Happy New Year!

It’s been a pretty busy start to the year here at Coventry, I’ve already had three meetings with our Marketing team to discuss implementation of some of the key actions from last year’s Focus Group and I’ve commissioned a couple of pieces of physical marketing material which incorporate some interactive and virtual reality elements. We should hopefully have these available to use by next month.

In terms of social media I have a plan of action for both Twitter and LinkedIn, in both instances using the University’s existing official accounts to start to engage more business followers. I’m going to start actually adding content from next week, primarily using Twitter in the first instance and then moving on to LinkedIn as this is part of a larger strategy being developed by our marketing department.

Watch this space for further developments!

Focus Group Outcomes

We held our Focus Group this Monday and, much to my relief, it was a great session! We had six people attending in the end – three from various areas of the University involved with either social media or business engagement; and three representatives from outside the University – so it was a good mix. Everyone seemed very interested in the premise of our project and keen to discuss their engagement with social media as well as their thoughts on Coventry University’s current offering.

Some of the key thoughts which came out of the session were as follows:

  • LinkedIn is the best social networking site for developing business relationships. Facebook is seen very much as a non-business site
  • Twitter is a good tool for marketing activity, particularly raising awareness and advertising events but it was seen as quite superficial
  • It is important to link your printed media to your social media presence and/or your website e.g. via QR codes or Augmented Reality tools such as Aurasma
  • Coventry University’s current social media is very student focused and not useful for business contacts
  • It is important to develop a clear strategy for social media activity that can be reviewed and updated regularly
  • Internal communications are also really important for large organisations – social media aggregation sites such as Yammer can be helpful here
  • Social networking is about the individual – it is important to have a balance between “corporate” accounts and real people. People like the personal touch and good personal accounts can reflect well on the organisation as a whole

The session reaffirmed a lot of the thoughts I’d had following my benchmarking exercise – particularly that our social media is too student focused and that we need to be targeting business engagement activity to key social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. However it was also thought provoking, offering avenues I hadn’t previously thought about such as managing internal communications and encouraging individual engagement. In addition the group were really keen to stay engaged, offering to get involved in any future focus groups and suggesting we set up a networking group on LinkedIn to keep in touch and share best practice.

Moving into the New Year the focus of the project is very much going to be about actually using social media and seeing how we get on. I have already commissioned some hard copy marketing materials that embed interactive elements such as QR codes and Augmented Reality so these should be ready for us to use sometime in January. In addition, I’m planning to work closely with the University’s Marketing Department to get a business-facing Twitter account and LinkedIn page not only set up but integrated with our new website which will be a huge step forwards. I’m also going to take forward the recommendations of the focus group by getting involved with Yammer and setting up a networking group on LinkedIn to keep discussion going.  In the meantime, my academic colleagues are going to be conducting a survey which follows up from the focus group and targets a bigger sample in order to get a wider sweep of opinions.  Increasingly I think that the key output from the project is going to be a strategy on how the University can use social media to engage with business, something that there seems to be a real appetite for within the University. It’s very exciting to see things start to happen!

This will be my last blog post of 2012 as I’m on holiday for Christmas from this evening. I’ll be back in early January to report on progress on all of the above.

Merry Christmas!!

Focus Group: Planning

Well we have a date set for our focus group of the 10th December which is very exciting! I’ve been working on this project pretty much single-handedly so far with some input from the project steering group so the Focus Group is a really good opportunity to get some other colleagues involved.

I’m doing this in two ways: firstly, several of my academic colleagues from our marketing department who already research in the area of social media will be running the focus group session on the day, planning the questions and writing up the results. This is brilliant news as they have considerable experience of undertaking this kind of primary research (unlike me) and so I’m really confident that the Focus Group session will be well-designed and enable us to achieve everything we want to achieve with the session.

Secondly, a number of colleagues from the University will be attending the Focus Group session itself as participants which will be really valuable. I’m keen to hear their thoughts and experiences about using social media to interact with business and community partners as well as to engage with external partners.

We have a good mixed invitation list and I’ve already had a good few acceptances already. I’ve also found the perfect venue for the session – one of the University’s research Institutes does a lot of focus group sessions and is equipped with in-built cameras and so on. I now have just over a week and a half to try and confirm a few more attendees… Wish me luck!

Reviewing JISC Resources

As mentioned following the last Action Learning Set session one of my objectives was to write a post reviewing my use of JISC resources. As I’ve been struggling to find relevant JISC resources for the project this post also covers some of the reasons I’ve used less than anticipated. So here goes:

Addressing barriers to Business and Community Engagement
This resource is at too high a level and is not really relevant as it looks at how to embed a culture of Business & Community Engagement at an Institution. Our project is addressing a specific area of Coventry’s Business & Community Engagement and builds on an already strong culture of Business & Community Engagement at Coventry University.

