Ken Budd is the editor-in-chief of CURRENTS magazine.
Ryan Denham, writer and editor at the Illinois State University magazine, asked that question at his CASE Editors Forum session on social media last week in Minneapolis, Minn., and quickly answered it with some eye-opening, here’s-why-we-do-it stats. Sixty-seven percent of Internet users visit social media sites, according to the Pew Research Center, the most popular being Facebook (67 percent), Twitter (16 percent), Pinterest (15 percent, with women five times more likely to use it than men) and Instagram (13 percent). Social media is also a way to reach younger alumni who spend more time with mobile devices than magazines, said Dehnam. Only 35 percent of alumni under age 25 read their alumni magazines, a 2012 CASE survey found, compared with 70 percent of grads 50 and over.
So what types of content work best? Denham naturally posts news items, videos and articles from the ISU magazine, but here are some of his other favorite Facebook options:
Nostalgia items. Anniversaries are always popular. To commemorate the 193-year anniversary of the University of Indiana, the school posted a photo of its first basketball team on its Facebook page. The shot received 2,884 likes, 882 shares and 93 comments. Illinois State University runs a Throwback Thursday post each week featuring an old-time photo—a recent post showed couples dancing at a winter formal in 1955. Boston University frequently runs pics tied to a particular day. On March 25, for example, it ran a March 25, 1971, photo of a student “bobbing” parking meters.
Contests. They’re interactive and hard to resist. Illinois State recently ran a Facebook contest where followers can vote on the best-ever dorm room. The university also runs occasional alumni photo contests, which are not only interactive and fun, but also increase engagement. When ISU asked followers to post the cover of the February 2013 issue of the magazine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, one lucky poster received the Disney toy that appeared on the cover.
Each month, ISU uses the social media curator Storify to create a photo gallery of top campus images. Whenever Denham features an alum’s photo—from a campus visit, homecoming or other events—that person is notified via Twitter. “They love it,” said Denham. “They’re always flattered and surprised by the acknowledgement. It wins us a follow—and hopefully more.”