Social media: keeping students interested

Design by Brighton Kamen

When it comes to social media, Tech posts are ahead of the curve. With popular accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Weibo and Google+, Tech can interact directly with current students, prospective students and even alumni.

The landscape of social media has evolved extensively in the last five years, with each platform taking on a different personality, and balancing different personalities while still maintaining a consistent voice is just part of the job description for Tech Social Media Manager Steven Norris.

When students like a picture from Tech’s official Instagram, Steven Norris is most likely the person who posted it.

“My role at Georgia Tech is to kind of build and maintain our brand presence on social media platforms and develop the content that best represents Georgia Tech in those arenas as well,” Norris said.

Every day, Norris and his department craft different posts and tweets to get news out, showcase students and keep Tech prominent in the virtual world.

“If you’re doing social media well, I refer to it as a beast you have to keep feeding,” Norris said of the constant influx of information. “If you slack off or skip a few days, your audience could lose interest, and the next post that you have is not going to be as engaging. You’ve got to constantly keep feeding those platforms to be operating at your best.”

The most popular posts are what Norris calls “Yellow Jackets Done Good” types of posts.

“Showing how [students] applied what they learned here or took advantages of the opportunities they had here to do something amazing — that tends to do pretty well,” Norris said. “But we also know those unique things about Georgia Tech traditions and culture and community, whether it’s like a picture of Tech Tower or seeing something with Buzz — those kinds of things that stir up that kind of nostalgia or that campus pride. Those things tend to do really well for us too.”

However, different social media platforms can have different audiences entirely. According to the Business Insider, over 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35, while the average age of a Facebook user is 40.5 years.

Norris has found that students are more likely to engage with Instagram, while alumni typically favor Facebook. Likewise, Instagram and Twitter posts are more casual and show more personality, whereas Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be more professional.

Instagram is a lot more casual. We try to take a more younger approach,” Norris said. “The voice on Twitter tends to be a little more news-focused; … you might also see on those two platforms more of a snarky thing just to show at times that we have a sense of humor. There’s an impression that Georgia Tech is really buttoned-up, and I don’t think that’s always the case.”

Facebook posts, in contrast, often have broader messages meant to reach different sections of  the population.

Showing Tech’s personality has also proved useful in recruiting potential students, both in the U.S. and abroad. In 2014, the Social Media Team sent out cardboard cutouts to prospective students, which the students could then cut out and assemble a Buzz of their own and then post pictures with him on their social media accounts.

The year before, Nick Selby’s infamous “You Can Do That” commencement speech went viral, gaining popularity in China to the point that Selby himself was recognized when he went there. Norris and his team, seeing the potential for reaching more international students, set up a Weibo account and a Youku, which is the Chinese version of Youtube.

“We really focus on our own audience, on our own stories,” Norris said. “One of the things that I’ve been able to discover that separates Georgia Tech from other colleges is that we really create a sense of community through shared success. We see that both for current students and then when we share stories of an alumni who’s really done well. I think it gives students a sense of, ‘Hey, there’s light at the end of this tunnel that I’m in now.’ ”

Through social media, Tech is able to both encourage current students and recruit new ones.