Surrey Social Media

A blog about all things social media at the University of Surrey.

What is Snapchat anyway?!

We talk about Snapchat a lot, both on this blog and to our colleagues across the university – and the response I always get when I ask “do you know what Snapchat is?” is usually “I know my son/daughter uses it, but that’s about it!”

It’s true, Snapchat is very much the app for the younger audience, which of course is great for us as a university. But don’t be put off to give it a go yourself – the number of users over 25 years old is actually growing twice as fast as those under 25!

We’ve touched upon what Snapchat is before when reflecting on our first month using it as a university and in what we can do for you on social media, but here we’ve pulled together some key information:

The basics

Snapchat began in 2011 as a mobile messaging app where you could send a photo to a friend that would be deleted 10 seconds after it was viewed. This is still the core of Snapchat, but it has since expanded to be so much more.

The stories

This is where it gets exciting! You can also create a series of images and videos to create a visual story. This will stay live on your profile for 24 hours and can be viewed by all of your followers. For example, imagine you are attending an exciting event that you want to share with your friends and colleagues. There is lots to see, and lots of people to talk to, and using snapchat you can capture it all.

The fun stuff

Snapchat also allows you to edit your photos and videos within the app before posting them. You can add text, stickers (similar to emojis), location filters to show where you are, speed up or slow down videos and so much more! Take a look here to get an idea of all the features on offer.

Hopefully this has helped to provide a flavour of what Snapchat is, but if you really want to get to know it better download the app and give it a go! And keep an eye out for a comprehensive Snapchat toolkit coming soon… 


Why building your personal brand on social media is the most important thing you can do

Every social media profile you own is promoting you – even if that’s not what you intended. What impression are your profiles giving off? Is it one that you feel fits with your professional image?

If you are putting it out there (or even if you’re not), expect people to be looking you up online. 85% of recruiters and HR professionals say that an employee’s online reputation influences their hiring decisions (at least to some extent). For this reason, I truly believe that building yourself a strong personal brand is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, and your career.

What is a personal brand?

‘Personal branding’ is simply building a brand around your career and personal name – it’s all about marketing yourself as an expert in your given industry, which is why people should trust you and your opinions. It’s basically optimising the way in which you’re presented to others.

Everything you do or say online helps to form your very own personal brand. In turn, your personal brand forms the building blocks of your professional reputation – and that’s why you need to take it seriously. Whether you like it or not, we’re all our own brands.


Benefits of a strong personal brand

Having a strong personal brand and reputation can have a number of benefits:

  • Stand out from the crowd: Personal branding allows you to distinguish yourself from everyone else and become more visible.
  • Increased credibility: Having a personal brand can really help you boost your credibility and showcase your expertise within your industry. It can set the path for you to become a leader in your field.
  • Increase your confidence: The first step in personal branding is to look deeply at yourself and discover your greatest qualities and passion. This can be a real confidence boost – you’re building yourself up around the aspects that people praise you for.
  • Become more connected: By showcasing yourself in a certain light, you’ll be able to reach and connect with likeminded professionals. This could pave the way for new opportunities in the future, even if it’s just having someone to bounce ideas off of.

Even with these benefits, you might think it easier to simply keep yourself out of the online space entirely. You may have brushed over personal branding, believing that it’s a bit of a gimmick. However, not having a presence can also come with its own risks – especially if you’re a high-profile researcher or executive. This example illustrated in Harvard Business Review demonstrates these challenges perfectly.

Where does social media come in?


Social media is the key to managing your personal brand online. Have you ever done an incognito vanity Google search of your name? Your social media presences and the content you create can dominate the first page of search results – for me, 5 out of the 8 results when searching for ‘Jade Beckett’ are my social presences and blogs, which I’m quite pleased about considering my name is definitely not unique!

Social media really can be the backbone of your personal branding strategy.

Top tips on developing your personal brand on social media

Choose your areas of expertise

What sets you apart from others? This is the first thing you need to establish. Pick 1-3 areas of expertise or interest, and build your social media content and profile framing around these. For example, you might be interested in social media and new digital technologies – these themes can be used to build up your content.

“If content is the fuel for your personal brand, social media is the engine.” ~ Jayson Demers

If you’re struggling to find your niche, here’s a few things to consider:

  • What are your passions and interests?
  • What do you read most about when browsing online?
  • Is this an area you’ll be passionate about in the long-term?

Think about consistency

Do your social profiles look consistent? When you make a new connection, it’s common to look them up on multiple channels, so it helps if they all match up.

Keeping your profiles consistent can also help others easily find you – for example by using the same profile picture, name and handle across your accounts. If you were a business, you wouldn’t expect different logos across different accounts – think of your personal accounts in this way too.

You’ll also want to have a think about the general look and feel of your presences, for example, by keeping a certain colour palette throughout your images.

Post regularly

Once you’ve established your themes and got your profiles in order, you can think about sharing your enthusiasm and expertise by posting great content. A research study on Twitter followers showed that one of the most significant factors in growth is posting consistently.

