This week I had the privilege to sit down with Ms Francesca Eathorne, Head of Communications at St Andrew’s College and hear first-hand the details about the new StAC Social Hub which is powered by Shuttlerock. This is a new digital channel that not only automatically collates content from various social media platforms and aggregates them, but also allows users to directly submit rich media content for moderation and publication.
While the content is mostly submitted from three key community groups – students, parents and Old Collegians – Social Hub is a StAC-owned media platform, meaning that once the content is published it can’t be removed if the original post is removed or account closed. This ability, along with powerful moderation tools, provides St Andrew’s with a significant amount of control over content retention and posting.
Ms Eathorne first learnt about the Shuttlerock platform more than two years ago via an existing StAC connection and immediately saw the potential for a greater sense of community participation with media content, particularly in the lead up to the College’s Centenary celebrations in 2017. The ability for user generated content was powerful and her research showed interesting developments in the owned-media space. Part of the communications’ strategy at St Andrew’s is to always innovate and be prepared to lead in the education space.
Like other social media platforms, you can share, comment on and ‘like’ content; however, it can also be used for competitions where users provide their own content, which boosts engagement.
Recently the College ran a successful competition offering free return tickets from anywhere in the world for an Old Collegian to return home to join the Centenary Gala Weekend celebrations, 17-19 March 2017. The StAC community was encouraged to post their photos of Old Cols and nominate them to win the tickets, which were generously sponsored by Emirates and House of Travel Merivale.
Eighty-nine entries were received from around the world and the winner was Thomas Moore (OC 2009), who is currently living in the UK. Tom’s older brother Luke nominated him and so winning was a complete surprise to Tom. The competition saw lots of positive conversations on social media as Old Cols shared the posts and nominated their friends.
Marketing Co-ordinator Ms Georgia Harvey who administrates Social Hub says,
“The ability to aggregate content from multiple social media sites to one ‘Social Hub’ is what sets it apart from other platforms. It allows for an easy upload process, with content automatically filtering through for review and publication to Social Hub direct from the creator of the content. This means content such as videos and photos are unique and genuine, and reduces significantly the resource required to otherwise source the same level of content.”
The ability to moderate content is essential within a school environment where some students have restricted use of their image, particularly in the online space. Shuttlerock easily allows this moderation and StAC’s policy is to ‘approve’ all content for publication.
The extensive customisation of Shuttlerock’s core product for the StAC Social Hub took longer than originally anticipated due to the complexity of the requirements of the College, including ‘boards within boards’, resulting in the deployment of an almost bespoke setup perfectly designed for maximum functionality and impact.
Ms Eathorne says,
“Shuttlerock continue to evolve as a company and we have been really impressed with the way they have learnt from our custom site build and how they are offering us solutions to continue to effectively manage the platform. We are currently rolling out a new website and the integration of our Social Hub streams into the website will keep content dynamic and fresh and really reduce workload for the team”.
To further customise the experience, a unique social media icon was designed by the College’s in-house design team, and a decision was made to name the platform the StAC Social Hub, rather than refer to it simply as Shuttlerock. According to the team at Shuttlerock, StAC is the first customer worldwide to brand the platform with a custom name and social media icon, reflecting the College’s commitment to innovation and branding.
The content on Social Hub is collated into six main ‘boards’ as follows:
Within each board are sub-boards, similar to categories, such as the Sports board which showcases content from College sports events as diverse as the annual Athletics Day to staff teams competing in the Wanaka Multisport Challenge:
It is this highly visual navigation system that is one of the strengths of Social Hub. Users are funnelled into areas of interest and then within those they can view photos and video content submitted either directly to Social Hub, or automatically collated from various social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram through the use of designated hashtags such as #StAClife and #StAC100, the latter hashtag ties into Centenary content. It is precisely this ability to source user generated content from other social media platforms that allows for a variety of strategies depending on the targeted community group, for example:
- Students: competitions for submissions of the best photo from an event, such as the 2016 Athletics Day. While a prize of a $50 voucher is up for grabs, this is a great strategy to connect students with the primary College branding as well. Students are now used to posting content on Social Hub and recently senior students approached the Communications team to see if they could run a ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ day competition using Social Hub.
- Parents: one of the primary aims of Social Hub is to enable parents to easily share photos they’re taking of College events either through the use of hashtags or having parents directly submit to Social Hub. This worked really well with Winter Tournament Week this year where a lot of photos were received that normally the Communications team would never have had access to. It also helped to build a sense of excitement as students were competing all around New Zealand, plus a link to photos was included in the end of week newsletter ensuring that even more of the community could engage with the event and successes.
- Old Collegians: are specifically targeted for photos from their time at StAC with this content being segregated into decade boards, allowing Old Cols to immediately find the most relevant content for them.
Old Collegians’ Co-ordinator Ms Kate Baker notes
“Social hub has been a great platform to allow two-way engagement between the College and our alumni. We can easily showcase images from the latest alumni events, campus developments, or even historic images so our alumni remain engaged with the College. The Social Hub enables our alumni to be contributors too, via Instagram, Twitter or email upload (appealing to a variety of demographics) they can share their own images and memories. Not only does this allow our content to expand, but it creates a sense of authenticity and supports our alumni to be active in their ongoing relationship with the College, which is really important in the lead up to our Centenary”.
The #staclife board is a great place to showcase the culture and general happenings at the College and is perfect for all those photos that don’t make it into the formal College publications or get profiled on the Facebook pages.
Shuttlerock are getting global press too, recently winning a prestigious award with Facebook. Shuttlerock’s Executive Director Mr Paul Bingham says
“Shuttlerock received the Facebook Global Innovation award for creativity; a real honour for a tech start up out of Christchurch. The award recognised Shuttlerock’s unique approach of collecting user generated content and allowing an organisation to use it effectively.”
“St Andrew’s has taken the lead in using the platform to collect a range of authentic photos and publish them on owned digital assets including the StAC website. In today’s online environment, the website is the only space a brand can truly own, and it’s where key decisions are made by customers. Its vital to keep authentic and up to date content as a core part of the user experience”.
St Andrew’s College has 12,000 Old Collegians, 1000 current families and 1450 students, all who have varying interests and needs within the social media space.
Ms Eathorne concludes,
“Our content simultaneously celebrates the diversity of events our community participates in and allows people to share their experiences. I anticipate it will take around 18 months to build a strong sense of engagement and for people to become really familiar with all the platform has to offer”.