign and then a few weeks afterwards. The results showed positive sentiment had increased strongly after the India and China campaigns. 

Read more: How 2020 changed brands' social media enagement

The social squad

In a normal week, the university doesn’t need such targeted campaigns but Hootsuite means all nine social media teams now work from the same overall view. A ‘social squad’ of social media representatives from each faculty meets weekly with central comms to discuss content coming up for each area, looks at audiences and decides which channels will be the best distributors. 

 “The single view makes it so much easier to collaborate and to put different brains together,” said Grey. “If there's something that's happening on, say, the science channels that could be a bigger news story, we can say ‘hang on. Let's take that to central and broadcast it to a bigger audience’.” 

Previously, the bigger story could have gone under central communications’ radar, whereas now it can all be seen at the press of a button and with customisable metrics. Hootsuite also generates tracking codes to shows audience segments and which are responding to different campaigns.  

Grey said the comprehensive view has brought the team together on strategy because they can see the impact of every single action they take on social media as well as the return on the action. The university’s first strategic goal with Hootsuite was to increase followers and engagement rates. 

“The full view of activity across the university shows what's working for engagement rates and for building the following,” said Grey. “So we know what's working, what's not, then lean into those more successful posts and stop others. 

“It’s not only a content distribution medium, it keeps us ahead of the curve with social media trends, which is important in a fast-moving environment. The resources and tools Hootsuite provides help us stay on top and know how we level up against our competitors."

With the help of trend analysis, the Uni of Sydney's social squad has become the go-to best practice people for social media across the university. The social team has also found Hootsuite invaluable for vastly improved, fast reporting, giving the team a better profile in the organisation. Reporting historically was a labour-intensive process in which each individual platform had to be searched and analysed for results. 

“Now we take one look into Hootsuite to see how we’re meeting KPIs. It’s like doubling our staff from three to six at central comms,” said Grey. 

The investment has paid off in consistency of messaging and content, measuring impact, an infinitely better collaborative, strategic and proactive way of working. Grey said maturity of social media function within the university’s marketing has grown significantly in the 12 months they have been using the new platform. Elevated reporting will also help the institution understand the impact of social and help grow its budget.

“All our social media staff have benefited from Hootsuite – there's a new maturity and understanding through the new capabilities," Grey added. "Not only does the platform highlight the value of social media for a business but [improved reporting] has helped people outside social media understand the nitty-gritty of it. We’re able to report on strategic posts in a more meaningful way, in consistent language, using the same reporting templates and styles within Hootsuite."

Read more:  The art of dealing with Gen Z

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