Business student

Managing engagement in the new normal

At the start of the pandemic, as Zoom and other remote tools saw business boom in unprecedented ways, the opportunity to engage with students digitally also increased. Meanwhile, campus social media managers have built on their strengths to reach students where they are, provide timely and easy-to-use information, and make students feel heard by responding directly. and publicly to concerns. But here’s the problem with results: when we and our supervisors see great accomplishments, it can be tempting to believe that they are achievable, or even easily repeatable.

Two years ago, social media usage skyrocketed, with college students reporting usage going from two hours a day to three hours or more. It was an audience bored at home and missing their campus experience and connections.

But now, it seems the time has come for that long-awaited, disbelief-soaked return to normal on most campuses. And the role of communicators, including social media managers, reverts to that pre-2020 capability. While crises and unfortunate news have been and always will be part of the job, the magnitude will be much less, and the he balance between these and the opportunities for these “fun” positions on campus life will normalize.

During a typical academic year, students know exactly when they will be on and off campus, and communicators can adjust their plans accordingly and reasonably expect dips and spikes in engagement. As students leave and return from spring break over the next few weeks, they will be cautiously optimistic about staying on campus. They will be less isolated and less likely to turn to social spaces with prior vigor. With this in mind, it is important to develop engagement projections that are reasonable, achievable, but, as always, still ambitious.

Students reported being happy to return to campus in the fall of 2021, so it’s key to remember that first and foremost, many students are happy to be back on campus if they feel safe. That joy may continue to be tempered by lingering pandemic worries and pangs of sadness over lost experiences, but it’s smart to treat the rest of the semester as a time of celebration. The most visual platforms – Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – are perfect for this strategy. Instagram Reels and Snapchat Stories can and should be upbeat and give students a reason to check out happy content. Regularly add photos to Instagram Highlights that feature students using the areas of campus they’ve probably missed the most over the past two years — dorms, student centers, and even dining halls. Give users a reason to come back to Highlights by regularly reminding them via Stories that the content is updated regularly. The “Add Your Own” Instagram sticker is one of the easiest and best ways to invite the entire campus body into a conversation.

As students come together in small and large groups, review your social media ambassadors and check that they are still interested in contributing content to the institution. If it’s time to refresh your pool, make sure your diversity of content creators accurately reflects the broad spectrum of campus culture. Sharing photos of sporting events can be a surefire way to get likes and comments from boosters, students, and alumni, but don’t forget about those small, dedicated groups that support smaller pockets of activity. on the campus. The numbers may be smaller on posts that cater to these audiences, but the populations that feel heard will develop a loyalty that lends itself to immeasurable dedication.

Over the past two years, as students and higher education officials have grown accustomed to a particular protocol or way of learning or delivering learning, something has arisen to disrupt that comfort and make flexibility a requirement to cope, let alone thrive. It is the role of communicators to relay this difficult information to audiences who understandably grew weary with each transition, but still thirsty for knowledge. It is likely that engagement rates will not return to the numbers seen at the start of the pandemic, and perhaps not even to the levels before, when expectations were clear. But understanding where students are at and continuing to communicate to them through a wise strategy that their thoughts and feelings are valued within the institution can keep them at a sustainable level.


Kylie Kinnaman is an engagement strategist at TVP Communications, a national public relations agency focused on higher education.