10 Steps to Building a Better Blog

hello cut letters sign

Hope boasts over 40 blogs on the college’s blog network ranging in focus from faculty and administrative work to admissions features for prospective students. Public Affairs and Marketing helps maintain our network and serves as a campus resource to help our bloggers improve their site and their posts. We’re here to help you get better at blogging — and to blog more!

Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Know your audience. Decide who you’re writing for even before you start typing.
  2. Think like your audience. What do they care about? What do they want and need to know? How do they talk and write? Write for them.
  3. What’s your topic? Start with a general topic but know that it can evolve once you’ve started and that is OK! Subheadings are great for breaking up ideas.
  4. Have a lot to say? Simplify your post with a bulleted list or create a series of shorter blog posts.
  5. At a loss for words? No worries. Sometimes a paragraph or two, or even a short list, is all you need to say. Or, if you’re stumped, start by simply ask yourself questions about your topic and then answer them. Voila! You have a new post.
  6. Include a graphic, photo or short video that supports your writing.
    macbook and coffee
  7. Include links to relevant and/or additional information. If you like this post, you might like 12 Blogging mistakes most beginners make.
  8. Publish your post when your audience will have time to read it — and when they expect it. Timing matters. For example, don’t wait until two days before to tell people about your event; And, publish on weekdays if it’s work related (but avoid Mondays and Fridays).
  9. After your post is published, share it to your social media by telling people what’s in it for them. Give your followers a reason to click through. It’s OK to repurpose content over and over, too. Create a strategy for promoting your blog on social.
  10. Keep at it! Decide how often your blog needs fresh material and work to follow a consistent publishing schedule. Your followers will come to expect and enjoy your new content on a regular basis.

Still have questions about improving your blog? Contact Elizabeth Council in Public Affairs and Marketing to schedule a consultation. 

Instagram vs. Snapchat Stories: Why I’m (Still) Obsessed With Both

2017 is the year of the social media story. Originally created and monopolized by Snapchat, “Stories” is also a feature of Instagram (and Facebook, with little use), and is eerily similar to the Snappy original.

It’s here that I need to admit that, when Instagram originally added the Stories feature, I was flummoxed. Flabbergasted. And angry. The update came around not long after I began my first social media marketing job. I was at work when it surfaced on each person’s phone in the office, a familiar notification in the App Store. We spent the rest of that day discussing Instagram Stories off and on. How dare Instagram rip off Snapchat?! Instagram is owned by Facebook so, to us, stealing ideas from independent Snapchat just seemed wrong; I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t just use Snapchat, the home of the original story. Before I ate lunch, I posted a Snap to my story claiming my territory, promising I would never leave. 

And then, slowly, I began to see what makes Instagram stories unique: the quality. I started noticing gorgeous images and videos (along with the occasional amusing Boomerang). The drawing tools are smooth and alluring, and there are more distinct filters offered to lay over images and videos. As more of my friends and favorite influencers became acquainted with the feature, the more intrigued I became. Could I dare step back on my promise to defend Snapchat until its dying day?

I was not the only one easily suaded by the aesthetically pleasing Instagram spin-off; according to TechCrunch, Snapchat users have been using the application 20-40% less since the launch of Instagram Stories. Instagram definitely hit Snapchat where it hurts.

There’s good news here. Snapchat is not dying, with upwards of 58% of Snapchat users not being reached on any other comparable platform. Additionally, a survey conducted by WhatsGoodly in April found that 78% of millennials surveyed still preferred Snapchat over Instagram stories. And brand ambassador network Heartbeat found that out of the 100,000 13-20 year olds they surveyed, 74%  post more on Snapchat than Instagram. Yet, Instagram stories are gaining traction overall, with over 200 million daily users around the world.

The best news? You don’t have to choose just one.

Here’s why I love both:

Snapchat

 

 

  • Having been a Snapchat user since 2013, I think of Snapchat as the application on my phone that most embodies its “social” label. My friends on Snapchat don’t have to look pretty, or fancy, or be doing anything particularly interesting to post to their story or send something to me privately. 
  • Concerts, hangouts and other social events are best placed on Snapchat for privacy, which serves as another draw for the platform. Unless your account is private, anyone can see your story on Instagram. To be friends with someone on Snapchat means both parties consented to add each other. That makes the experience more intimate and explains the relaxed vibe most users find on Snapchat.  
  • I head to Snapchat if I want to know what everyone’s up to tonight. I post spur-of-the-moment videos of my friends being funny, scenic shots if the weather’s nice or not, and little victories I want to brag about. It’s where my friends are.

