Students! How can you use social media to showcase your creativity?

Rory Stobo ARU

We joined forces with Anglia Ruskin University to set a real-world social media challenge to students on the BA Illustration and Animation course.

Which campaigns made the biggest impact - and what advice can we share with those of you entering the commercial world beyond academia?

About the project: Taking place over three weeks, the idea was to develop a social media campaign around a creative concept and generate as much engagement as possible.

The brief was very broad - make it ‘positive’ - and time was short!

What we did: A core team from Sookio (Director Sue Keogh, Chief Copywriter Rory Stobo and Animator Alex Mallinson) kickstarted the whole thing with a presentation about using social media to showcase your work to a whole new audience.

The idea was to stimulate ideas and share the different techniques we use to help content spread.

We then offered constructive feedback during the campaigns to help the twelve groups refine their ideas still further, and then judged the work at the end of the process.

Here’s Alex and Rory deliberating over the winners…

Alex Rory deliberating

We decided to introduce a competitive element by awarding winners for Best Creative Concept, Initial Engagement, and Long-Term Potential.

We felt the last one was important because social media can sometimes be a slow burn; success doesn’t always happen overnight and sometimes it takes time for an idea gather momentum as you explore the theme more and more.

Think: McFadden’s Cold War or Alex’s own Super Depressed web comic.

So, who impressed us the most?

Best Creative Concept

We absolutely loved Bin Buddies. “They had a really clear concept and nailed it early,” commented Alex. The bright, bold execution was full of character and perfect for Instagram.

The posted lots of content, reusing assets to create batches of three posts at a time. Some posts were animated too. We also felt it had a lot of long-term potential, and could even see opportunities for accompanying merch.

Honorable mention to Minds Unique, with its visually coherent theme and potential to be a springboard for exploring mental health issues.

Initial Engagement

We decided there were two worthy winners for this category.

Let’s Get Kind used both Instagram and Facebook, tweaking the content to suit each audience.

Using the two platforms like this definitely helped encourage engagement - not to mention the consistent style of the posts, which were cute and innocent but not saccharine or cloying.

Again, we could see the commercial potential for this concept.

Secondly, #SpringUp.

With its mix of illustration and photography, this was beautifully executed. All in all, a very sophisticated campaign with a certain moodboard quality to it.

They were the only people we saw using Twitter, which gave us the opportunity to retweet it ourselves too.

They were very clever in using different languages in their hashtags, which helped encourage engagement from different parts of the globe.

Long-Term Potential

Like An Art Student had a really clearly defined audience, and one which is continually refreshed.

The idea is simple: a series of tongue-in-cheek posts about things that art students do, say, experience. So it can really run and run.

“The content is bold, colourful and self-aware,” said Rory. “Great use of Instagram’s features. Throwing songs in there, podcasts, food, local events…it’s a community multimedia extravaganza!”

We especially liked their tactic of proactively engaging with Instagram accounts who don’t have a massive following.

Those who have already reached influencer status are unlikely to engage in return whereas newbies will give a bit of love back. Nice - we’ll be using trick this ourselves.

What learnings can we share?

Being observers in the process - rather than the creative agency at the core - gave us a neutral standpoint from which we could watch things unfold from start to finish.

A few things occurred which may be of use if you’re a student on the cusp of leaving academia for the evils of corporate life!

1. The planning can be as important as the execution.

One team was quite frustrated that they spent so much time researching platforms and audiences. But in a real-life campaign this is exactly what you would do - and you’ll find that building in plenty of planning time at the outset will lead to a more successful outcome.

Unfortunately, in this situation, the teams only had three weeks!

2. Conversely, sometimes you just have to crack on with it. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind!

The Lonely Hand Club (pictured in our cover image) struggled early on to come up with the core concept. But with the clock ticking, they had to pull something out of the bag.

Amazing how often that happens in a commercial environment! Sometimes, having more time doesn’t actually make it any easier.

Sue Keogh Anglia Ruskin University

3. Watch the metrics!

In digital you can continually analyse the success of the campaign.

Facebook looking particularly strong? Post more frequently or consider boosting some of your posts. More interest at weekends? Swap some of your midweek posts for Sundays.

Digital gives you this flexibility. It’s not like the proofs have gone to the printer and there’s nothing else you can do. So make the most of this opportunity and refine and learn, refine and learn.

4. And lastly! Always, always take screen grabs of your work.

Unlike print, where you have a copy of the poster, the leaflet, the book…in digital, things disappear. I’ve been creating content since back when the BBC called Digital ‘new media’ and so much of my work has vanished.

Thankfully, I’ve taken a lot of screengrabs so it’s still there, nestled safely in my portfolio. Make sure you do the same.

Thanks, everyone

Thanks to course leader Nanette Hoogslag from the Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University for inviting us to be part of the project, which we hope will become an annual event.

And of course to the Illustration and Animation students for all the hard work you put in during such a short campaign. As an alumni myself, it’s good to see the future of the industry is in good hands!

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