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Social Media Strategy

How We Tell the Grainger Engineering Story

  • We are a global leader in engineering education and research.
  • We are tackling the world’s toughest challenges.
  • We are reimagining engineering education.
  • We are building on a legacy of interdisciplinary innovation.
  • We are authentic, approachable, and hardworking.
  • We are at the heart of Illinois. We strive to answer our land-grant mission.

Meeting the Needs of Our Audience

  • Current students:  How do they want to change the world? How can we make them feel like a proud part of the Grainger Engineering community? How do we help them through their time as students?
  • Alumni:  At any age, what makes them feel proud to be a Grainger Engineering alumnus? How do we keep them engaged?
  • Prospective students:  What do they need to know to choose Grainger Engineering?
  • Parents:  How do they know Grainger Engineering is the right choice for their child?
  • Donors:  How does philanthropy impact students, faculty, staff, and research at The Grainger College of Engineering?
  • Community:  Why should they care about Grainger Engineering? How is our impact felt in day-to-day life?

Accessibility Statement 

We strive to make all of our content accessible and actively look for feedback. We seek out evolving industry standards on how to meet the needs of every audience member.

Alignment with College Strategic Goals

We want to tell the stories of Grainger Engineers changing the world. We want everyone to know the impact of the innovations happening here, past and present. We want people to be able to feel personally connected to the college and it's achievements and missions.

 Alignment with the Campus Strategic Plan

We share content that showcases our excellence in:

  • Scholarship, discovery, and innovation
  • Transformative learning experiences
  • Societal impact
  • Resources and strategic investment

We share content that aligns with our strategic focus areas:

  • Education, Collaborative Research, Artificial Intelligence, Health, Safety, Energy and Sustainability, Advanced Computing, Community Outreach

We share content that showcases our diverse stakeholders and audiences:

  • Undergraduate students, graduate students, prospective students, alumni, donors, corporate partners, parents, community members, faculty, and staff.

Measuring Success

We record all original social posts (not including shares, retweets, etc) within Monday.com. In this platform we can track how they fit in our mission and who this content is about. This data allows us to measure the diversity of our content and shows areas for adjustments or improvements.

We also track metrics for each platform on a monthly basis. Here we measure followers and follower growth, page views, engagements, engagement rates, impressions, reach, reactions, clicks, and other factors depending on the platform. We use this information to make informed decisions on the type of content we post.

Crisis Communication

Many of our primary audiences use social media as a way to directly interact with institutions, particularly when it comes to controversial issues or negative feedback. Not being aware of those interactions or not responding in a timely and appropriate fashion can cause issues to grow. We are committed to constantly monitoring social media and other digital communications to understand how the University is being discussed and mentioned, what our audiences care about, and tracking any issue that may arise.

When sharing these types of alerts with senior leaders and decision makers, we give clear but brief context as to what the conversation is about and sometimes recommend next steps (response, no response, or wait for further information). Any response to a crisis situation is written and vetted through senior leadership and other administration. We actively monitor the situation and follow up as needed.

Negative Engagement

On all our channels, we occasionally get negative or hostile engagement. With accounts at our level, any type of response is a measured, strategic action and we only do so when we can provide value or necessary clarification. When we receive negative engagement, we approach it in the following ways: 

  • Report it. If it relates to a crisis communications situation, we screenshot it and share it with senior leadership. If a response becomes necessary, we work with many parties to craft the appropriate response.
  • Hide it. If it violates our posting policy, we will hide the engagement if we can. This applies primarily to Facebook. We also have filters set up on Facebook, so many comments are automatically hidden by Facebook’s filter algorithm.
  • Ignore it. If it’s a criticism that doesn’t violate our posting policy, we allow those expressions of free speech on our channels.

Hashtags and Naming

We refer to ourselves as The Grainger College of Engineering or Grainger Engineering. We are flexible with the fluid campus acronym usage, but only share posts using appropriate language.

