higher ed

Now Playing: University of Michigan joins Spotify

Music provides a backdrop for our everyday experiences, helps us remember significant moments in time, and can both lift our mood and provide us solace. Whether it’s a bike ride to class, a night out with friends, or an all-night study session, music is present to create a soundtrack to our lives.

With that in mind, the University of Michigan is thrilled to launch the very first university-wide verified Spotify account. By leveraging the robust listening library of the popular music streaming service, we aim to engage its 100 million+ active users and connect with our students and stakeholders in a new and unique way.

Music sharing and discovery make up a large part of the college experience. In fact, Spotify recognized the pivotal role of music in collegiate culture in an article exploring music consumption:

“Universities have long been musical hotbeds, as generations of students find much of the music that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. There’s a great deal of music being played at college in general, a lot of which is formative listening. From the library to the gym to the party, and even to bedtime, college life often features a soundtrack.”

#UMSocial’s previous success applying strategic brand-related content into emerging platforms, like Snapchat and Yik Yak, have demonstrated the importance of meeting your audience where they are. Spotify provides us with a similar opportunity to adapt audio resources and integrate content into a network of branded U-M channels.

By collaborating with units, individuals, and organizations campus-wide, we can offer listeners everything from a research-based podcast by a prominent professor to a curated list of top hits from everyone’s favorite football coach.


A weekly playlist where students, faculty, and staff share their favorite beats. This week’s playlist is curated by Michigan Men’s Glee Club President Patrick Kiessling:

Good Vibes

When words fail, music often speaks. U-M’s Counseling and Psychological Services offers the Good Vibes playlist. Not only does this playlist include songs to put anyone in a good mood, the playlist description includes the number for the CAPS support line.

      Caps Playlist

Dad Rock by Michigan Football

We went straight to U-M Athletics to get this mix of ‘dad rock’ favorites to get you pumped up before a game.

User Engagement

In addition to providing an extremely popular music streaming service, Spotify has revolutionized online customer service. The @SpotifyCares Twitter account uses music to engage with its users. When a user interaction lends itself to a storytelling opportunity, Spotify Cares will create a custom playlist:

Allowing our account to evolve and continuing to expand our strategies for interacting with stakeholders means we can provide a more personalized and engaging user experience. We look forward to optimizing our account to maximize the capabilities of the platform and partnering with our listeners to introduce uses for the platform we haven’t considered.

Have an idea for how we could use Spotify? Contact us at umsocial@umich.edu.

This post was written by @JamesWilsonR, content specialist at #UMSocial.

Edited copy by @NikkiSunstrum, Director of #UMSocial.

January 2015 @ UMSocial

January brings about new beginnings: a new year, new semester, and new opportunities to engage with our Wolverines. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the past, identify what was accomplished, and establish what our next steps should be moving forward. After looking at this month alone, I have a strong feeling that 2015 will be an exciting year for our team and for the University of Michigan. As always, we present you with January’s monthly social-in-review, which highlights notable campaigns, social content, and digital innovations.



According to QS World University Rankings, UMich is the top public university in the United States. In order to bring students into the conversation, our team headed to one of the many organization fairs on campus to receive student input and reactions. We wanted to know, what sets Michigan apart from other universities? The set-up was simple enough: we had our cameras rolling and asked Wolverines to explain why UMich is their #1. In doing so, we were able to bring this numerical ranking to life and create a more personal narrative for our followers. As an incentive, students who offered up their own stories received T-Shirts that sported the new #1 ranking. The video was shared via Facebook, receiving 7.5K likes, 1.9K shares and 140 comments. We also saw traction on other other channels, including YouTube and Vine. We look forward to producing more student-generated video content this year.