It can be hard to post regularly, so you might want to think about scheduling tools. My personal favourites are Hootsuite and Buffer. The beauty of using these tools is that even when you’re busy you can have a steady stream of content going out – you just need to put aside a bit of time initially. Twitter recommend three tweets a day for optimal growth of your account – that might be unrealistic, but work out what is achievable for you.

Create your own content

It’s useful and powerful to be a curator of other people’s interesting articles and content. But, if you really want to establish an expert reputation, the easiest way to achieve it is to create your own content. Becoming a creator will be the easiest way for you to stand out and showcase your unique style.


Content comes in many different forms. It may be a video, a photo, or a blog post of your own. Do you blog yourself, or are there new sites your visit regularly? Do you attend a lot of industry events, or are you a keen photographer outside of the office? Sourcing content from things you do every day will make the process much simpler.

Make connections with others

Sharing consistently to social media will help draw others to you and and your brand. However, you’ll still need to take a proactive approach to engaging with your social media community. There’s a few ways you can make the most of this:

  • Join a Twitter Chat, a group, or online community with likeminded individuals. This will both help you to develop your area of expertise and
  • Engage and reply – don’t be afraid to comment on someone’s post. Social media is called ‘social’ media for a reason – it’s one big conversation, join in!
  • Use Twitter lists to segment your followers. Twitter lists are one of my favourite tools, but one that is often overlooked. Use them to group the accounts you follow into relatable groups. This will make both reading posts and engaging easier, and will mean that you will get to see the content from the people you care about most first.

Updates to Facebook video viewing, new Snapchat games and multi-upload Instagram posts: February Social Media Roundup

February is the shortest month of the year, but it didn’t mean there were fewer changes in the world of social media! There were several new developments in the world of social media this month, which I’ll be exploring in this blog.

Instagram – New carousel-style posting introduced

Do you ever go on a day out and take lots of great pictures, only to realise that you can’t post them all to Instagram for fear of spamming your followers’ feeds? Spending ages trying to pick the best photo may soon be a thing of the past, as Instagram have introduced a useful new feature: carousel uploads.

The new uploading feature allows users to post up to 10 pictures and/or videos at once. This is a great way to group your visuals from a particular event together. In the feed, users will be able to swipe through to view all the images/videos included in your post.

You can choose to use the same filter on the whole post or edit each element individually. By holding down on the photo/video, you can change the order in which they appear, and you can like and comment on them just like normal posts. For the time being, carousel posts contain one caption and are square-only. These posts are distinguishable in the feed – a series of blue dots located at the bottom of the post denotes that there are multiple uploads contained in it.

Snapchat – Lens games and Spectacles

Snapchat are stepping up their game – literally! You may remember the special game-within-a-filter that was released at Christmas, where you had to guide an elf down a mountain by tilting your phone. Recently, there has been another lens released which contains a game.

When you select the ‘Queen and Princess’ lens, a prompt on screen advises you to double tap on the lens to upgrade the filter. The camera then switches from selfie mode to the outward-facing camera, you can find a number of gems in your surrounding area. This is possible due to the world lens feature, which Snapchat launched last November. When you locate all 5 gems, the new lens is unlocked.


This poses the potential for some exciting marketing opportunities. Snapchat could work with retailers to make these games location-specific, increasing footfall to the stores in question. Niantic did this with their Pokémon Go app, which is the fastest game to generate revenue of $1bn. Big brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s got on board, so the market is definitely there if Snapchat wanted to follow the same plan of action.

In other news, SnapInc have made spectacles available to buy online. The glasses retail at $129.99 and come with a case and charging cable, with delivery taking between 2 and 4 weeks. The catch? Spectacles are only available for delivery to America. Hopefully they will make them available in other countries soon!

Facebook – New ways to view video and news about reactions

Facebook recently announced that changes were coming to the way video operates on the site. The first change is the way that video sound is played in the news feed. Currently, when you scroll past a video in the news feed, it will play automatically without sound. Facebook is now introducing autoplay sound to the videos, which will fade in and out as you scroll through them in the feed. However, if your phone is set to silent, the videos will continue to play without sound in the feed. You can also disable the new feature completely by turning off the ‘videos in news feed start with sound’ setting.

A minimised version of the video player has been introduced, allowing users to continue to scroll through their feed whilst the video plays. This feature operates much like videos in the YouTube app – you drag the video to one corner of your screen and it changes into a picture-within-a-picture view. As an added bonus, in the Android version of the Facebook app, you can even continue watching the video once you’ve closed the app!


Other features announced include larger format videos in vertical mode, along with a thumbnail on the progress bar which makes it easier for you to find your place in the video. There will also be a new video app for smart TVs, expanding on the ability to stream Facebook videos on your television.

With the new app, you’ll be able to watch all your favourite videos on a larger screen, see top live videos from across the globe, and rewatch videos you viewed, saved, shared or uploaded previously. There will also be a ‘recommended videos’ section based on your interests. The app will soon be available on Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and Amazon Fire TV, with plans to roll it out on more platforms in the future.

