Bournville College is a sixth form and adult education establishment just outside Birmingham city centre. They’re an extremely innovative college that were looking to use social media as a tool for connecting with current and prospective students. They contacted us on the matter and off we went.
As with all things, the campaign evolved and adapted throughout its duration. We had a water tight strategy but it is impossible to foresee trends and patterns in student viewing habits. Our campaign was based around the existing Bournville Blog that had been left dormant for sometime and we set up a bouquet of social media applications that were to satellite the blog acting as a referral tool and a real time conversational app.
As it is impossible to forecast the best social media apps for reaching students, we started with a blanket campaign over all the apps including Twitter, Bebo, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious. Each was given equal weight and attention until it became clear which ones were effective and which ones were not.
We applied the same ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality to the blog which was the ‘meat on the bone’ of the campaign. We initially wrote a new blog post every day with each post covering a different school subject everyday. We tried to make all posts appeal to inquisitive teens so we did posts on things such as the science behind a bacon sandwich and discussing what ‘Only fools and horses’ taught us about finance as well as live social reporting from Bournville’s open days and fayres.
Conversation was the foundation of our campaign and our main goal from start to finish was to create content that would provoke comments. Dialogue is the most important part of social media. Our initial posts, although well visited, were not gaining the frequency of comments we were hoping for. A more question based blogging style was to be used. We wanted to talk about relevant topics and ask the audience for their feedback. It was a great deal more successful and our blog and Facebook pages soon became forums for people to comment on.
With regards to applications and portals, there is no cast iron one that works for everyone. With our young audience we had anticipated a lot more from our Bebo page but it was Facebook, Stumble and Digg that were our big hitters, so we pulled out of the other applications and put our energies into making them a success. Twitter was a slight disappointment which I think may have been a result of Twitter being a more adult toy, certainly for our other accounts, particularly Bodies Revealed, Twitter has been an excellent conversational tool and information portal.
The question asking and dialogue through Facebook kept interest up during the summer holidays where we were expecting a down turn. Our social reporting was gaining a lot of hits and a small community was growing. As the campaign drew to its climax and prospectus downloads became the paramount target, our posts across all apps became a lot more sales driven.
In the end, Bournville received a record high enrollment and they will now be using social media as a regular tool for communication within the college.
We don’t profess to be social media geniuses but there were some valuable lessons we learnt on the way.
1. Always adapt – new trends and apps pop up all the time and devices you thought may be successful often may not be
2. Know you end and goal and stick at it – if you want comments, write posts that provoke comments
3. Reply to everything – it’s obvious but people don’t do it. Social media is two way and that is its sole purpose.
Without wanting to sound a bit shameless, Alma Aganovic of Bournville College had this to say about it all:
Social media is a very innovative marketing approach for the FE sector, with Bournville taking the lead, with Big Cat’s help. Using several social networking websites, as well as our own website blog, we have opened dialogues with potential students and the local community. This has in turn led to increased traffic on our website and an increase in downloaded brochures, both of which have been great news.
Working with Big Cat has been productive and enjoyable. We have monitored the campaign very closely, adapting activities to meet our targets. Big Cat have been very responsive and creative in terms of coming up with suggestions for adjusting campaign objectives, making the most of activities taking place at the College (e.g. Live blogging from Open Days etc). Following the success of the summer campaign, we are continuing to work with Big Cat this year to promote our Open Days. I have no hesitation in recommending this agency as a social media partner.