We use campus wide hashtags including #PowerOfI, #ILLINOIS, #IllinoisHomecoming, #ILLINOIS2019, etc. This connects us to campus campaigns and makes it easier for them to amplify our messages.

Paid Advertising

We create paid social media ads for the Grainger Engineering accounts on a case-by-case basis. We let units create their own advertising for their own channels and offer advice and help as needed. We primarily advertise advancement and recruitment related content.

We create ads that meet the goals of the campaign and mirror what we’d feel comfortable posting as an organic post—engaging, authentic, and appealing content to the audience we’re trying to reach.

We track metrics that accomplish the goals of each campaign. They can include impressions, reach, link clicks, and conversions.

Communicating with Unit Accounts

We want to interact with campus and unit social media accounts in a way that amplifies stories and increases public awareness. We will help units uphold campus brand standards and best practices on social media. We will also encourage them to build their own strategic plans and metric tracking programs. Additionally, we will support units by:

  • Providing social media content to use on their pages when appropriate.
  • Communicate about social media campaigns and materials. This includes making social media presentations and updates at monthly communicators meetings when appropriate.

How We Track

We use a comprehensive Google Sheet to track our analytics on a monthly basis. This sheet includes a tab for every social account we track. We track post types in Monday.com and check these statistics on a by-need basis.

We use each platform’s native analytics reporting to ensure the most consistent metrics are used. The one exception is Instagram analytics. These are gathered through Buffer.com, as Instagram only provides metrics on a weekly basis.

What We Track

What we track varies by platform and the statistics offered by that platform’s reporting practices.

Twitter:

  • Total Followers
  • Tweets
  • Likes
  • Retweets
  • Impressions (Number of times people saw the tweet on Twitter)
  • Engagements (Total number of times a user interacted with a tweet. This includes clicks anywhere on the tweet, retweets, likes, replies, and follows)
  • Engagement Rate (Number of engagements divided by total number of impressions)
  • Link Clicks
  • New Followers
  • Profile Visits
  • Top 3 Tweets (Impressions)

Facebook:

  • Total Followers
  • New Followers
  • Page Views (The number of times a page’s profile has been viewed by logged in or logged out users)
  • Posts
  • Post Reach (The number of people who saw your post at least once)
  • Post Reactions (Like, Love, Wow, Haha, Sad, Angry)
  • Post Clicks
  • Video Minutes Viewed
  • Top 3 Posts (Engagement Rate)
  • Top 3 Posts (Reach)
  • Audience Demo (People Reached, City)

LinkedIn:

  • Total Followers
  • Posts
  • Reactions
  • Clicks
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Engagement Rate (Calculated as: (Clicks + Likes + Comments + Shares + Follows) / Impressions)
  • Page Views
  • Unique Visitors
  • Custom Button Clicks
  • New Followers
  • Top 3 Posts (Clicks)
  • Visitor Demographics
    • Location
    • Job Function
    • Seniority
    • Industry

Instagram:

  • Total Followers
  • Posts
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • New Followers
  • Top 3 Posts (Likes)

How We Report

We make some high-level metrics available through our dashboard. More detailed reporting is available upon request.

 

Standards and Guidelines for Verified Illinois Social Media Accounts

Learn More

Social Media Best Practices for Account Access & Security

Learn More

Campus Social Media Best Practices

Learn More

 

 

Platform Strategies

@uofigrainger

Strategy

Our primary goal on Facebook is to share the Grainger Engineering mission and build pride and affinity toward the college. We share stories about the people who make the Grainger Engineering community great, and about the work we do in research and education that is changing the world.

As our largest platform, our Facebook audience is diverse. We reach current students, alumni, parents, and community members, but our most engaged audiences are alumni and parents. As such, we prioritize content at makes our audience feel connected to the Grainger Engineering community and informs them of how our work changes the world every day. 

