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Leveling the Field on Social

I attended a session on social media strategy last week where the presenter emphasized the point that “social media levels the playing field,” in the sense that a tiny start-up or a grassroots not-for-profit are on the same level as major consumer giants like Nike or Apple.

This…might be a stretch. Nike and Apple have teams of graphic designers pushing out special visuals, they have community managers talking to different audiences online, celebrities being paid to share their content and they’ve got the money to boost posts and run highly targeted ad campaigns. Compared to your one-person shop and limited budget.

But perhaps, there is some truth to it. It is true that for organic content, you are using the same medium and once you’ve built an audience and earned Page Likes, you are delivering your message in much the same way every other brand in the world is. Even if Facebook limits organic reach to about 3%-5%, here are three quick ways to help reduce the gap between your organization and the bigger players.

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UVic’s Brilliant Use of BuzzFeed

If you’ve ever attended, applied to, or even just stepped foot close to a university campus, you’ve probably seen them. Bright, colourful photographs of students showing off their school colours in all sorts of safe locales. Maybe they’re sitting in a campus café, or lounging under a giant maple tree, or chatting at a study table in the library, or just philosophizing on the meaning of life and their place in the world on the steps of the campus’ most iconic building.

These pictures are everywhere. And they’re unrealistic. The photos often feature those representing the student union, showcase clothing that would decimate a student’s budget faster than happy hour, and represent a homogenous school culture that appears to be the exact same no matter what campus you step foot on. Despite these shortcomings, this approach perseveres as the norm.

But could that be changing?

@cspeti4 Instagram photo samples

One of the students the University of Victoria featured in their BuzzFeed article, Corey. All photos from @cspeti4 on Instagram.

Enter: the University of Victoria.

While they’re still very much in the experimental phase, UVic has signed up as a “Brand Publisher” on the internet giant BuzzFeed. As one of the web’s most visited sites, which pumps out shareable stories by (what feels like) the minute, the fit might seem odd for a stuffy-old institution like a university to host its stories.

In reality,  it’s a perfect opportunity. They’re putting content out on the places that their students (both current and prospective) spend their time, as evidenced by Alexa’s response that people browsing from school are greatly over-represented on BuzzFeed. Rather than trying to drive traffic to their site, they’re being active in pushing out stories through a medium that students actually want to spend time on.

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