Since its formation in 1922, the National Union of Students (NUS) has campaigned for its members as for a fairer, more prosperous society; shaping the future of education for the better. As a voluntary membership organisation representing seven million students, NUS fights discrimination, isolation and injustice, supporting and strengthening students’ unions and the voice of students. As a result, NUS appeared in the list of most popular brands within the youth audience and ranked no.70 in the Social Brands 100 –The Youth Ranking. Toni Pearce, National President at NUS, attributes their success to addressing the concerns of the youth audience, whilst fully immersing themselves in their world of social spaces.
NUS is a large and complicated organisation and this is reflected through the complex arrangement of their social channels, in which they use to ‘encapsulate [their] mission’. Their social strategy is similarly diverse but when simplified, can be seen as twofold: balancing the commercial, the socio-political and member students’ unions. In order to achieve this equilibrium, NUS has three separate Twitter channels, one dedicated to each.
With 195 brand partners, NUS extra is a commercial entity; operating student discounts in well-loved high street stores via the card. It is unsurprising then, that this channel incurs high engagement levels from its target youth audience.[i] Maintaining this level of engagement is vital for Pearce, alongside her other main concern of follower acquisition, stating: ‘what’s the point of having 100k Facebook likes, if only 1200 people are talking to you?’
On the other hand, the non-profit organisation has daily conversations with students across a separate Twitter channel NUS UK, to aid their social and political campaigning. One of Pearce’s personal highlights from the year across social was the success this channel saw with their #HousingHell campaign, which accompanied the launch of NUS’ Homes Fit For Study report and gained traction and support from BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat. The biggest concern for Pearce however in this is, ‘making sure we don’t isolate disengaged students with jargon and highly politicised language. We need to talk to students, like students.’ One method which enabled this behaviour is through Twitter webchats, a technique employed by NUS in a campaign to combat ‘lad culture’.
However Facebook was the platform that earned the NUS the highest engagement levels in Social Brands 100 – The Youth Ranking, and one reason for this could be the diversity of content. Content is created around a calendar of activity. These calendars are set a year in advance, formalised a month in advance and set in stone a week in advance, with all content being repurposed through a multi-channel strategy. However posting timely and relevant content is top priority, Pearce adds; ‘so if we’re reacting to a piece of news, a development in Parliament, on campus or elsewhere, everything goes out of the window and we join the conversation on social media!’
Although NUS have an appointed marketing and social media coordinator based in Macclesfield, the group communications team in London also coordinate the social channels. Despite this, Pearce claims several members of the organisation play a part in contributing towards content, including the elected student officers, who add their own personal spin.
In addition, NUS also track sentiment on a campaign-by-campaign basis and employ Hootsuite Enterprise’s modular analytics tools to aid the process.