Periscope, Twitter & SnapChat – how are universities using social media?


‍How are universities using social media to engage students & alumni?

Social media use has boomed in the last few years. This post looks at universities that are making the most of Twitter,  Periscope and SnapChat to engage students & alumni.


In a Twitter list of 406 university alumni Twitter accounts, University of Michigan’s account, @michiganalumni, has by far the most followers: 85,400.

Over 50 of Michigan’s departments (from academic departments, to sports clubs, to their libraries and beyond) have their own dedicated Twitter accounts, each of which are active daily and have lots of followers.

What are they doing to have such high alumni engagement on Twitter?

A website dedicated to social media strategy

Michigan have a logistical way of ensuring students & staff use social media properly; they have a public website with resources dedicated to their social media best practice. They have a whole section just on strategy & guidelines.

michigan_social_media (1)

‘Successful UMich accounts update Facebook once to twice each day, Twitter 5-10 times’  

Advice from Michigan’s social media Strategy & Guidelines page

Any department that wants its own Michigan branded Twitter handle, must firstly email the admissions team to make sure best practice is followed.

Engaging Twitter content

Michigan’s alumni account (@michiganalumni), is a masterclass in producing consistently engaging Twitter content.

Their ability to engage boils down to 2 techniques:

#1 extremely regular tweeting

Michigan have Twitter updates multiple times an hour to maximize potential reach

#2 consistently excellent, well-linked, content

Michigan’s Twitter feed is a web of engagement, filled consistently with tags, photos, links & hashtags

Photos: Their tweets regularly include photos celebrating current students & alumni’s projects Tagging people: They tag people regularly (i.e @michigan_person) in tweetsRelevant #hashtags: They make use of hashtags to centralize engagement – e.g #triviatuesday

Another notable account is the University of Essex’s new Twitter page, @Uni_EssexClick, for their student crowdfunding platform. They use similar techniques to Michigan; regular & well-linked content to support students who are crowdfunding & to promote their crowdfunding platform.


Launched in 2015, Periscope is a relatively new but rapidly growing social media channel. It’s a live video streaming platform, allowing you to transmit videos to your Periscope & Twitter followers.

This live streaming medium has exciting potential for universities; it allows them to bring on-campus/in-classroom content to prospective or current students who live far away.

Vanderbilt University are tapping into Periscope & are using the platform to offer real-time campus tours to prospective students:

“Web chats are a great way to reach a large population of prospective students and a convenient method for these individuals to interact with staff and current students”

Bailey McChesney, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, Vanderbilt University

The University of Manchester have also experimented with using Periscope for campus tours. See the tweet exchange below of a University of Manchester alumna engaging with content about the campus tour.


In her piece Periscope: Connecting Classrooms to the World, Educational Technologist, Fran Siranusa, considers the potential of Periscope for education.

As a powerful education tool, the Periscope app inherently allows students to be active learners and content producers within each new session.” 

Fran Siranusa, Educational Technologist

Fran looks at how Periscope can be used for virtual field trips, expert speakers, student collaboration. She also considers its potential for parents: televising school events, student presentations, parent education sessions.


The use of SnapChat is rapidly increasing in young people & has seen massive growth in the last year. As of September 2015, SnapChat boasts 100 million active users, 77% of which are college students

SnapChat is an app that lets people send an image or short video that vanishes once opened.

What’s particularly interesting for universities is SnapChat’s popular Geofilter feature. This lets universities add a branded overlay (like ‘NYU’) onto a SnapChat image or video. The overlay is available to by anyone SnapChatting within a chosen radius (for example, a whole university campus),

Students on campus can then apply the filter to their SnapChat posts. Prospective students, from any location, can click on ‘NYU’ within SnapChat & get a collage of everyone’s SnapChat who used the NYU geofilter. This is perfect for creating student-generated snapshots of campus life or capturing sport events. See the examples below:


An NYU student’s SnapChat using the Geofilter feature


A DePauw student’s SnapChat using the Geofilter feature

Also see this article about universities using SnapChat: Snapchat recruiting: Colleges take up ‘snapping’ to reach prospective students

I hope those insights about how universities are using social media are useful!

Christina Pashialis

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