An explosion in social media traffic is keeping the Hillsdale College mar­keting department busy and looking forward to the future.
“Our Twitter account just broke 10,000 fol­lowers,” Social Media Coor­di­nator Hannah Strickland said. “Our Instagram has seen the most incredible growth, though. Com­paring our Instagram account to those of other col­leges our size, our engagement is twice as much as any other school.”
The growth is a result of a con­certed effort on the part of the mar­keting department to increase the college’s digital presence.
“One of the things we’re trying to com­mu­nicate is that the college isn’t just an entity,” Strickland said. “There are people here.”
Director of Mar­keting Bill Gray said the department is still trying to figure out how to quantify the impact of social media, but that there’s much more to the college’s efforts than numbers.
“Cer­tainly, the goal is to provide a base to energize Hillsdale College fans,” Gray said. “It’s been nothing but pos­itive since Hannah took over.”
One of the dif­fi­culties the department faces is deciding how to present the dif­ferent aspects of the college.
“For the main page, which includes social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, it’s tar­geted toward potential under­grads and current stu­dents,” Gray said. “The online courses and Imprimis are aimed at older audi­ences.”
Strickland said the dichotomy sets up a battle on how to present the college in a bal­anced way.
“On the one hand, you have a won­derful liberal arts school, but we also have Imprimis and all these online courses,” she said. “It’s really unique. No other college does things like that. We also want to accu­rately rep­resent the stu­dents and faculty here.”
One of the goals of the social media cam­paign is to expose work pub­lished by stu­dents and faculty of the college.
“We’re working on getting photos and tweeting them out instantly. We also tweet the work of alums and faculty who work for news­papers and mag­a­zines — [Director of the Dow Jour­nalism Program] John Miller, for example. We’ll also tweet WHIP stu­dents’ work,” Strickland said.
The team is also setting up a number of blogs to showcase certain groups at Hillsdale.
“We’re working on a senior blog and pro­files of grad­uates,” Strickland said. “Jill Frasier, for example. She majored in art and English. Most people would say those are useless degrees in the real world, but she’s started her own pho­tog­raphy company and is already booking wed­dings out a year and a half in advance.”
New blogs will also target the Imprimis and online course audi­ences.
“We’re also working on cre­ating blogs for the online courses, so we can give people a taste of what you get when you sign up for an online course through the college,” Gray said.
According to both Gray and Strickland, the ultimate goal is to con­tinue increasing the number of fol­lowers on the college’s social media accounts.
“Numbers are always what you’re looking for in social media,” Strickland said. “It’s a con­stant learning expe­rience, because you’re trying to determine what good content is. If you just post a link, nobody’s going to read it. You have to write a blurb to go along with it.”
“Even­tually, we’d love to see a million fans across all of our social media accounts,” Gray said. “I think that’s very doable. People are very pas­sionate about Hillsdale College.”
Strickland said she has learned some sur­prising things while man­aging the college’s social media.
“One of the most inter­esting things I’ve learned is the effec­tiveness of using first and second person,” she said. “If you say, ‘We’re excited about this!’ or ‘What are you doing?’ then that makes people feel like there’s someone behind it all.”
Growth con­tinues in the mar­keting department, espe­cially in terms of staff.
“We’ve hired two new pho­tog­ra­phers to increase our pho­to­jour­nalism cov­erage,” Strickland said. “Faces of Hillsdale is already popular, but we’re going to try to include more pro­fessors.”
Gray said the college recently hired a new director of digital and social media, Brad Lowrey.
“He’ll be starting soon, and he’ll be working to expand the college’s digital presence,” Gray said.
Overall, Strickland said she has been enjoying the inter­action with stu­dents, faculty, and college fans.
“It’s been huge,” she said. “It’s really cool watching people get excited about Hillsdale’s social media.”