Instagram

 

 

  • I’ve started appreciating Instagram only really in the past year, and it’s because of newly-developed features such as the optimization for high-quality images. When Instagram updated the design of their entire interface about a year ago, every element was intentional in directing the focus of users to the images.
  • The Explore feature works to create a community feel by offering a stream of posts by accounts you don’t follow. It allows users to view similar posts to ones they’ve already liked.
  • Instagram allows you to discover new companies, stores, retailers, restaurants, and events to interact with socially. 
  • I use Instagram stories when I’m out to brunch with my friends. I post when the angles line up in my office, the sun hits just right, a tree or flower looks particularly alluring, or my favorite local shop has a cool display. It’s where I can build my social clout and community.

Unlikely as it may seem, many young people like myself still find Instagram and Snapchat stories relevant. Next time someone tells you they use both Instagram and Snapchat, know it’s a true story.

Beyond campus mail: Promote your event on social media

Does your office or department frequently host events? Public Affairs and Marketing is happy to help you share your good news and get more people in your seats. The first place to start is the Hope Calendar when hosting an even for on-campus attendees.

Gone are the days of simply sending a campus mail and calling it good. Entries on the Hope calendar can serve as your event’s webpage with all the details your on-campus attendees need to know: who, what, when, where, why, and even photos or a video if you have one. Guests can informally “RSVP” to show their friends they’re interested in your event, they can easily share the event to social media, and see on a map where you’re event is located.

Getting Started

  • When reserving your room in EMS, select “Yes” when asked if you would like this event to display on the Hope College public calendar. Include any descriptive text that should appear on the web in the “Event Details” section of the room reservation. This ensures any potential changes in time or location are updated in both EMS and the calendar. Approved events typically appear on the campus calendar in 1–2 business days. See more Calendar tips.
  • Include all the details you would normally put in your Campusmail such as a title, description, time, dates, etc. in the description box. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the details, you can always update your entry later by emailing calendar@hope.edu.
  • Use the same email address to send us a photo or graphic, otherwise we will choose a default image, which are usually not as exciting as one promoting your event.
  • Please be sure your calendar entry is always current. Email changes or new information to calendar@hope.edu.

Tweet or post to Facebook

  • Once your event is listed on the calendar and your image is in place, start tweeting about it and share it with your Facebook fans, even if it’s six months away.
  • Always include a picture or graphic with your social media and link to the calendar entry.
  • Consider creating a Facebook Event if you’re feeling savvy with Facebook. We can even help you link the Facebook event with the Hope calendar entry, or help you advertise the event on Facebook if budget allows.
  • Speaking of advertising, promoting events to specific groups of people can help ensure you have a robust audience. We can help you devise a social media advertising plan if your budget allows.

A few weeks, or months, out

  • Don’t wait until the day or week of the event; Start talking about it early!
  • Use your office or division’s social media channels to promote your event. Be sure to include an eye catching graphic or a photo, and always link to the Hope calendar entry or Facebook event.
  • Use hashtags, when appropriate, but before you choose any old hashtag, talk to Public Affairs and Marketing. We’ll help you find the right one.
  • Tag other users or offices involved in the event.
  • Ask faculty and students in your department to share to their social media.
  • If your event is for students, consider how Instagram and Snapchat can be utilized for your event. Public Affairs and Marketing often offers offices the opportunity to “take over” the Hope account for special events and academic promotion.

Day of event

  • For big events, have someone tweet and post to Facebook during the event.
  • Consider adding photos and video to Instagram if your office has an account. This is the fastest growing social channel for Hope’s followers.
  • Share photos of the event (think “behind the scenes”) or take videos with a phone.
  • Use a hashtag if you have one — or use one that’s globally popular, yet relevant to your event. Example: “#MarchMadness”

After the Event

  • Be sure to post photos, videos or a “thank you” message to your social media followers
  • Most social media accounts allow you to look at data on your social media performance. Check it out to see which posts or tweets were most and least effective.
  • Recycle your posts and tweets throughout the year to continue talking about the event. This will help keep it top of mind for next year.

 

For more information on promoting your event or news online, please connect with Elizabeth Council, digital strategist, in Public Affairs and Marketing. 

Take over our Snapchat account!

snapchat-ghost-hopePublic Affairs and Marketing is excited to bring you Takeover Tuesdays beginning in December! Takeover Tuesdays are an opportunity for student organizations and Hope offices to “take over” the official Hope College Snapchat story in order to give our followers behind-the-scenes access, while promoting your group’s event and mission to Hope’s Snapchat Followers. We estimate more than 1,000 people, mostly students, are following us.