January means winter, and winter in Michigan means that it is cold. With the risk of record low temperatures, students have to be safer than normal and bundle up to avoid frostbite! Our team braved the weather and surprised lucky individuals with hats, scarves, gloves, and hand warmers to help get them to class warm…Michigan style. We hinted that we would be doing an on-campus giveaway via Twitter the day before, and followed up with live updates of our location. Spontaneous giveaways of this sort allow for us to engage with the campus community and remind them that we truly care about our Wolverines.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 1.41.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 1.48.50 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 1.48.57 PM

Additionally, we saw success on Twitter with our third #UMichChat, bringing in 912K impressions and an estimated reach of 325K, as well as content geared towards #SquirrelAppreciationDay. Read the full blog post here.



Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.21.49 AM

In the first week of the month, we reached an Instagram milestone–50K followers. Using imagery from our #UMichMoments campaign, this post brought attention to our achievement, but also incorporated many of the fans that helped us get there in the first place. Our account would not function without user-generated content, and so it was important for us to take the time to thank our following for being so excited about anything and everything Michigan!

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.27.40 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.27.22 AM

On January 26, the state celebrated its 178th birthday. What better way to pay homage to our hoMe, than to throw a birthday party? In collaboration with Michigan Dining, Campus Information, and the Michigan Union, UMSocial brought a Maize & Blue party to campus, cupcakes and all. We saw positive response on Twitter the night before the event, and so we were eager to see how people would engage with us during the day-of. We were worried that we would have leftover snacks, and to our surprise we ended up running out in under an hour. This simple booth in a well-populated area brought in major crowds, drew awareness to our event, and resulted in positive feedback from fans on social media:

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.36.40 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.35.30 AM

Fan submissions from Michigan’s birthday


This month, we brought two new boards to our profile: Michigan Squirrels & College of LSA! Squirrel Appreciation Day offered the perfect opportunity to curate all of our squirrel content and streamline it into one unified place. Although we continually pin content relevant to LS&A, our uofmichigan channel did not dedicate a board entirely to the college. Once fully populated, this board will better direct students to the resources that they need regarding Literature, Science & the Arts. Interested in seeing your department or college represented? Please email umsocial@umich.edu!


In January, the campus community could engage with uofmichigan on Snapchat in more diverse ways than ever before, thanks to “Our Campus” story and the introduction of Michigan GeoFilters. We implemented a crowdsourced campaign to find the best designs, which resulted in  4 new filters on the platform showcasing different elements of the UMich and greater Ann Arbor community. We are continually excited to see our fans snap us, using the filters, as well as share positive feedback about the filters on other channels.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.19.36 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.19.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.18.58 PM

In the past, especially during our “Dress That Squirrel” campaign, we’ve seen great success with interactive snap stories. Typically, our own story will include a CTA, such as ‘screen-shot the next image’ and perform X challenge, followed by encouraging users to chat us the results for a chance to be featured. These types of stories rarely feature prizes or giveaways because we’ve found that our Snapchat audience doesn’t necessarily need to be incentivized to participate–it’s fun and easy.

When the Travelocity Roaming Gnome made its way to Ann Arbor for Michigan Basketball game day, Snapchat was a unique platform to not only promote his presence on campus, but tie in another interactive campaign:

Umich_Snap1 copyUmich_snap2 copyUmich_snap4 copyUmich_Snap5 copy     Umich_snap6 copy Umich_snap7 copy

Snaps courtesy of Travelocity Roaming Gnome 

The new year typically means a fresh start. We’re taking what we learned in 2014 and plan to improve the content, increase engagement, and bring better social activations to the university in 2015. Thanks for following along, and continue to #StaySocial with us this upcoming year!

 This post was written by Katie Szymanski, Communication and Digital Studies senior; #UMSocial editorial intern 

#MyUMich Instagram Campaign


We are thrilled to announce our first Instagram photo contest, which will run through the month of November, using the hashtag #MyUMich!

Each week, Instagram users are challenged to share photos of their Michigan experience, whether it be in the classroom, at the office, at home, or on the field.

