Sponsorships: Keeping It About the Students

Sarah Hyde (@SeattleU) is the social media coordinator for Seattle University.

At educational institutions, we pride ourselves on being “about the students” 100 percent of the time. Everything we do, regardless of our jobs, is in some way related back to the student experience students are always our No. 1 concern. As social media professionals, we have an added challenge—everyone is our target audience. Current students, future students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, other colleges and universities, news sources and community members all have an interest in following us online. Balancing a hugely diverse audience can be a tough juggling act, but in the end, the students come first.

At Seattle University, we are proud to team up with local businesses and organizations throughout the academic year, whether it’s for a community service project, an athletics event or a fundraiser. We’re always hoping to extend our reach in the community and get the message and mission of Seattle U out to as many people as possible, and, in doing so, help our friends in the community. Sometimes it can be tough to handle these partnerships in terms of social media. Of course, we are proud of the organizations that we’re affiliated with but what’s the appropriate response if they want us to promote them on our social media channels?

If you’ve formed a partnership with a business or organization, it’s likely that social media has been part of the discussion. Many companies will want to know what you plan to do to publicize the partnership via social media. But as an educational institution, you likely want to avoid turning your Facebook page or Twitter feed into a billboard full of advertisements for sponsors. After all, it IS about the students! So how can you bridge the gap? Here are a few easy solutions for working with corporate sponsors and partners while still bringing quality content to your audience.

1. Make the occasional post mentioning your sponsors. Chances are, you’ve chosen these sponsors for good reason—and they will make you look good to your followers. Don’t be afraid to post something now and then reminding your users about an upcoming sponsored event or opportunity you’ve created for them. Sponsorships are mutually beneficial as long as you are bringing something unique and useful to your audience. Today’s media savvy students are used to seeing advertisements and promotions in all they do, so don’t be afraid to post the occasional shout-out to a sponsor. Just make sure those posts and tweets are well integrated into your channels in a genuine way that aligns with THEIR needs. The students always come first!

2. Use mentions and shares to link your social media accounts. On just about every social media site, businesses you partner with can mention you and gain visibility on your page. Likewise, if you re-share posts by businesses or various departments at your school that mention the sponsorship, you help those organizations get more views. By linking accounts and sharing content, you and your sponsors mutually benefit as your fans and followers see each post that’s made; but you don’t have to originate all the content. Remember, you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with recurring posts about the same thing, so if both parties share the responsibility, it works out for everyone.

3. Co-host an online chat session. Pick a topic of mutual interest and make yourselves available for 30 minutes or an hour via social media (Twitter works well). This way, you can gain new followers from one another, but only bombard your audience members’ feeds for a limited time. Moreover, it’s far more engaging than simply posting yet another ad for your sponsor on your Facebook page, which is not “putting the students first,” anyway.

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