Tone & Style

We have a warm, friendly and excited tone on Facebook. We want to make our audience as excited about Grainger Engineering as we are. We speak about ourselves in a tone that mirrors how an enthusiastic young alumni would tell other people about the work done at Grainger Engineering.

We want to structure each post to be clean, clear, and concise. When we tag other accounts in a post, we do so at the end the text, and not within the sentences themselves. We create posts that provide value for users, and we spend time thinking about what would make them like or share a post. We do not create posts that one could consider clickbait, rather we create our posts to share the most exciting and compelling bits of that piece of content.

We prioritize accessibility. We will not interrupt sentences with tagging or hashtags. All photos have alt text, we do not post graphics with excessive text, and all video content must contain captions or transcripts. 

Audience

  • General demographic: Current students, alumni, parents, community members, faculty and staff
  • Most engaged demographic: current students, alumni, parents, community members
  • Largest fan locations: Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle

Posting Strategies

We put forth our best effort to ensure every Facebook post has a photo, video, or link to external content. When a link preview generates a headshot, wordmark, or other inappropriate image, we will replace the preview with a shortened link and more visually appealing photo.

The length of our posts vary, but we prioritize accessibility and readability. The general standard is one to three sentences, breaking up paragraphs if needed.

Our content on Facebook primarily revolves around people and community. We try to make all of our posts tell the stories of and celebrate the people involved with the Grainger Engineering community, or show how the research done here is helping everyday people.

The content we post must fit at least one of the following standards:

  • News articles, videos, or other media produced by The Grainger College of Engineering or an associated department or unit
  • Articles, interviews, or pieces about or by faculty in reputable outside media outlets. Opinion pieces will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but should primarily focus on their applicable research area  
  • Engineering associated articles posted by the News Bureau, other colleges, or on the Illinois.edu webpage
  • Graphics, images, or articles, made specifically for social media pertaining to our strategic goals and which help build connections between students, faculty, alumni and other members of the campus community
  • Public safety messaging created in coordination with senior leadership, Public Affairs, and Public Safety/UIPD
  • High-level events or other priority events that pertain to more than one of our target audiences
  • Anything that demonstrates the strategic goals of Grainger Engineering or the university as a whole

We have a few specific exceptions for Facebook:

  • Shares from other pages often lead to a drop in engagement on the main Facebook page. We almost always post original content
  • We upload native video files to Facebook, as the Facebook algorithm presently prioritizes uploaded videos over videos linked from other platforms. We allow other Illinois units to crosspost these videos
  • Carousel image posts lead to a drop in engagement on our page, so we don’t include those

Day-to-Day Management

We make two to three posts a day on weekdays, with occasional content on weekends. Most posts are scheduled on the native Facebook scheduler. Before any link is posted it is run through the debug feature available through Facebook to preview how it will appear. This is how we decide if to use the link preview.

Due to the Facebook algorithm, post timing is not as influential as on some other platforms. Compelling content performs well.

We collect data on Facebook on a monthly basis, but make strategic moves as necessary.

Engagement

We sometimes respond to questions in the comments if we can provide value. Our Facebook messages are currently set up with automated messages pointing people toward resources. We hide any comments that violate our posting standards.

@uofigrainger

Strategy

Our primary goal on Twitter is to spread the news of our incredible accomplishments in research, education, and innovation. We focus on posting content that highlights the world changing research done here, student accomplishments, national and international recognition, and the community we build at Grainger Engineering. Our goal is to connect with our usual community members, but also with peers across the globe.

Tone & Style

We have an optimistic, friendly, and warm tone. We want to be accessible and authentic, while still communicating the gravity of the impact of what our college does. We will share images and emojis, but do not let this stray into silliness without clear reason. We promote pride and awareness of our students, alumni, faculty, and community.

