Storytelling’s impact on social media

$64 million in profit. That’s what Wendy’s brought home thanks to social media in 2017, according to a 2018 Deputy.com report. Besides mastering damage control and excelling in customer service, the company led with the power of storytelling on their platforms. With brands like Wendy’s, Moon Pies and iHop (or is it iHob?) changing the food service social landscape, the timeless tactic of storytelling influenced their success.

How does a fast-food chain’s profit apply to higher ed accounts? Social media, across all industries, is all about stories, and the idea shows through in platform branding—think “Snapchat Stories,” “Instagram Stories,” and posting on your “timeline.” Higher education tells thousands of stories each day, some about students, and some by students.

This creates an interesting challenge for university social media teams creating content for their target audiences. They have to ask themselves with each post, “how can my story stand out among the noise?”

In a recent conversation with The Citadel’s VP for Communications and  Marketing, Colonel John Dorrian, and Marketing Specialist, Stanton Adams, they shared that their institutional storytelling focuses on sharing a view into who The Citadel is on a day-to-day basis and what they offer their students and alumni.

“We want to put people into the experience of being here. It’s a different experience, so we want people to see themselves in that,” Dorrian said. “We pay careful attention to creating copy and content that aligns with the brand. We’re finding the right kind of students.”

Regimental Tournament, Tug-O-War — Louis Brems for The Citadel

By determining the differentiating attributes of The Citadel experience and presenting cadets, students, alumni, and faculty who personify those attributes, The Citadel has refined their message to target who they want to attract. They realize that an institution can’t be everything to everyone.

The Citadel team encourages other higher ed social media teams to determine who their respective audiences are and what type of content they’re interested in. This varies from group to group. Once you know that information, you do your part by sharing the brand in every story with that audience in mind, delivered on the medium they’ve chosen. 

With big-name brands like Wendy’s, finding the right audience for your stories delivers record-breaking results. In the higher ed space, The Citadel has earned top spots on our 2019 Higher Education Social Media Engagement Report—No. 3 in Cross Channel Leaders, No. 8 in Facebook Engagement, and two special recognitions for Small but Mighty and Consistently Crushin’ It.

Record engagement on social media doesn’t happen overnight. It takes creativity and commitment, especially in today’s social media’s cluttered state.

Know the kind of student you want to attend your school. Figure out why they attend your school over others. Use that to tell your story. Stand out above the noise. To learn more about the Citadel’s success, download the 2019 Higher Education Social Media Engagement Report.

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