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Belated Happy New Year to you all! We thought we’d open our 2014 account with 7 social media sparks to inspire your planning for the year ahead.

One: Zombie Talk

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If you can get a famous alumnus of your university to give up a few hours to chat to your current and potential students then why not host it all in Facebook. Yes, Snapchat and Instagram might be flavour of the month, but Facebook still retains some of the very best functionality and the 100% target audience penetration to make a real success of an online chat. Full Sail University certainly got it right when they benefited from the wisdom of Hunter M.Via, an editor on the Walking Dead TV series (highly acclaimed zombie drama), who shared his experiences as a student at Full Sail and how he then went on to get a career in television. 2,000 ‘likes’ for the post itself, with great numbers on individual comments too, showed a good appetite for this type of communication.

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Two: Facebook Careers

Sticking with Facebook, we head over to Coventry to check out their Career Advisor app. Billed as a ‘personality quiz’ it really is a bit of fun that offers a unique route into the University’s course pages. The Ricky Gervais ‘Office’ style video (parody of a parody maybe) might be a little bit much but the idea is an interesting one – essentially to allow the app to look at some of your recent timeline posts and suggest some courses you may be interested in. As we said, it clearly is a bit of fun, and is hardly going to be that accurate, but we welcome any ‘risk-takers’ that are prepared to try new things to get people looking at their courses. If you are interested in this type of idea then we recommend you check out Turkish university Ozu’s ‘Game of Your Life’ case study that we have talked about previously – an app that builds a whole future timeline for you.

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Three: Online Living

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So many student-created content has started so promisingly and then faded away. Credit though to the University of Sunderland for keeping its ‘Lives Online’ series so fresh and up to date. The mix of video and photos with insights into lifestyles and courses is pretty strong here. Have a look at Michele-Noemi Dimbua’s recent posts (including a fantastic image gallery summarising her 2013 in Sunderland) for inspiration on how to encourage and use student content.

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Four: Pump Up the Volume

Edinburgh Napier University have tuned into Spotify recently. Their ‘Study Playlist’ encourages students to choose their favourite tracks to work to. Students can then play any of the 17 hours worth of music already selected, whilst getting a good feel for the collective music tastes of their fellow students. A great idea demonstrating how social media can be used in a helpful, interesting, yet non-intrusive way – no ‘Disco-Dad’ mentality here.

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Five: Future Communication

Over at Manchester Metropolitan University, students are taking co-creation trends to new levels. Now in its second full year, the MMU Futures programme is providing a whole array of activities designed to provide students with an edge when it comes to graduating into the wider world with activities centred around employability, community and the environment. Not only have students been instrumental in the running of events, they promote everything too, designing communications from posters to Facebook covers and running the whole supporting social media programme. Definitely a way forward, and one to watch.

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Six: Time for That Talk

At Wellesley College in the US we’ve seen a really neat example of how students can use social media channels to promote apps. Have a look at the video featuring students encouraging potential enrollers to look at the InTuition Cost Calculator app and to share it with their parents. A nice mix of authentic message and tongue-in-cheek humour balances everything really well as the students suggest it’s ‘time for that talk.’ An interesting approach to the increasingly important task of involving parents in the social media experience.

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Seven: On the Edge of Their Seats

Finally we go to France, and roll back time to 2011 to remind us all of a fun take on the college tour. Whilst we are now seeing more and more high-tech ‘street-view’ impressions of campuses, there is still something particularly engaging about strapping a student into a chair and wheeling them around at break-neck speed, with a cam attached too! It’s worth digging into this story a little more to learn how EM Strasbourg put this together and the ‘making of’ video is worth a look. It’s worth noting too that this video was translated into mandarin and shared through a number of Chinese social media channels, including Youku and Weibo.

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Finally, to find out much more about The Future Index, the HE marketing inspiration we are collecting and how it could be of use to you, please have a look at our main site, complete with lots more samples for you to take away and use. Simply click here.

And, if you have your own work of inspiration then please do share it with us. We’re often on the conference stage and we’d love to show off all the brilliant work out there! Simply email jim.tudor@thefutureink.com

You can now stay ahead and follow this blog to receive the latest posts immediately by email. Simply scroll down a little and click on ‘follow this blog’.

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