Social walls

In today’s digitally-driven world, schools need smart social media marketing to stand out. Social walls, which harness the power of user-generated content, can be a powerful tactic.

What is a social wall?

A social wall is an aggregation of social media posts curated for display via a social media feed. Posts are typically user-generated and related to a specific event, like graduation or orientation.

Social walls curate content based on selected hashtags and account handles. When programming a social wall, schools can select a variety of platforms including Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or YouTube.

Why launch a social wall?

As a marketing tool, social walls help convene your campus community and amplify events by:

  • Connecting with different audiences (students, faculty, alumni, staff)
  • Portraying a positive brand image
  • Fostering on-campus interaction
  • Boosting event engagement

Social walls are also highly versatile. Walls can be displayed both in-person and virtually—an essential attribute since Covid-19.

Display options might include:

  • Embedding on your school’s website
  • Embedding on a landing page or microsite
  • Displaying on TV screens around campus
  • Creating a specialized multimedia wall

So, how can schools leverage social walls for smart social media marketing in higher education? Read on for five smart ways to use social walls in higher education. 

1. Celebrate commencement

Commencement ceremonies are often students’ most memorable college milestone. Consider using social walls to help celebrate and amplify the event.

Social walls can help build community—and make an event more interactive—by giving people a centralized place to share and connect. Check out the social wall for Champlain College’s 2020 commencement ceremony as an example.

Champlain College embedded the social wall on a special event microsite, giving attendees a centralized hub to share content and connect. People are invited to join the celebration on the social wall by using the hashtag #ChampGrad.

Champlain continues the social wall with multiple social media posts from a variety of users. Visitors can interact with each post to view more, and submit their own content for inclusion.

Social walls can also serve as a valuable communication vehicle, providing a community hub for event updates and announcements. College staff can use social walls to communicate:

  • Ceremony location updates
  • Schedule reminders
  • Shifts in timing

After graduation, consider running your social wall for several weeks or months. An extended campaign can help prolong event excitement—and the life of your user-generated content.

2. Amplify special events

Social walls can also help amplify special campus events. Schools can use social walls to foster connection among attendees, offering a platform to share knowledge and experience.

Special events might include:

  • Conferences
  • Networking events
  • Guest speakers and panel discussions
  • Research presentations

Case Western Reserve University’s (CWRU) on-campus social wall is an illustrative example.

CWRU hosts a multi-media social wall in the school’s main lobby for special events. During events, attendees are invited to post speaker quotes and key event takeaways to social media for inclusion on the wall. The wall is updated in real-time throughout the event.

Social walls are also great for career development events, helping connect students and potential employers. You might consider launching social walls for:

  • Employer or alumni networking days
  • Career and internship fairs
  • Employer information sessions
  • Special student competitions, such as case competitions

3. Foster a sense of belonging

Consider using social walls for new and prospective student events. Social walls can help foster a sense of belonging, setting your school apart and inspiring prospects toward enrollment.

Potential new and prospective student events might include:

  • Campus preview days (in-person or virtual)
  • Program-specific open houses
  • Admitted student open houses
  • Orientation/freshman week

Check out how Monash University in Australia uses a social wall to promote a science program’s open house.

Monash’s social wall showcases user-generated content related to the school’s science program’s open house. The program-specific content and #ChooseMonashScience hashtag helps foster a “club-like” feel and sense of belonging for participants. Posts showcase different research projects and program features, appealing to a wide range of audiences.

Schools can also cultivate belonging by demonstrating appreciation for students’ work. Social walls can help acknowledge and uplift students’ hard work—an approach that also showcases achievements and success.

Campaign ideas might include:

  • A roundup of recent student awards
  • Highlighting student volunteer work
  • Showcasing student artwork

4. Convene your community

Social walls can help connect faculty, staff, and students from different schools and departments. Consider using social walls to convene your campus through announcements, updates, and school-wide celebrations.

Ideas might include:

  • Important date reminders, like school closures and finals week
  • Showcasing faculty research
  • Welcoming new staff and celebrating promotions
  • Celebrating holidays

Check out Gordon State College, which used a social wall to celebrate a new school president.

Gordon State set up a social wall on their website to celebrate inducting a new president during inauguration week. People across campus posted congratulatory messages using the hashtag #CongratsDrNooks.

Additionally, schools can build community by celebrating different aspects of student life, such as clubs, sports, or arts groups. Specific events might include:

  • Memorable sporting events, such as homecoming games
  • End-of-year art showcases
  • Student concerts featuring special guest performers
  • Student fashion shows

5. Extend your reach

Social walls can be an excellent way to keep in touch with alumni. Social walls help keep alumni connected with campus from afar—and give current students a sense of post-graduation life.

Boston University’s Alumni Association uses a social wall to keep school alumni connected via BU’s alumni website.

College fundraising professionals can also use social walls to keep in touch with donors. Social walls can serve as a hub for donation appeals and support messages, forming a powerful partnership between marketing and development.

Potential fundraising campaigns might include:

  • End-of-year appeal
  • Scholarships
  • Athletics
  • Departmental projects

Tips for a successful social wall campaign

Promote your hashtag

A successful social wall campaign hinges in large part on your user-generated content. Be sure to let constituents know about the social wall campaign—and your hashtag—so people can participate.

Potential promotional ideas include:

  • Flyers on campus
  • School newsletters
  • Website or event microsite
  • Campus radio stations
  • School social media platforms

You might also consider promoting the social wall and hashtag in the weeks leading up to your event. A longer promotional period helps “plant the seeds” for your campaign and generate greater excitement.

Use multiple walls

For larger events such as graduation, consider setting up multiple social walls. Consider placing walls in various spots around campus or on multiple websites to increase exposure and engagement.

A few ideas for approach include:

  • Dedicating different topics to each wall
  • Assigning different audiences to each wall
  • Coordinating a variety of content across different departments

Keep adapting

Like any digital marketing initiative, measurement and evaluation are key. Be sure to track your social wall’s performance and analyze for improvement. Consider tracking the following social media metrics:

  • Engagement rate
  • Number of likes, comments, and re-shares
  • Overall impressions and reach

Depending on campaign performance, you might consider adjusting specific elements of your social wall. Try testing for different:

  • Hashtag names
  • Campaign lengths
  • Target audience(s)
  • Location of social walls

Social walls can be a powerful and positive way to inspire your campus community around an event. By leveraging user-generated content, social walls help create interactive and memorable experiences—and take your social media marketing to the next level.

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