Macebearers, mortarboards and millions of impressions – how Warwick nailed its graduation coverage on social media

Graduation blog

Last week campus was awash with the unmistakable buzz of our summer degree ceremonies – six days where excited students descend on campus with their families and friends to make the journey from graduand to graduate. It’s easily one of the best weeks of the year and the positivity that fills the air all week also spreads onto social media.

At Warwick we’re pretty well-versed at using social media for covering graduation; the hashtag #warwickgrad has been established for a number of years now, we know our Facebook page gets much more traffic than usual and our team physically sets up camp in Warwick Arts Centre (where our degree ceremonies take place) to make sure we’re in the thick of the action.

I’ve just done my annual crunch of the social media data for our summer graduation week and wanted to share some of what I learned on here – so keep scrolling for some findings from Instagram, Facebook and, to start, Twitter.

Graduation on Twitter – images leading the way and a smoking hot hashtag

We go all in on Twitter during graduation, which means I have plenty of data to analyse and learn from. This year’s takeaway is clear; images comfortably performed the best for us on Twitter during graduation. In fact, the top 10 most engaging tweets were all images.

The real star of our Twitter feed this year was actually a simple but effective infographic explaining five facts about graduation – from the mace used in our ceremonies through to the music played at every session (it’s called the Warwick Anthem, no really, and it’s awesome).


The graphic was knocked up in Canva by my talented colleague Alex Boots and offered a shareable alternative to the bank of individual tweets for each of these facts we’ve tended to recycle in previous years.

The big story on Twitter, though, was our stellar hashtag #warwickgrad. Here’s a few headlines for you:

  • Over the six days, 1,198 tweets were posted to the hashtag by 366 different users. The University contributed 254 of those tweets.
  • Tweets using the hashtag generated 16,333,408 impressions – that’s right, 16 MILLION. We thought we’d done well last summer when the hashtag generated 12.4m impressions, but this summer’s showing represents a 32% increase.
  • To give some context around that number, the Euro 2016 final was watched by 12,270,000 viewers, the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final by 9,255,000, while Eastenders and Corrie both tend to average around 6.4m live viewers per episode. Not a perfect comparison I know, but still, gives a good idea.
  • The hashtag was trending in Coventry all week.

So, why the big numbers? Well, our hashtag doesn’t change from year-to-year, so people on campus know it and know to use it – they also don’t have to be trained to use a fresh one each year, which must help.

The other key factor here is departmental buy-in; I run a digital network at Warwick, which encompasses a lot of individuals across the organisation with responsibility for our departmental social media accounts. A quick email to them ahead of graduation week reminding them about the hashtag and encouraging them to get involved seems to work wonders.

And, of course, out students and their families embraced the hashtag. They posted to it, we liked, replied and retweeted and it was all lots of fun. Just look at some of the contributions from the real stars of last week.

fans3 fans4 fans5 fans6 fans8

Key takeaways

  • Using Twitter for live events is still unbeatable, particularly if you can pack your feed with plenty of images
  • Keep your hashtag consistent and take the time to remind your colleagues about and encourage them to use it – the more people contributing, the better
  • Be generous with your likes, replies and retweets
  • Track your stats so you can report back later! I use TweetArchivist and also dabbled with TweetBinder this year.

Graduation on Instagram – stills continue to trump video

Just like last summer and, to be honest, every week on Warwick’s Instagram account, when it comes to getting likes, still images outperform video content almost every time.

I say almost, because our top piece of graduation content on Instagram was a boomerang clip of mortarboards being thrown.

I find it very interesting that something shot in boomerang – a native video app for Instagram – has performed better than our higher quality video content, perhaps a sign of Instagram’s fledgling algorithm raising its head and favouring content created with one its own tools?

I’m also very interested at the continued trumping of video by still photos – in particular, images shot on a mobile. They’ve always done better for us and graduation is no different. I’m fascinated to see what effect the algorithm has on this, because right now we’re not seeing the same buzz about video on our own feed as all those ‘expert’ articles online would let you believe.