We prioritize readability and accessibility:

  • We try to make high-level research concepts as generally understandable as possible without trivializing the work.
  • We rarely use hashtags outside of #ILLINOIS and other variants. We do not use long hashtags or others that are inaccessible to screen readers.
  • We try to tag accounts in the photo rather in the body of the tweet.
  • We add alt text to every photo and make sure videos have closed captioning or transcripts available.
  • We do not post graphics with excessive text. The text in a graphic must be able to be easily used as alt text or in the post itself.
  • If adding hashtags, emojis, or other media makes the tweet inaccessible, they will be omitted.

 Audience

  • General audience: Peers, alumni, current students, faculty and staff, community members, media, parents, prospective students
  • Looking to grow: Peers, alumni, media

Posting Strategies

Every post we make has a media element, whether that be video, link preview, or photo. Ideally this will be media produced by the college or university. We stay away from using headshots as our media of choice, unless the article or post is specifically about an individual and not research or an award that can be represented in another way. When no photo is available from an Illinois source, we will use media from Creative Commons or another free stock photo site.

The content we post must fit at least one of the following standards:

  • News articles, videos, or other media produced by The Grainger College of Engineering or an associated department or unit
  • Articles, interviews, or pieces about or by faculty in reputable outside media outlets. Opinion pieces will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but should primarily focus on their applicable research area  
  • Engineering associated articles posted by the News Bureau, other colleges, or on the Illinois.edu webpage
  • Graphics, images, or articles, made specifically for social media pertaining to our strategic goals and that help build connections between students, faculty, alumni and other members of the campus community
  • Public safety messaging created in coordination with senior leadership, Public Affairs, and Public Safety/UIPD
  • High-level events or other priority events that pertain to more than one of our target audiences
  • Retweets and posts from faculty members, graduate students, alumni, and undergraduates that share their photos and thoughts about being a part of the Grainger Engineering community
  • Anything that demonstrates the strategic goals of Grainger Engineering or the university as a whole

Day-to-Day Management

We post 2-4 original tweets a day during the work week. We will retweet content that aligns with our strategy, goals, and quality standards. We will retweet a maximum of three posts a day.

Our posts are all scheduled through the Buffer platform, but whenever possible are removed from that schedule and posted natively to Twitter. This allows us to tag accounts in the photo rather than the text of the tweet, which is our preferred method.

We collect data on Twitter on a monthly basis, but make strategic moves as necessary.

Engagement

We will like or respond to tweets of pride or excitement by any members of our audience and answer questions when appropriate if we can provide value and as time and resources will allow.

Visit Page

Strategy

Our primary goal on LinkedIn is to create content that resonates with alumni and makes a positive impression on our peers. We want to both build pride in our college and emphasize our status as a world leader in engineering research and education.

We primarily share points of pride, such as rankings and facts, alumni and faculty/staff news, big research breakthroughs, and nostalgic content about campus life.

LinkedIn is our newest platform and smallest audience. However, this audience is generally highly engaged and very positive. Our audience is generally alumni, faculty and staff, and current students.

Tone & Style

Our tone on LinkedIn is professional but not stilted. We still speak with clear, easy-to-understand language, but we sometimes give more details, like for research articles, than we would on Facebook or Twitter. We also frame stories more toward professional implications when appropriate.

We use the occasional #ILLINOIS hashtag and often use paragraph breaks, though less so than other platforms because LinkedIn puts in a  “see more” for posts that are longer than three lines.

Audience

  • Locations: Greater Chicago Area, Urbana-Champaign, San Francisco Bay Area, Greater New York City Area
  • Industries: Higher Education, Computer Software, Civil Engineering, Information Technology and Services, Mechanical or Industrial Engineering

Posting Strategies

We mostly post articles,photos, and graphics on LinkedIn. The length of each post varies; however, we try to be concise.

