Florida State University admittedly didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon right away. However, the university has experienced positive effects around student and alumni relations, lobbying, and fundraising after fully integrating social media into their communications and marketing strategy over the past year.

“Social media gave us the ability to improve the overall brand of FSU in a way that nothing else could…and by being able to track and show that, through qualitative and quantitative results, the administration began to realize the value of it,” explains Matt Roush, Florida State University’s former Digital & Social Media Specialist. Matt led the university’s social media team in the Office of University Communications from 2011-2013.

An important part of their social media success came from building a strong social community and then strategically engaging with their target stakeholders.

“Alumni, prospective and current students are all very important audiences to us. They are the most invested in what we do and who we are. If you get a placement in the New York Times it is great as a lot of people learn about it, but your target audiences may or may not see it. Social gives us an important channel to directly reach them and engage,” describes Sarah Howard, the current Social Media Coordinator at FSU.

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Social Media Monitoring Critical to Executing Successful Campaigns and Justifying ROI

The need to listen to their audiences, engage with their communities and report on their campaigns led Florida State University to partner with Meltwater and their social media marketing suite. By using the Meltwater services, FSU was able to efficiently and comprehensively monitor, engage, and report on social media all from one place.

“I was using about a dozen or more different tools to try and do what Meltwater does on its own in one. There’s only so much information you can glean from any one outlet that you end up having to use a dozen or more to do one simple report on how effective a campaign was, and with Meltwater we are able to do that much more effectively,” says Matt Roush.

The importance of social media listening and reporting also played a big role in winning the support of the administration and justifying the investment they were making in social.

“We wouldn’t have been able to grow and have the flexibility and the opportunities that we’ve had in social media here at University Communications if it weren’t for our consistent reporting about our success in what we were doing. Not just the reports that were asked for, but every time we created a campaign or did something, going back and reporting on how that impacted our presence in social media and elsewhere.”

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‘The Spirit of Florida State’ YouTube Campaign Promotes Academics Alongside College Football With Resounding Social Media Engagement

One example of where FSU successfully used social media as part of their communications and marketing strategy came last fall during the college football season. One challenge that the university faces is getting the public as engaged with the campus, academics and research at FSU as they have been with Seminole athletics. An opportunity presented itself with the premier of the university’s annual Institutional Message. They released the short promotional commercial, “Spirit of Florida State”, during their biggest football game of the season. However, before running it on national TV, they ran it on Youtube earlier in the day and promoted it across social media. It was a huge success; the video even recently received the ‘Gold’ Circle of Excellence award for the category of PSA/Video from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

“We made the video unlisted on YouTube so the only way for people to watch it or see it was through our Facebook or Twitter links. We gained 500 new fans on Facebook with a viral reach of almost 140,000. We had 14% rate of engagement, the highest we had ever seen. It also got 10,000 impressions on Facebook and 700 views on Twitter, 285 new followers…22,000 plays of the video in total over the month after it was released…We capitalized on the growth and reach of our social media community, it got our message out there and gave our fans a sense of exclusivity.”

Going Social at Commencement Leads to Significant Growth in Followers, Fans, and Engagement by Connecting with Students, Families, and Friends

Another example where FSU used social media as a major part of their communications and marketing strategy came came this year during commencement. The campaign “Countdown to Commencement” lasted for 2 weeks leading up to and during the commencement ceremonies across all of their channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Foursquare. They created an online portal which featured custom Facebook cover photos for students, had live Twitter feeds at the commencement ceremonies, created Foursquare lists like “Top 10 Things To Do Before You Graduate”, and were also active on Tumblr and Instagram.

“The real goals were to connect with the graduating students, give them a sense of pride and community, give the family, friends, and fans a way to join in on the event, increase awareness of our social media channels, and then ultimately raise the university’s profile when it comes to using digital and social media,” explains Sarah Howard.

The campaign ended up being a big success, with FSU seeing heavy use of their official commencement hashtag #FSU13 and had over 4,100 views of their “Countdown to Commencement” portal. They also had significant engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+. Over the first few days after commencement, for example, they achieved 9.5% engagement and over 1.7 million daily impressions on Facebook.

FSU Jumps Up the National Social Media Rankings For Universities

Their new focus on social media this past year has brought FSU recognition across a variety of rankings that measure the reach and influence of top university social media programs.

“In a year we went from not appearing on any ranking chart whatsoever, even those that listed the top 100 or 150 universities, to being in the top 35 consistently. We’ve gone from reaching 1,000 to 2,000 people a month to now upwards of 1 million a month on Facebook. We’ve gone from 15,000 to 20,000 impressions a month on Twitter to around 17 million per month.” We’ve seen drastic growth…our engagement rates are consistently climbing, and our consistent and creative use of social media across multiple platforms have given us the success that we have seen over the past year,” describes Sarah Howard.

[customer_about title=”About FSU” content=”FSU offers a unique academic environment built on cherished values, distinctive heritage, and a welcoming campus. The institution boasts nationally-ranked academics, world-renowned faculty, championship athletics, and a prime location in the heart of the state capital, and Florida State is the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida.

Combining traditional strength in the arts and humanities with recognized leadership in the sciences, FSU is privileged to provide 16 colleges that offer more than 275 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional and specialist degree programs, and FSU awards over 2,000 graduate and professional degrees each year. Upon graduation, students join an exclusive and supportive network of more 300,000 alumni around the world.”]