I thought this might be useful for my benchmarking study but none of the tools provided were particularly relevant

Collaborative Online Tools (for BCE)
The technology covered by this resource is already too mainstream, given the pace of technology change over the past few years. I think the University is already using most of these tools and they are not relevant to the aims of this project

Embedding Business and Community Engagement (BCE) infoKit
This resource was simply at too high a level, aimed at big instutional programmes to create a culture of business and community engagement. Coventry University already has this sort of culture and the aim of this project is address technology change and ensure communication with business and community groups keeps pace.

Impact Calculator
I thought this might be  a resource for measuring the results of the project but it concentrates on measuring cost and efficiency savings which is not a particular aim for this project.

Maximising the Impact of BCE Partnerships
This resource was simply too high level for our project which looks at a specific facet of Business and Community Engagement

Online Promotion of Research Expertise
This was a very useful resource and provided invaluable information as I started my benchmarking study. A separate post has been written about this resource.

Walking Thru Time
This is a very specific app based project with a different aim to ours. However some of their experiences may be useful once this project gets to the testing stage


Benchmarking Study: Some Statistics

Last week I finally finished my social media benchmarking study – something I was starting to worry I’d never complete – and collated all the data. Some of my preliminary findings are as follows:

Social Media take-up is high in general

  • 98% of Universities surveyed had a facebook profile
  • 100% of Universities surveyed had a twitter profile
  • 98% of Universities surveyed have a company profile on LinkedIn
  • 97% of Universities surveyed have a YouTube account

The level of engagement and the audience targeted vary hugely from university to university and I need to do some more analysis on this.

Use of Social Media for business engagement appears to be less common

  • Only 3% of HEIs surveyed have a dedicated “business” Facebook page
  • The proportion using twitter for business engagement via a dedicated account – 22% – is slightly higher but still not even a quarter of the sample
  • Only 51% of the sample actively used their LinkedIn company profile to promote their activities, jobs and services

University Social Media Sites have a large audience

  • Average Facebook fans: 27, 600
  • Average Twitter followers: 9,500
  • Average LinkedIn followers: 3,700
  • Average Youtube subscribers: 935 (Average video views were much higher – over 460, 000)

Universities are experimenting with a variety of Social Media

In addition to the main four social media services used – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube – the Universities surveyed used a total of 20 other social media and social content-sharing sites. These ranged from photo-sharing site Flickr to Chinese microblogging service Weibo.

So far I feel that my original perceptions of the use of social media in higher education were right – Universities are in general very well engaged with social media but their activities via these media are focussed primarily on student recruitment and engagement with the potential of social media for business and community engagement being overlooked.

This leads me neatly to the key question we want the next stage of the project – focus groups with business – to answer. Is being able to engage with Universities via social media important to them?




Second Action Learning Set

I participated in my second Action Learning Set last week and, as might be expected, it was a much less daunting prospect the second time around! Perhaps it was because I got so much flattering feedback about this blog but I’m really beginning to see why the Action Learning Set method works as a project support tool. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of your project and, in my case at least, worry that aspects of the project are taking too long or that you’re not using the JISC resources enough. The process really allows you to take a step back and put your issues in perspective and I came out of last week’s action learning set feeling much more confident that I was doing the right things.

I also came out of the session with a couple of potential action points:

  1. Write a blog post summarising my review of JISC resources that not only records which ones I used but also the rationale for not using as many as anticipated
  2. Think about project deliverables: would, for example, a twitter tip sheet for those new to social media be a useful and sensible deliverable?

I’m particularly keen to think about deliverables which could help people new to social media. I became involved in this project because I already had a knowledge of social media from my personal experiences which could feed into the activities we need to undertake as a University to ensure we’re futureproofing the ways in which we engage with business. However, not everyone trying to undertake this sort of engagement is going to have that pre-existing knowledge which automatically puts them at a disadvantage. I’d definitely like that to be a problem which this project can help to address.

Benchmarking Progress Report

I feel slightly guilty as I haven’t been keeping up with my blog as well as I should have been over the past few weeks however in my defence I have been concentrating on finishing my benchmarking study which has taken rather longer to complete than anticipated. Thankfully the end is in sight, I hope to have it completed this week albeit with a reduced dataset than originally envisaged. Trying to survey every UK university’s social media activity would have taken me until Christmas (at least) and we really need to get moving on the rest of the project. Instead I’ve drawn up a reduced sample which includes the following groups:

  • Leading UK Universities – those that top the Times and Guardian League Tables
  • West Midlands Universities
  • Post-1992 Universities – former Polytechnics awarded University title in 1992
  • Business-facing Universities – those awarded the highest level of HEIF5 funding

This leaves me with a sample of around 70 Universities, plus the data I gathered before I realised I was going to scale the benchmarking down which I think is a reasonable cross-section of activity. Hopefully I should be able to get a blog post up with some results once I’ve finished my analysis so watch this space…


Autumn Term Plan Of Action

It’s been a fairly quiet summer which I’ve mostly spent working on the benchmarking exercise mentioned in my last post. However here in Coventry we’re just starting to get into the Autumn Term and over the past week I’ve been working on an action plan which identifies what we want to achieve over the next three months or so.

