The University and Social media: where we’re at

As ever, the most popular posts are nearly always photos of our campuses!

As ever, the most popular posts are nearly always photos of our campuses!

Where we’re at

The University was a bit of a late adopter when it comes to social media, but we have built our Facebook and Twitter presences over the last two years and now receive fairly good levels of interaction. As with most others around the University, social media is only a part of my role, when really it could be a full time job (more on that later)!

There are lots of departments and areas of the University using social media, some better than others! See this list for the Twitter accounts. And on Facebook, look through the other pages that we ‘like’. There are also lots of academics using Twitter effectively – if you know of any great examples, please leave a comment below.

Training is key

Lots of staff who run University related Twitter accounts have come along to the CSTD training run by myself and Alison Fabian – over 300 in fact. Some of these people will have gone away and decided that Twitter isn’t for them; maybe their target audience isn’t actually on Twitter, or they have realised they don’t have enough resource to run an account effectively. We’re fine with this, as we would rather Schools/Departments fully commit to social media for the right reasons, and with the right communications plans in place in order to make sure it ties in with their other comms channels.

Should social media cost money?

It doesn’t have to, no. But I recently experimented with Facebook advertising leading up to the Open Days in June. This generated about 400 new relevant audience members to our page – we targeted 18-24 year olds within a 50 mile radius of Reading, as this is within the University’s usual catchment area for Home students.


It’s very hard to say whether it encouraged any Open Day attendees, but it was certainly worth doing, if only to discover what’s possible with a set (small) budget and exactly how to do it. Facebook have reasonable (if a little confusing) guidance in their help section, but I mostly learnt as I went along as it’s fairly self explanatory.

Biological Sciences and Psychology have had great success using Facebook ads. They have focused on international students and achieved good levels of engagement. A great example from Biological Sciences (courtesy of Mark Fellowes) – a poll on their Facebook page helped inform the content for a new degree programme…a topic suggestion submitted to the poll by a user ended up receiving more votes than any of the original ideas posted by the School. Perhaps this a new way to expand future market research?

Looking to the future…

With the upcoming changes in Marketing and Communications, it is likely that the University’s social media presence will become more student recruitment focused. As such, we hope to be able to devote more time to this, ideally with a full time social media post. This will enable us to increase our audience and engagement levels and offer more support for others around the University.

Until then, we have more Twitter courses coming up in the autumn term, and a big Clearing campaign to run!

Getting your message across using video

Rewind to last term and I spent a day sitting in on part one of the Digital Development training course ‘How to get your message across using video’.

The thing that I have taken away from this course that I will keep coming back to is the importance of getting your story across so that your audience engages with what you have to say.

The team delivering the course are keen to stress that technical brilliance in editing is all well and good, but if the subject matter is not video worthy – not interesting, compelling or engaging enough – then it’s not going to be watched. Continue reading

Now is the winter of our (dis)content, or a New Year’s resolution for your content

The University website contains a lot of content. There are over 25,000 pages on the CMS alone – then there’s all the non-CMS sites and blogs. Not forgetting all the content about the University on external sites and services, such as social media channels. This content may be paragraphs of text, the wording of links, images, videos, tweets or a whole number of other things.

Having content on the web is great, but having loads of content on the web poses a number of problems. Continue reading

Digital Digest: Your guide to all things digital around the University

This week has seen the launch of our brand new collaborative e-newsletter, Digital Digest. Every month, we’ll be bringing you the latest news and comment about all things digital happening around the University. The first issue brings you our digital highlights of 2012.

But to make this newsletter a success, we need your input. Here’s a list of topics for future issues which we already know you are interested in:

  • Screencasting/podcasting
  • Endnote
  • Blogs and social media
  • E-books
  • QR codes
  • Copyright
  • Diary management
  • Digital photography
  • CMS
  • Google Docs

If you are working on anything interesting that you would like to share, or if you would like to suggest a topic, get in touch via

Increasing student recruitment through improved pathways

Post by Luke Micallef, Digital Projects Officer

One of the big projects I was involved in this year was the revamp of the International Study and Language Centre (ISLC) website.