We get terrific engagement on Instagram every week, but graduation super-charges those stats still; our 22 posts from the week received a whopping 5,982 likes and 37 comments – that’s an engagement rate of 60.95%!

As with Twitter, it’s always great to see what our students are posting on Instagram, and plenty made use of the #warwickgrad hashtag.

ig3 ig4 ig6

Key takeaways

  • Video does ok, but don’t make it your whole feed. Still images continue to have huge resonance on Instagram.
  • When you do post video, don’t make it all polished, professionally-shot stuff – use your mobile and make the most of Instagram’s own toys such as Boomerang and Hyperlapse. There’s every likelihood Instagram’s algorithm will reward you for doing so.

Graduation on Facebook – where the video buzz is very real

We deliberately went big on video for our Facebook page this year and it paid off, with 303,914 people engaging with our content. For some context, in a normal week on our Facebook page we average 33,980 people engaging with us.

In previous years we’ve created video vox pops during graduation – a series of two minute clips of graduates talking about their time at Warwick (with a few questions thrown in to help our careers service too). They were perfectly fine, but a little formal and corporate too.

This year we wanted something different, something that captured the feeling of graduation week.

We took inspiration from what many touring bands now do with video; bands such as Creeper will post short videos each day they’re on tour made up of clips from the previous night’s show. The editing is tight, they’re exciting and capture the energy of a show. Also, they serve two audiences; those people who were at last’s night show and who might spot themselves and those who are watching the band tonight and getting even more excited at the prospect of the show.

We wanted to do our own version, so we did. Each day, we shot around a particular theme and then shared them the next morning across our social channels. The themes were all chosen to try and make viewers feel something, like this one that shows just how proud everyone is of our graduates.

They did pretty well on Twitter and Instagram, but really flew on Facebook, reaching 60,542 accounts and averaging 1,063 likes, 66 comments and 96 shares on each video. For context, a normal Facebook post on our page tends to get 104 likes, 6 comments and 11 shares.

As you can see, these videos gave us a significant boost.

In fact, the videos worked so well that we didn’t need to post any extra content on Facebook. We shared the videos, along with a nudge to check out our other channels, and let them work their magic. That meant we weren’t spamming our followers’ feeds with loads of posts and also gave the videos room to breathe and get traction through Facebook’s algorithm.

Fewer, but better posts – it’s long been my Facebook mantra and will continue to be for some time.

Key takeaways

  • If you want to go big on video, Facebook is the place to do it
  • Look to alternative sources of inspiration when you’re planning your videos, rather than just what your competitors are doing. Lots of bands out there are making and sharing great video content.
  • Make sure your video gets a reaction – our video focussing on how proud everyone is of our graduates was our best performer and, with one watch, you’ll see why.
  • Even in a post-algorithm tweak world, if you put out great content on Facebook that resonates with your audience, it will still fly

What next?

Much as this year’s social media coverage has been a success, I always like to look ahead and think about how we can do better next year. Bear in mind that we don’t have a budget to promote our content, so we need to be maximising our organic reach across our channels.

With that in mind, some thoughts that immediately spring to mind:

  • Can we mix in some Facebook Live coverage along with the polished video? We know Facebook’s algorithm would probably like this and it could give us a fun, interactive element to our Facebook coverage.
  • Can we also throw in some more rough video content on Twitter too? Last year, when we didn’t have a creative team, we shot quick vox pops on our mobiles and posted them to Twitter. They performed brilliantly. Perhaps we could pop some of these into the mix next time, alongside the polished stuff.
  • Can we experiment more with Hyperlapse and Boomerang to see if they help us beat the Instagram algorithm?

Also, I’d love to get some On Demand Geofilters live on Snapchat for our next bunch of graduates, but that’s a whole other blog post!

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram or connect with me on LinkedIn.


One thought on “Macebearers, mortarboards and millions of impressions – how Warwick nailed its graduation coverage on social media”

  1. I spy one of my photos! 😉

    But seriously, great post – Warwick’s social media coverage at graduation was awesome this year and it was so great seeing everyone’s photos 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s