Our four next steps are as follows:

1. Conclude Benchmarking Exercise and Analyse Data Gathered
This will give us a firm idea of how exactly Coventry University compares to all the other UK Universities in the field of social media use, particularly for business interactions, as well as giving us some idea about best practice. This will be complete by October

2. Conduct Focus Group with Core Stakeholders
This will provide us with an initial set of views about how well the University currently interacts with business and some feedback on how businesses would like to communicate with us. This will be conducted in November and analysis from this focus group will be used to develop a more detailed questionnaire.

3. Conduct Questionnaire with Wider Stakeholder Groups
The questionnaire will allow deeper analysis of the University’s current position in this field and how it is currently perceived by it’s industry partners. The questionnaire will also allow us to get some more detailed feedback about how businesses would really like to communicate with us and how they would like to see us communicating. This will take place after the focus groups, allowing us to have the analysis complete by January.

4. Develop Social Media and New Technology Marketing Tools
This will take place in parallel with the focus group and questionnaire exercises and will include the following:

  • Developing content to enable integration of Aurasma Technology into relevant business-facing marketing materials
  • Integration of Social Media such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc into Coventry University’s new website platform
  • Identification of a specific business-facing team to trial the techniques mentioned above as well as look at additional social or technological marketing tools e.g. e-publishing, mobile applications etc

This will hopefully be complete by January so that we can start looking at real-life trials of various technologies with University partners and staff.

I’m really looking forward to getting into the focus group and questionnaire stage of the project as it will be really exciting to have some evidence about what businesses think about the way we currently communicate with them and what they would like to see from us in the future. This will allow us to shape the testing stage of the project – where we actually use different social and technological tools to interact with businesses.


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been concentrating my efforts on understanding what the University currently does with social media and other new technologies – both to try and benchmark where we  are at the moment and to start to think about ways we might be able to update our business engagement techniques.

As anticipated most of our social media activity is student-focussed with our facebook and twitter pages primarily interacting with prospective and current students, alumni and to a certain extent the wider community – not unexpected as the University is very much at the heart of life in Coventry. We also have a presence on newer social media sites such as Google+ and Pinterest but no official presence on LinkedIn which is the main social media site for business-to-business networking. In addition we use sites like YouTube and iTunesU for content sharing but the content does seem again to be very student-focussed. Which left me thinking – is there any demand for more business-facing content?

That meant talking to the people who create the University’s social media content… I’m in regular contact with the research marketing team who are already integrating Aurasma virtual reality technology into our research magazine Innovate and are currently doing a survey of our Innovate mailing list to see how they’d like to receive the magazine – in paper form or electronically. Obviously I’m hoping to feed the survey results into this project!  I didn’t know however that we’ve recently appointed a dedicated social media officer who is not only responsible for content but also for contributing to the whole strategic direction of the University’s social marketing. It was really great to talk to him about what I’m trying to do with this project and get a sense of how it might feed into the future direction of the University’s whole marketing strategy. One of the major developments taking place over the next few months is the launch of an entirely new web platform with much more social integration. We will therefore be able to feed the findings of this project into a complete redevelopment of our business-facing webpages. Exciting times ahead!


Action Learning Sets

Last week I participated in my first “Action Learning Set” facilitate by Sarah who is the Critical Friend for my project and a cluster of other projects in the second round of Transformations projects. It was a really interesting experience to hear from people at other Universities running similar projects – as this was the first meetting of the group we only really had time to introduce our projects but from what I understand future Action Learning Sets will provide a space for us to discuss ongoing problems and seek solutions. As this is my first JISC project the idea of having a resource of more experienced people I can talk to in times of crisis is very appealing!

Following the discussion I had with the group about my project I came up with two key questions which I need to address over the next few months. Firstly, what will be the measures for improvement or success. I haven’t, at the moment, got a clear idea what success looks like so I need to find some time to step back and think about this. The second thing I need to think about is related to business engagement – how do we encourage businesses that this is a project which is worth their while being involved in? This is an issue that always needs addressing when you’re looking at business engagement but it is one that I hadn’t specifically thought about for this project.

So at the moment I have lots to think about and lots of research still to do, looks like August is going to be a busy month!