This came about because the department felt that the site simply wasn’t serving the needs of their users. Organisational restructuring and changes to the department’s offer had resulted in various elements being tacked on to the site, making it difficult for prospective student to find what they needed.

The approach involved first identifying the objectives of the department and what they were actually trying to do. It was decided that the core objective was to recruit more students, as well as to raise the unit’s reputation among their other prospective audiences. The next step was to speak to the users to find out what they wanted from the site. While the user testing provided some useful insights, as we only had access to existing students, rather than prospective ones, there were still some gaps in our knowledge. I decided to supplement our understanding by asking the course tutors, who know their students inside out, to complete some personas for the target audience. Personas are brief outlines of typical users that you can use to evaluate your content. See an example of a completed persona or download the persona template for Word.

Armed with all this info, we put together a list of what users wanted to find out from the website, the kind of tasks that they need to complete and the information that they need in order to do this. This informed the information architecture and what we know about the users informed the voice, tone and language used. The result was a site that tries to take into account the limited language ability of the target audience and gently guide them to the course that’s right for them. Once they’ve found the right course, the information is structured to present them with the barriers to entry first, so they know whether or not they’re eligible immediately, then the ‘softer’ information to help them decide if this is the right course for them. They are then led towards the ultimate goal – application. The rest of the site was reworked too, streamlining the content and aiming to highlight relevant content to the target audiences using terms that they will be familiar with.

Visit the ISLC website to see the changes for yourself and feel free to leave your comments and questions below. We’ll review the stats and do a follow up piece later in the year when we’ll have a better idea of whether or not the changes have proven successful.

This post is part of the Digital Development Forum Christmas Catchup

Welcome to the University’s end-of-year round up of all things digital.

Post by Helen Setchell, Head of Web and New Media

Members of the Digital Development team have written individual posts covering their area, so I’ll let them tell their own stories.

Andy Owen’s end-of-year round-up is especially poignant because he’s leaving the University and moving on to pastures new in the New Year. You’ll see from his blog post what a fantastic talent he is, and – although we’re very sad to see him go – we wish him all the best for the future.

Looking to next year, the Digital Development team will be finishing working on a project which had the aim of ‘kick-starting’ the internationalisation of our digital presence. That ties in with a project we are just beginning: to redevelop our online recruitment information across the Study and Life sections, school and department pages, and third party websites. As well as improving the ‘customer journey’, we will also be looking to improve the processes involved in publishing course information. This work will be one of our priorities over the remainder of the 2012-13 academic year (watch this space for updates!).

Because digital development at the University is about so much more than the work of the Digital Development team, we are launching the Digital Digest newsletter to bring all the University’s digital news together. You will be able to read summaries of digital developments taking place across the University and beyond. Links in the newsletter will take you straight to a relevant blog post where you can read all the details, written by the person or team responsible.

If you are one of those people or teams, and you have a story to tell that will inspire others, or some good practice to share with your peers, then please get in touch! You can either leave feedback and comments on the various blog posts, or you can write your own blog post and ask for your story to be featured in an upcoming edition of the Digital Digest newsletter.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Redesigning the University’s home page

Post by Andy Owen, Digital Design Officer, Digital Development

You may have noticed that the University of Reading’s home page underwent a bit of a change recently. Gone are the bold colours all competing equally (and so equally unsuccessfully) for our attention. In its place we have a page with more focus: its primary objectives are student recruitment and promoting the University’s activities. Continue reading

Using Google Analytics to improve the Development & Alumni Relations website

Post by Christian Propper, Head of Development Services, Campaigns and Supporter Engagement Office

The Development and Alumni Relations office re-organised their homepage menus in August 2011, after using Google Analytics to determine which pages proved the most popular.  Continue reading