How does it work?

With guidance from PA&M, your organization will be given a temporary password to log in to the Hope College account on the day of your takeover. You will then be allowed to publish photos, videos, stickers and doodles to our Snapchat Story for up to 24 hours. No experience with Snapchat? No problem! Consider approaching a student worker or intern in your office to help.

We are proud of our reputation on Snapchat, so we ask that you give careful consideration to the type of story you plan to share. Below you will find links to our storyboard planning document and takeover guidelines, as well as a link to sign up for your Takeover Tuesday. We recommend that you plan your takeover near or on a Tuesday of an event or activity you’re hosting as a way to promote and build excitement for the event. Take a look at a few examples of recent Snapchat stories.

Snapchat planning resources

Snapchat Takeover Guidelines

Snapchat Storyboard Planner

Request a Takeover Tuesday

Follow the Hope story on Snapchat

The Hope College Snapchat account was started in fall 2015 as a way to engage our students in personalized story telling. Since the account started, Public Affairs and Marketing has been working to increase its number of followers by creating engaging stories with unique content that showcases different aspects of our campus community. Our audience is primarily students so our content is geared towards them as well as our alumni and prospective students.

snapchat-screen-capture
This photo was taken at a recent basketball game. We doodled over top and added text to make the photo more interesting and informative. Then, this photo was put together with several others to form our “story” for the weekend.

Being a high school student during the rise of Snapchat has given me a better understanding of the various features Snapchat offers. Each snap can last a maximum of 10 seconds, and a series of snaps can be combined to create a “story” which can last up to 24 hours. There are an array of photo filters to choose from, color options, variations in text formatting, and the decision itself to use photo or video for a snap. Utilizing these features, we have the exciting challenge to create stories that are not only fun to watch but also give our students and prospective students a behind-the-scenes look at our campus community.

Examples of our Snapchat stories include Visit Days, the Pull, Nykerk, Homecoming, athletic events and other special events happening around campus. Campus offices and student groups are invited to “takeover” our account on Tuesdays, or during special events, to engage with our followers and to promote their events and activities. Learn more about Takeover Tuesdays.

Groups that have taken over our account include Dance Marathon, The Hope College Alumni Association, Nykerk Cup Competition and The Panhellenic Council. Interested in taking over our account for a day? Let us know!

Once a story has run on our account for 24 hours, an archive is uploaded to the Hope College YouTube channel. Check out our Snapchat playlist below and make sure to follow us for live event coverage.

Social Media and Students

As an intern at the Public Affairs and Marketing office, a lot of my job is posting to Hope’s various social media accounts, such as Snapchat and Instagram. As silly as this might seem at first, I actually think it can be pretty influential when it comes to students engagement with the college.

For prospective students, looking at the social media accounts can be a good way to get a look at what “real” college life is like. The snapchat account especially, allows for a look into what a normal day at Hope College looks like. On any given day the account may feature updates on research presentations, campus wide events, student organizations, or even just the unpredictable Holland weather!

For current students, all the social media accounts allow for students to be continually aware of what’s going on around campus. The accounts can serve as a reminder for various campus happenings and give students the full scope of all the opportunities Hope offers. Snapchat especially also offers the unique chance for students to have more interaction with the college. The marketing department offers various different promotions and competitions for students to send in snaps with the possibility of being featured on Twitter or Instagram. This opens the door for a more lighthearted communication between the institution and its students, a door that previously hadn’t really existed!

Prospective or current student, the social media accounts allow the college to be less of a large company and more of an intimate community. It’s a pretty cool feeling to look on the campus wide instagram account and actually see a picture of someone you know, whether it be your housemate, classmate, or friend. The accounts remind us to fully engage in the unique and close community we have here at Hope whether you’re a current or prospective student.

Social media workgroup meets monthly

A new staff and faculty workgroup started meeting monthly this spring to talk about social media. This informal group meets every third Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Plaza conference room.

Please feel free to drop in and invite your friends and colleagues who might be interested. Typically there is no set agenda but rather informal conversation about social media trends, challenges and successes across campus. It has been a great opportunity to learn from each other!  Please join us.

Example of some topics discussed are:

  • Best methods for promoting campus events and news
  • Are we seeing results with young people?
  • What makes for an engaging post/tweet?
  • Graphics — How to format and what to include?
  • Tips on finding good content to share
  • Understanding tone
  • Connecting with alumni

Questions? Email social@hope.edu