59 things I learned at #casesmc 2016


Last week saw more than 80 higher education folk descend on Brighton for the 2016 Case Europe Social Media and Community Conference, an event I co-chaired for the first time. Despite having confidence in the schedule my co-chair Steven den Boer and I had put together, I was definitely a bit nervous as we kicked things off on Thursday morning; would all the speakers be ok, would the technology work and, most importantly, would our delegates get as much value and knowledge from the conference as possible?

Well, thankfully, my nerves were unnecessary – the two days flew by in an absolute flurry of superb presentations, great conversations and lots of fun. As well as the satisfaction of helping put on, in my humble opinion, a pretty darn good event, I also took away a LOT of learning from this year’s event…learning I thought I’d share with you now. So keep scrolling for lots of juicy stuff, from senior buy-in to content chickens, and snapchat to #campusporn, with a bit of unconferencing thrown in too.

  1. There needs to be more senior leaders in UK Higher Education willing to embrace social media like Professor Debra Humphris, Vice Chancellor at the University of Brighton. Her opening speech was insightful, honest and really inspiring.

  2. Debra sees social media as a mechanism for good, despite having seen its ‘dark side’ recently.

  3. According to Debra, we should encourage creative and positive use of social media.

  4. The tech sector in Brighton grows 20% per year!

  5. Emily Morris, from Columbia University in the USA, is not only a brilliant speaker and lovely person, but her great, great grandfather designed the state of Texas’ flag – boom!


  6. Having only formed in 2005, Columbia’s Alumni Association is the youngest of the Ivy League institutions.

  7. According to Emily, an online community has to have three Ps – people, place and a purpose.

  8. At Columbia, photos of campus outperform everything – Emily’s team calls this ‘Columbia porn’.

  9. Within minutes of this revelation, #campusporn was born and had infiltrated the conference hashtag timeline!

  10. Columbia is soon to launch an alumni store, featuring merchandise designed by their graduates – therefore, expect to see plenty more examples of Columbia grads photobombing celebrities in the future.

  11. Columbia gets more value from making its online networking niche and specific, rather than just throwing open the doors.

  12. In its first year in 2012, Columbia’s giving day raised $6.8million – last year that figure was $12.8million.

  13. Emily managed to talk about #campusporn, call everyone in the room a hipster and got away with it – respect!

  14. Jord Muckley’s gif game is on point.

  15. Bryoney, Emily and Rebecca from the University of Birmingham’s alumni team had loads of great examples and tips for us, in particular stressing how regular reporting on your campaigns helps you better focus your future efforts – I liked this point a lot.

  16. The Birmingham crew tried to make Thunderclap happen for them. It didn’t. Not to worry though – just move on!

  17. The #wearebrumalum campaign is beautifully simple and very effective – really easy to get involved and has a massive feel-good factor.

  18. Birmingham’s alumni team realised that they don’t have enough content throughout the year to sustain their own Instagram account, so they don’t have one. Instead, they share the main University account during graduation. A sensible approach.

  19. During graduation, Birmingham’s alumni team enlists the help of the University’s photography society to take photographs, which they then share on their social channels.

  20. It’s better to use a few social media channels well, rather than use lots of them say Birmingham’s alumni gang – amen to that.

  21. Curried cauliflower for lunch is a marvellous thing.

  22. 75% of UK students aged 14-24 visit The Student Room every single year. Yep, three quarters of them. Hugely impressive and show why TSR continues to flourish.

  23. For The Student Room, A-level results day is their equivalent of Christmas!

  24. I really like creating social media reports – data and analytics can be fun too!

  25. Yes, I really did say that #campusporn is rampant at Warwick.

  26. Our conference delegates proved that you can create useful social media reports in just 20 minutes – well done to everyone who was in my workshop!

  27. We totally nailed our cross-Atlantic session with our CASE colleagues in the USA this year…isn’t technology great?


  28. I think it’s safe to say that unconferencing has staked its claim for a permanent place on the agenda for this event – the combination of some great topics put forward by our delegates and a few glasses of wine was a winner!

  29. I chose to dress smartly for the unconference and scruffily for the actual conference…go figure!

  30. Also, I snuck out of my own unconference to go to the beach and photograph the sunset – is that naughty? Did you even notice??


  31. Of all the subjects I expected to talk about during dinner, power metal was not one of them – thanks to Tim Watkins from the University of Reading for some epic chat!

  32. Eric Stoller is doing great at settling into British life, but really needs to make the most of having UK Netflix and top up his cultural references – Eric, make sure you take in some Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, Only Fools and Horses and, perhaps more important than anything else, the Inbetweeners.


  33. People actually joined Steven den Boer for a morning run on the beach this year – well done!

  34. While he might not understand about bus wankers yet, Eric Stoller’s plenary about creating digital champions to kick off day 2 was excellent. His biggest tip? Trust your champions.

  35. Eric’s social media cat nebula slide is still one of the most epic things I’ve seen – and I write that as a dog person.


  36. As Eric advises, don’t fall in love with a particular tool – we use the tools that work the best in the here and now.

  37. By 2020, WhatsApp is set to have 2 BILLION users!

  38. When it comes to Universities using it, we’re in the early days of Snapchat, says Eric – so make sure you know how it works!

  39. There’s a very handy guide to Snapchat’s history at bit.ly/GaryVeeSnaps.

  40. While I didn’t get to see it myself, Alistair Beech’s session on the new players in social media went down a storm and his slide deck has already racked up hundreds of views make sure you join that bandwagon!

  41. Our alumni panel on day two was full of interesting tips, my favourite being Emily Morris’ idea of a content chicken – some content that will serve you more than once.

  42. As Aluminati’s Daniel Watts pointed out, when creating your own online community you need to establish its unique value proposition. What can your space offer that your audience can’t get elsewhere?

  43. Oh, by the way, huge thanks to Aluminati for being one of our sponsors.

  44. Ditto the Student Room.

  45. Ditto Komunomo.

  46. The pair of Toms from the University of Oxford’s session and workshop on video was an absolute winner – so much energy and lots to learn!

  47. When it comes to really top-end, broadcast-quality video, it can take a whole workday to get one minute of finished footage.

  48. That said, with the technology you have in your pocket and a bit of creativity, you can still make a meaningful one-minute, one-take video in the time it takes to make and drink a cup of tea.

  49. Don’t mess around with titles and unnecessary frustrations at the start of your videos – just a few seconds of this can lose you half of your audience.

  50. Don’t leave social media use of your video as an after-thought – include it in the commissioning stage.

  51. Despite being 10 years old, YouTube’s growth is only accelerating.

  52. On YouTube, the audience is now in control.

  53. The UK is a hotbed of YouTube celebs – Pewdiepie, who has the most subscribers on the whole platform, is from Brighton.

  54. Longform video is booming on YouTube – 50% people said, when surveyed, that the last YouTube video they watched was more than 5 minutes long.

  55. Celebs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver are YouTube partners and create content especially for the platform.

  56. Simple things like having consistency around your thumbnails and making the most of Google trends to guide your planning can make a huge difference when it comes to people finding your videos and coming back for more.

  57. Brighton Pier was a fun place to have my first go at using Instagram’s Boomerang.

  58. You can learn an awful lot in two days.

  59. This conference was a LOT of fun – see you guys again next year?

To everyone at CASE, to all our speakers, sponsors and delegates…THANK YOU so much for making the #teambrighton leg of #casesmc so brilliant. Let me know below what your biggest and best bits of learning were.


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