The rules are simple, and the rewards are big!

1. Follow @uofmichigan on Instagram to qualify & see each week’s theme.

2. Upload your photos to Instagram and use the hashtag #MyUMich in your caption. No limit to the amount of entries!*

3. Each Sunday, we will choose 3 winners to be featured on the @uofmichigan Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and get these great prizes:

  • A 10×10 poster of your photo
  • Your photo featured on the official @uofmichigan Instagram poster alongside the other winners, to be distributed campuswide
  • UM Planet Blue reusable bags
  • $10 in Blue Bucks
  • Discounts to the new Merit Goodness store on South U and a notebook
  • Clip-on fisheye lens for your cell phone
  • #UMsocial T-shirt & stickers

4. Have fun! We are looking for the most unique, creative photos of your Michigan experience. We want to know what makes Michigan, #MyUMich!

 *A reminder to all, if your account is locked/private, we won’t be able to see your photo, meaning it will not be entered in the contest.*

UofMichigan Named #4 Most Popular College on Instagram


Last week, Nitrogram included us on their list of the 75 Most popular American Colleges on Instagram. We’re thrilled to have come in at #4 on the list, alongside so many other schools doing great things on Instagram, and in social media in general. 


Instagram has rapidly become our team’s favorite social channel, allowing us to interact with students, alumni and fans each day, and see our Wolverines all over the globe. We share everything from travel and study abroad photos, to DIY projects, pets, campus buildings, throwbacks, events, and behind the scene shots of some of the great experiences we have at #UMSocial.


One of the best ways we’ve built our Instagram community is through fan photos. We frequently reach out to our followers and ask to post their photos to our channel, or they tag and email us photos giving us permission to share. What many do not know about our page is that it’s almost entirely run by our interns! You can read more about our Instagram strategy, and everything that goes on behind the scenes on our Intern Blog!



Last week, the #UMSocial team headed to Detroit for the day to attend Salesforce’s Higher Education Summit at Wayne State University. In addition to learning several tips and tricks on social media from the speakers and panelists, we learned a few interesting stats about the makeup of University students in the United States:


This may seem surprising while walking around a typical college campus, but with 33% of students transferring before earning a degree, and 400,000 dropping out annually, the presence of non-traditional students is more common than you may believe.  What does this mean? For one, we can no longer look at higher education as a simple time period. From gap years, transfers, attending multiple colleges and choosing to work while in school, there is no longer an atypical college experience. One way that the University of Michigan adapts to these changes is by offering online classes. Many students are choosing to add Coursera to their schedules, and teachers are offering more coursework, assignments, and lectures online. This gives students the flexibility to work where they choose and escape the confinement of a classroom, which is essential to many.

Another key focus of #HESummit13 was connecting with prospective and incoming students. Although it is said the demographic of Facebook is getting older, while Twitter is getting younger, the facts suggest otherwise.

75% of high school seniors prefer to go to a college Facebook pages to learn about social life

65% prefer to go to a college Facebook pages to learn about social life

57% watched YouTube videos about the school

45% are influenced by social media presence in the search process

Robert C Gillet said, “Today’s students are connected and we want to reach them in the ways that they want to be reached.” So how do we reach these students? At the University of Michigan, we can reach them through our Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Google+, Linkedin, Foursquare, and this blog – but what else is there?

So far, one of the best ways we are reaching our students is with our students. With the @umichstudents Twitter account, prospective, incoming and current students can see the true UMich experience through the eyes of our students. They can interact with students that they may never meet offline, and ask questions about student life at Michigan. Having an unfiltered perspective has been a vital part of our social presence, and something many of our students love most about #UMSocial. 


In addition, we’ve partnered with Campus Information to answer questions from incoming students in real time. Incoming freshmen that are here for orientation can tweet using the hashtag #AskUMich, and should receive a response within the hour, given to them by the staff @umichcampusinfo or @umich. We feel giving students a digital platform to ask and answer their questions will aid in promoting further conversation, and a sense of camaraderie with both their class, and their University. 

