Helsinki University has been celebrating its 375th anniversary this year (2015). As part of marking this milestone two of the University’s faculties, Humanities and Science, organised several events to promote the institution on a national and international scale. It incorporated innovative ways of using social media to raise the profile of the University as well as to engage with its local community.
The University’s main website didn’t offer any possibilities for the staff, students or alumni to connect via social media. Nor did it allow for any content collaboration with the wider community. The website was seen as an old fashioned passive information distributor. The site was static, rigid and housed top-down information about research and carried the usual communications like press releases and information about how to apply for courses. However, the Humanities and Science faculties wanted to have a site that they could use to activate their communities within the University and beyond. They wanted to be able to create and publish social content and dialogue as a way to promote its projects and increase engagement with its stakeholders. At the same time they wanted a site that could easily contain text, pictures, videos, web links and content from social media channels (which was something the University’s existing web pages could not provide). They wanted to use a site to initiate new ways of communicating with their community – giving the public easier access to the University where they can have a genuine two-way dialog.
The faculties created two talking points. The first was ThinkFest, an urban festival of thought and science, which was designed to show the public science in a new light. The second was the current year-long 375 Humanists project - where each day the university profiles a leading light from within the humanities field. Flockler built each a microsite (both were separate to the main University’s) that allowed the communications team to create unique content around each project. During the course of the ThinkFest events the students, staff, performers and event audiences were encouraged to use a #thinkfesthy hashtag to post pictures and other content on to their social channels. The microsite then carried those stories (which the Flockler platform automatically ‘pulled in’ using pre-programmed hashtags) to promote what was going on as well as encourage an open dialogue between the speakers and the students.
The Flockler platform has given the University new tools to get feedback, ideas and to have a conversation with its audience. It has made the University more approachable and allowed it to be more present within the wider society. As a result the University has been able to reach new audiences who have previously not been interested in their other communication channels (such as traditional newsletters or the main website). Incorporating live social comments into the microsites has activated students and attracted new viewers - those interested in more profound journalistic content rather than traditional web news/ science news articles. After the first nine weeks of using the Flockler platform the communications team reported an uplift in comments on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The numbers of “seen”, “shares”, “likes”, “favoureds”, “retweets” have grown exponentially as a result of the Flockler platform. In addition, the communications team have been able to use the authentic content created by its audience in new marketing material.