One of the greatest ongoing challenges for campus rec departments is consistently creating new interest among students.
Social media platforms are an extremely popular avenue to communicate with young adults. The New York Times recently said college students see social media as “a defining part of college life.”
It would be a grave mistake for campus rec departments not to take advantage of the influence platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and others have on this age group.
Kari Scott DiDonato, the assistant director of campus recreation marketing and special events at Florida State University (FSU), provides prevalent strategies and advice for showcasing campus rec on social media.
Successes and Strategies
FSU’s campus rec social media accounts have over 16,000 followers and consistently garner engagement. However, DiDonato said they see the most success with Instagram where they have nearly 9,000 followers.
“During the Spring 2022 semester, the marketing team ran six successful campaigns and saw a social media growth of 50%,” said DiDonato. “Most notably, our impressions on Instagram increased by 63% and engagement increased by 16%. About 80% of our social media engagement comes from Instagram, so we have been excited to see our numbers increasing within this platform.”
Specifically, Instagram’s reels option and TikTok created a large boost to the department’s programs and engagements.
EXTRA CREDIT: Using in-house Instagram influencers is one way to motivate students to come to campus rec facilities.
DiDonato said they recently created a TikTok account for campus rec in March. Since then, they have seen a 75.9% increase in followers and a 9.5% increase in engagement rate.
“It’s by and far our most rapidly growing platform,” said DiDonato. “Right now, we are focused on increasing our presence on that emerging platform as well as continuing to establish our brand on Instagram where we see 90% of our total yearly engagements.”
She said they used to create a lot content for Facebook and Twitter, but they were not seeing ideal returns on those platforms. This led to a strategy based upon demographics of each site.
On Facebook, they focused more on event-based content, staff appreciation and program highlights to appeal to an audience made up of more of alumni, staff and family members.
For Twitter, they concentrated on engaging with trends and providing quick updates with a mix of humor and popular “memes.”
DiDonato said Instagram is where they provide the most information for students. Instagram reels and TikTok videos are where they focus providing the most entertaining content for students to enjoy.
DiDonato said the focus with their social media content is to take a student-centered approach. Their constant mission is to lower barriers to participation, so all students feel they are welcome to participate.
“It’s a win-win to engage with your campus community on social media,” she said. “For the most part, you get out what you put in. A large part of that is showcasing the vast range of student experiences in creative and engaging ways. These platforms provide a way to engage with students directly and create content that is both entertaining and informative.”
While it depends on each school’s budget, DiDonato said it would be ideal for campus rec departments to have their own student marketing team.
As students, they know what your target audience is looking for and what will catch their attention. More importantly, they usually have the most experience with each platform.
“Students here are a vital part of our marketing efforts,” DiDonato said. “We offer many opportunities for students to extend their internships into part-time jobs and even take on leadership roles within our department overseeing other students. We encourage all our students every semester to take ownership over one or two projects they alone spearhead.”
She added spending time replying to direct messages the public sends through their platforms is also important. If a student is trying to engage with you then your department should match their effort.
It’s another example of the communication and collaboration DiDonato said creates success for FSU campus rec. Creating such open connections in showcasing campus rec will benefit your department as well.
Editor’s Note: Information for this story was provided by Kari Scott DiDonato. FSU campus rec student employees Sara Moran, Molly Custis and Evan Eisenstark assisted with gathering the information and statistics.