Looking forward, our team plans to continue to engage with our students through social media, and hopefully come up with new ways to harness the power of our students and alumni base, and connect them digitally through our channels. Feel free to Tweet us if you have any ideas!

UMich Professor Feeds Higher Education With YouTube

Risk Bites creator Andrew Maynard, director of the U-M Risk Science Center and professor of environmental health sciences is flexing his social media muscle by creating short YouTube videos on a dry erase board covering issues from gun control, asbestos, BPA, and more provocative titles such as “poop on cell phones.”


Maynard says he wants the series to provide credible and timely information that will help people better understand human health risks. Risk Bites takes advantage of a growing hunger for digestible, informal online education. He claims:

“Increasingly sophisticated educational material on YouTube and elsewhere is being consumed by ever-greater numbers of people. The most successful content generators are people with a passion for knowledge and an ability to connect with their audience. And in this new medium they are leaving professional educators in the dust.

I’m particularly interested in how this gap can be closed. How can someone like me who teaches for a living achieve relevance to a wider audience through using YouTube more effectively?”

We never see Maynard in the videos. Only his hand is visible, as he draws objects, stick figures and words, while he narrates each story with his distinctively British accent.


In addition to the videos, the center has started a blog called Risk Sense that features experts who write about their research or about emerging issues. Maynard also has a blog called 2020 Science, which is about developing new technologies responsibly and safely.


To learn the Ten Ways Water Can Kill You, and if your chocolate habit can earn you the Nobel Prize, look no further than the Risk Bites YouTube channel. You can also keep up with the latest news by following him on Twitter!


We’re on Weibo — plus a guide to Ann Arbor’s Chinese restaurants

A guest post by William Foreman, the global communication manager at U-M’s News Service. He prefers Cantonese dim sum and peppery Hunanese dishes.   

Does Ann Arbor have any decent Chinese restaurants? It’s a common question asked by students from China thinking about studying at the University of Michigan. I could share my opinion with them, but as a non-Chinese PR guy, they probably wouldn’t think of me as the most credible source. It’s best to go straight to the experts: the Chinese students who are already here. And that’s what we did by using Weibo.


Weibo (pronounced: WAY BWO) is often called China’s version of Twitter, which is blocked in the country. Like Twitter, Weibo allows people to file 140-character tweets along with photos and videos. With nearly 400 million users, it has become wildly popular and continues to grow exponentially. In a nation where the traditional media are censored and often boring, Weibo has become the prime source of news for the masses. Some say it’s the next best thing to a free press.

Six months ago, U-M launched its own official Weibo account, which already has nearly 5,000 followers, representing every province and region of China. We’re really the only American university using Weibo in a strategic, planned way to share news, photos, videos and other information. We even have a full-time Chinese content producer – Zhang Xiaoxi, a graduate of U-M’s School of Information Science – who posts daily in Chinese.

In many ways, Weibo is far more advanced than Twitter. For example, it has a function that allows users to do polls. Xiaoxi and I used it to create a survey that included 10 Chinese eateries in Ann Arbor. We tweeted it out on Weibo, asking our followers to vote for the best restaurant.  

My biggest worry was that everyone would like the same place, showing that everything beyond it was a virtual wasteland of greasy crab rangoon and gluggy moo goo gai pan. But to my relief, the votes were generally spread out among seven restaurants. For sure, there was a clear winner – Chia Shiang, with 61 votes, 30 percent of the ballots. The runner-up was Asian Legend with 51 votes. But five others garnered between 30-39 votes.  

The idea was to show that Ann Arbor does have some decent Chinese food. But as with much of social media, the objective was also to start a lively discussion and encourage engagement.

The survey also confirmed that I’m an unreliable judge of Chinese cuisine. My favorite restaurant was one of the lowest vote getters.       


