Skip to main content

How higher ed can leverage holidays with social media


Holidays are an exciting time. Everyone joins together to celebrate, and every brand tries to make its mark by showing how it is relevant.

The holidays provide colleges and universities a way to connect to the people they serve. It offers up an opportunity for a higher education institution to bond on a more personal level and show how it shares in on traditions and celebrations. Even religious holidays can help connect a brand to a person, without a religious message.

Brands have long capitalized on holidays to connect to their audiences. For example, remember the M&M Christmas commercial that features the red and yellow M&Ms seeing Santa and then fainting upon saying "He really does exist!"? It's incredibly successful because it's showcasing iconic imagery and building affinity by connecting the brand to this special holiday. 


West Virginia University makes a point to celebrate these large holidays through our social media platforms. And the way we do it is through creating iconic images. Take the above image above, for example. We knew we wanted to wish our audience a Happy Halloween, but we wanted it with a WVU twist. The pumpkins with a carved shape of West Virginia and our "Flying WV" logo set in front of the iconic Woodburn Hall backdrop made for a very popular post that was shared hundreds of times.


Our audience is celebrating this holiday, and the University is part of their identity, so these posts speak to them in this context. After seeing the success with the Halloween post, we repeated this for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, and even the first day of fall and the first day of finals. 

Most recently, our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day posts had a combined reach of 70,000 people on Facebook with nearly 4,000 likes. Twitter received about 300 retweets and 450 likes. Instagram saw about 3,000 likes. And our Snapchat had about 12,000 views.


Christmas Eve

How? Well, we took the items that remind us of those holidays and incorporated a WVU theme - either through our "Flying WV" logo, our gold and blue colors or something near and dear to Mountaineers everywhere: "Flying WV" cookies.


Beyond just gaining likes or shares, these posts showcase how we are involved in their lives. We want to share this special time with them. We want to show how we are a part of their family, and they ours.


Making social-specific content for the holidays is a crucial part of our marketing plan. Rather than waiting for others to create this content, it originates here - with our specific message in mind - and others can repurpose it. 

Sometimes, as social media managers in higher ed, we are so focused on repurposing content. That's great and all, but we should also understand that - now more than ever - social media is bigger than it has ever been. With that, we need to make sure our content is better than ever. 

For those of us who are in the daily grind of social media community management, we know what works and what doesn't on the accounts we manage. That's why creating social media-specific content is so crucial. Sometimes, for example, a photo taken for admissions materials that works perfectly may not work so well on Instagram for some reason. That's an opportunity for us to make a better photo for our social audience. 

And don't just stop at those big holidays. There are odd, bizarre holidays all throughout the year that might be worth developing some content around. We can't wait to buy some gold and blue-frosted doughnuts on "National Doughnut Day" and make a "Flying WV" out of them (also eat them afterward!). 

We strive to create the best social content out there, and holidays are perfect opportunities to be creative and original.