The content we post must fit at least one of the following standards:

  • News articles, videos, or other media produced by The Grainger College of Engineering or an associated department or unit
  • Articles, interviews, or pieces about or by faculty in reputable outside media outlets. Opinion pieces will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but should primarily focus on their applicable research area  
  • Engineering associated articles posted by the News Bureau, other colleges, or on the Illinois.edu webpage
  • Graphics, images, or articles, made specifically for social media pertaining to our strategic goals and that help build connections between students, faculty, alumni and other members of the campus community
  • Public safety messaging created in coordination with senior leadership, Public Affairs, and Public Safety/UIPD
  • High-level events or other priority events that pertain to more than one of our target audiences
  • Anything that demonstrates the strategic goals of Grainger Engineering or the university as a whole

We have a few specific exceptions for LinkedIn:

  • We always share original content (not shares from other accounts)
  • We highlight the specific alumni featured in each story (sometimes we leave out those extra details on other platforms)

Day-to-Day Management

We post once a day on weekdays. Posts that link to articles are scheduled through Buffer.com. Posts that are photos or graphics without a link are posted natively to avoid compressing the image.

Engagement

We sometimes respond to questions in the comments if we can provide value.

@uofigrainger

Strategy

Instagram is a direct line to our current and prospective students as well as young alumni. We want to authentically engage with our audience, creating content that makes them feel proud, happy, or understood. Our posts are driven by image-based storytelling. While all images must be high quality and engaging, they also must be compelling and purposeful. We try to tell a story within each post to give the image a deeper context that aligns with our strategic goals.

We do not explicitly promote events, programs, or other specific items in our general Instagram post feed. There is currently not a way to seamlessly point to links or more information, so there's very little utility. We use this feed to paint a larger picture of what day-to-day life is like as a Grainger Engineering.

We use Instagram stories much more loosely. This can be used to point our audience to other accounts' posts, make them aware of events and dates, or as a more lineal and quick story telling platform.

Because of Instagram’s limited linking abilities, we cannot use it to point to specific events or pages. This is subject to change should we reach the follower count that allows links in stories.

Tone & Style

Since our primary audience on Instagram is students, our account’s tone tends to be more casual, referring to followers/students in the second person “you.” We want to engage and connect with them in an authentic and thoughtful way—often trying to make them laugh, think, or emotionally connect with a post. The text must always read clearly, and we occasionally use trending language to connect with our audience. All posts remain relevant to our strategic goals. 

We often post an initial catchy sentence that is short enough so users see it in their feed without having to tap “see more.” We then follow up with a longer paragraph giving more context to the post. We rarely use hashtags, and when we do, it’s usually #ILLINOIS. When applicable, we tag accounts in the picture of the post.

Audience

  • Current students, young alumni, prospective students

Posting Strategies

Our account is centered heavily on original photography and high resolution images rather than graphics. The image is considered in context to the actual post and the cohesiveness it contributes to our feed. We try to keep all images bright and saturated.

All images have alt text.

We occasionally post videos, but they must comply with the aesthetics of our feed and be around 30 seconds or less. Because there are no closed captions native to Instagram, videos much be edited to contain them, or someone must be able to understand the full context of the video without sound.

Content we favor on Instagram:

  • Posts that reflect strategic goals: fostering scholarship; discovery and innovation; building pride; providing transformative learning experiences; making a significant societal impact; stewarding current resources and generating additional resources for strategic involvement.
  • High-resolution images of campus and student life, campus scenery, and nostalgia
  • Student-specific resources or information that is easy to consume or visual. We post these on our Instagram stories.

Day-to-Day Management

We generally post once or twice a week. These posts are rarely scheduled, and are best performing when posted in the afternoon.

Engagement

We occasionally reply to questions on posts, “like” comments that students and alumni post, and reply to students who post about Illinois, such as getting accepted to the University.

We regularly check our Instagram direct messages folder for relevant content and questions from students and alumni.

Social Media Office Hours

Join virtual Social Media Office Hours on the third Monday of the month from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for questions, tips, and updates.

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