@How To Tweet

Want to win friends and influence people? That, and also create great one-on-one relationships, increase awareness of your presence, and engage in a global dialogue?

Spreading information and getting followers isn’t easy, but it also isn’t hard. We’ll break down what’s been successful for @umich and what we’ve learned.

Here is a basic primer before we talk strategy:

1. RT = Retweet. This is when you click the button that says “retweet” on someone else’s tweet to post it from your own account. When you RT you give the original tweeter attribution.

2. MT = Modified Tweet. Same as RT, but you changed the language (never the tone) of the tweet or omitted part.

3. @reply (or “at reply”) = A direct reply to another person’s tweet. You can click the “reply” button on a tweet and it will automatically start your tweet with @theirtwittername. That way they’ll be notified that you’ve replied to them. When someone replies to you, you’ll be notified in whatever way you’ve set up through Twitter (email, text, push notification, etc.). Example tweet: @umich there’s no way you have that many squirrels. Gross.

4. Mention = When you mention a person/brand/organization in a tweet, you can use their @twittername, and Twitter will automatically recognize it, make it into a clickable link, and notify the mentioned account. Example tweet: I can’t wait to get back to @umich this fall!

5. DM = Direct Message. This is a tweet that you send directly to someone that no one else sees. In order to DM, both tweeters have to be following each other. You can DM by clicking the “person” button on their profile. If you are following each other, Direct Message will be a listed option. If you need to DM someone, it is okay to tweet them something along the lines of “I need to DM you. Please follow?”

6. Hashtags = Wondering what #all #this #stuff means? Read “Hashtags — Why, When, What, How.”


Why are people following me?

The most important rule for Twitter strategy is to run everything through this filter: Why are people following my account? Maybe it’s because they’re looking for news and information. Maybe you provide up-to-the-minute sports scores or inspirational quotes. Maybe, as is usually the case, there’s a variety of reasons.

When you can, think about crafting your tweet in the same way you would write a very short story. Be emotional. Be funny. Be excited. If you know that you’re tweeting about something your followers feel strongly about it, make sure your tweet expresses that feeling — if your voice reflects theirs, they’ll retweet it.

Be relevant and timely. If there’s something going on (a holiday, a game, a weather event, etc.), tweet about it! 





Tweet your victories.

Don’t be afraid to boast. Higher education is a high-affinity category — that means that the people following you really do care that you’re doing well. And they’ll celebrate your wins right along with you.




Retweet (RT) your followers.

When someone posts a great photo, or says something interesting about your organization, share it! These tweets aren’t always the ones that get the most responses, but they’re a great way to build relationships with your followers (and an easy way to keep content flowing when you’re out of ideas). Sometimes you can do a simple retweet, which means you just post the tweet exactly as it was written, with attribution.

In this case there is also an Instagram photo attached, so when it’s retweeted your followers can see the photo as well:


You can also do what’s called a modified tweet, or an MT, where you make slight changes to the original tweet, usually for character count reasons.


Instead of replying to someone’s tweet, you can respond in an RT. That way it’s more understandable to people looking at your feed, and it shows up in your followers’ feeds as well (typically @replies do not show up in follower feeds).


Be useful

Every tweet you send out doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. In fact, you are doing your followers a disservice if you try. Instead, remember that filter that you’re running your tweets through: Why are my followers following me?

Just by scanning through your followers, you can get a sense of who they are. Maybe it’s mostly students. Or other research organizations. Or news outlets. Then consider what news and information you have to share that would be helpful to them.

In this tweet we promoted our own faculty while providing information on the news of the day: National elections.


If you have news, sometimes leading with BREAKING can help to set it apart from other tweets. Just don’t overdo it.


The best news is the news you know people want:


Give your followers an inside look that other people don’t get:


That’s the end of How To Tweet. If you have any questions, please direct them to UMsocial@umich.edu. Thanks!