Social media in times of social distance: Insights powered by Edurank

4 min read

So much of what we rely on to remain the same, day in and day out, has shifted. But one thing that hasn’t completely jolted is students’ loyalty to social media. A generation known to be fluent in scrolling by the time they reach school are using social media to congregate whilst they’re physically unable to do so. Search advertising performance may still be recalibrating, but social is definitely a positive place for brands and institutions to maintain a presence. And here’s what our experts have to say while the game continues to change. 

First things first, let’s look at the wider climate. With the restrictions and curfews imposed on public spaces and social gatherings, we are seeing a trend of social media usage going up. The education sector is seeing an exponential uplift in engagement with their social media posts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, increasing by over 222% in recent weeks. 

Social media usage has exploded across all channels as students have tried to remain connected. Our very own Edurank data has shown a sharp rise in Twitter and Facebook activity, along with a gradual rise for YouTube. And it’s not just the education industry. Views on YouTube jumped 50% in January and increased by another 50% in February - growth “like nothing ever seen before”

So with students stuck at home for the foreseeable future and looking to fill their days, maybe it’s time to embrace YouTube - a platform that has traditionally been underused by universities - to connect with this captive audience at a time when they are online and ready to listen. Think virtual campus tours, mental health talks (like University of Essex's Slow TV) and faculty Q&A’s, all going a long way to support your students and help with their anxieties. 

(100/100 Edurank points on Youtube for Exeter University) 

The way students are using social media has also shifted. Previously we saw peaks early in the day and after work, school, etc. Now we are seeing peaks in the late afternoon, with the rest of the day also being consistently higher than normal. And device use across Google is showing more impressions being served on mobile devices as students move away from working on laptops to browsing on phones and tablets. 

And it’s not just organic posts you need to consider. Our data scientist noticed a positive uplift in performance on a particular South West University’s Twitter. When looking closer, their content performance hadn’t increased massively, instead the content that is driving the spike in engagement was due to them retweeting Government department best practice guidelines. 

What this shows? That getting the right content out there is more important than ever - and when you do, the connection students have with institutions continues to strengthen at this turbulent time (take a look at Middlesex University for example, galvanising their community with their student-led Spotify playlist). 

But for institutions it’s important to consider both organic content and retweeted/paid content strategy. Just because you can’t offer scientific advice or official updates and reassurance, doesn’t mean you can’t retweet those who can. We know students are worried about the NHS, and universities have the unique opportunity to voice their solidarity to the stay at home movement or #ProtectTheNHS, and students will listen and connect. 

 It’s about coming together on social media to support your students. And your audience (and Edurank) recognises and respects that.

So with students spending far more time indoors for the foreseeable future, the amount of time they spend on social media is increasing. Staying up to date with the latest social media usage, trends and how best to support students will be paramount. Look at the resources you have around you too.

Get in touch with our Edurank experts today for the latest insight into social media trends which can help you to run top-level social media activity in a way that resonates and achieves your marketing goals during this unprecedented time.