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Social Media takeovers using Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram

Last week I gave a presentation on "Fostering Digital Champions to Win at Crowdsourced Content" at the Case Social Media and Community Conference (my slide deck is at the bottom of this post). The gist of the talk was framed around the idea of trusting your community to create compelling content using a variety of social media channels.

Way back in 2011, Jonathan Gabriel captured the true essence of what makes social media valuable for engagement and communications. People connecting with other people...that's what's always made social media special. Fast forward a few years later and higher education institutions have realized the impact of allowing their community to act as their engagement ambassadors.


Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have proven to be successful channels for digital champion takeovers.


George Mason University (GMU) and Colgate University have done a terrific job of handing over the keys to their Twitter accounts to members of their institution.

The "Mason Nation Project" has been going strong since 2012 and is one of the oldest examples of a university allowing one of their primary social media accounts to be run by someone other than a marketing/comms professional. Each week, a member of the GMU community gets the chance to tweet on behalf of the university. There have been more than 160 "takeovers" of the GMU Twitter account.

In 2014, Colgate University turned their Twitter account over to a student for 24 hours of continuous posting. It was a successful twist on the takeover model as Colgate completely rebranded their Twitter account's design. Today, Twitter takeovers are a regular occurrence for Colgate.

While these next examples aren't necessarily "takeovers" of social media accounts, they are representative of the benefit of distributing communications/engagement among a variety of campus representatives. An example from here in the UK of how institutions are trusting their digital champions to create compelling content comes from Dominic Shellard, the Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University. Shellard posts as much as any senior leader that I've seen on Twitter and last year he announced that every member of his executive team would have a presence on the network. A quick check at all of their accounts and most of them have been fairly active on Twitter.

When Liz Barnes took the helm as Vice Chancellor at Staffordshire University, I was hoping for some digital disruption. Using Twitter to engage, share, and retweet, Barnes gets the value of social media. Recently at a higher education event in Spain, she gave a keynote where she announced that social media was going to be featured more prominently at Staffordshire. Time will tell whether or not this represents a shift in how digital champions are fostered within the overall UK higher education sector. However, it's definitely a significant step by a senior leader.

Instagram takeovers are fairly commonplace these days (at least within US higher education institutions). There are countless examples of universities who are giving students, staff, and faculty the chance to share their photographic abilities. One of my favorites has long been the Instagram account from St. Lawrence University. The account has always had a terrific diversity of images and energy. In a marketing environment that likes to showcase blue skies regardless of actual climate, it's refreshing to see the "real" that comes from Instagram takeovers.


Come for the food stay for the people or come for the people and stay for the food. Weekly tea time at I-House lounge. #StlawrenceU - NWJ

A photo posted by St. Lawrence Univ. Community (@herewegosaints) on

Even though Snapchat is still relatively new as a social network, it's massive in terms of use and overall attention. CASE has been curating a list of higher education institutions that are using Snapchat. While US institutions led the way (e.g. the University of Michigan and Princeton University) when it comes to using Snapchat for brand-building and engagement, the UK HE presence is increasing.

West Virginia University Snapchat takeover and Colorado State University Snapchat Takeover and Newcastle University Snapchat crowdsourced content

Similar to the Twitter/Instagram tactics shared above, Colorado State University (CSU) and West Virginia University (WVU) have been conducting Snapchat takeovers.

Leading the way with "Tuesday Takeovers" on Snapchat, WVU lets students apply to run the university Snapchat account for a 24 hour period. They also have similar initiatives with Twitter and Instagram.

At CSU, their campus partners are their Snapchat squad. The "Rules of Engagement for Takeovers" is a nice guide for any institutions that are thinking of running a Snapchat digital champion initiative.

If you would like to know more about the CASE SMC Conference, I would recommend reading this insightful recap post from Dave Musson, the strategic lead for social media at Warwick University.

Related Posts: Leadership and the Beauty of Grey | Trusting Your Digital Champions


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