Twitter – Standing up against online abuse

Recently, some Twitter users have reported that they’ve been informed their tweets will have limited reach due to violation of the platform’s policies. The notice reads:

“We’ve temporarily limited some of your account’s features. What’s going on? Creating a safer environment for people to freely express themselves is critical to the Twitter community, so if behavior that may violate the Twitter Rules is detected, certain account features become limited. We’ve detected some potentially abusive behavior from your account, so only your followers  can see you activity on Twitter for the amount of time shown below. Your account will be restored to full functionality in: 12 hours and 0 minutes. The countdown will begin once you continue to Twitter.”

The idea of temporarily limiting users who are suspected to have broken Twitter’s rules is to contain the alleged abusive behaviour rather than letting it seep into the wider community. However, at the moment, users are not actually told how they were perceived to have violated the rules, and they can’t appeal the decision.

WhatsApp officially launches Status

As we reported in our November roundup, WhatAapp have developed a Snapchat-esque feature, which they are calling Status. Status has the same concept as Snapchat and Instagram Stories – you can upload pictures and videos (and gifs, but we haven’t worked out how to do that yet!) and add stickers and text to personalise them.

The statuses can then be sent to your contacts. The default for sending your masterpiece is to send it to all contacts. However, if you go into the ‘Status privacy’ settings (go to the Status screen and click the three dots in the top right corner) you can choose to send your status to selected contacts.

Status doesn’t have lenses like Snapchat does, and it also lacks the filters available on Instagram Stories. Their range of stickers is currently quite limited (most are just the usual emojis), but hopefully they will expand on this if the feature gains popularity.


That’s the main news for this month. Be sure to check back in early April for our March roundup!

In other news:

What we can do for you on social media

Want to showcase yourself or your department on social media, but don’t have a huge following of your own? Well we’re here to help! We love being able to collaborate with our colleagues across the university and use the university social media channels to showcase what is happening at Surrey and the amazing work that is being produced. Here are some examples of how we’ve collaborated in the past to give you a flavour of what we could do for you…..

Facebook Live

Facebook Live is exactly what it says on the tin – a live video streamed directly to Facebook. This might sound a bit daunting so it’s not for the camera shy! But if you’re feeling confident this can be a lot of fun to do, and it’s a quick and easy way for you to communicate your research to a wide audience. We’ve tried a couple of styles in the past, for example we’ve used an interview format with academics such as Dr Suze Kundu, Professor Jim Al-Khalili and Professor Alf Adams. Here’s our FEPS Marketing Manager Mark Richardson and Jim Al-Khalili in action:


Alternatively we’ve used a shorter format with researchers talking directly to the camera and explaining their research in a couple of minutes. We used this format to hear from Dr Melanie Bailey and Catia Costa about a fingerprint drug test developed by their team, and here is Dr Katriina Whitaker talking about her research on cancer for #WorldCancerDay:


Videos like these have gained between 1,000 and 5,000 views, which is a great return for a few minutes in front of the camera!

Instagram Stories

If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed that we are making the most of the new ‘stories’ feature. This allows us to create a story out of a series of images and short videos that stays live on Instagram for 24 hours. We’ve collaborated on Instagram stories to do interview snippets with academics, showcase research achievements and show off new facilities.

The beauty of Instagram stories is that we can use pre-prepared images and edit them for the story. Our Instagram stories regularly rack up views of up to 2,500. Here’s an example of one we did to showcase one of our 50th Anniversary wonder moments – Professor Alf Adam’s invention of the Strained Quantum-Well Laser:



Snapchat Stories

We launched our Snapchat account last August and we’ve been having great fun with it every since. Like Instagram stories, Snapchat stories are made by building up a series of images and videos which stay live for 24 hours. Snapchat needs to be done live so we can’t use pre-prepared photos, but it has a less ‘polished’ style to it so this isn’t a problem. We have a younger audience on Snapchat so this is a great platform to showcase the fun visual things that happen at Surrey, as well as breaking down research findings to communicate with this audience. 

As the account is fairly new we have a slightly smaller audience, but our stories still regularly receive around 1,000 views. We’ve used Snapchat to showcase things from the research that the Surrey Morphology Group are doing on languages at risk of extinction, to Surrey’s 50th anniversary celebratory events. Here’s a glimpse of a story we did with Dr Melanie Bailey and Catia Costa to showcase the fingerprint drug test developed by their team:



If you’re feeling particularly social media savvy then you could do a takeover of our Instagram or Snapchat stories. In this case, we would lend you one of our coveted social media phones for the day and you would be free to do what you like! 

For example, the Student Services Centre took over our Snapchat to demonstrate how the money team can help current students, and Surrey Sports Park gave us a glimpse into a typical day in their life. The Library & Learning Centre have done a number of takeovers for us, showcasing various services that the library has to offer and to help students use the library – here’s an example:


Student Ambassadors

We have an amazing team of student ambassadors who have done some great work for us on social media. For example, we have sent them off to do Snapchat campus tours, host Facebook Live videos to showcase events and use Snapchat or Instagram to cover things such as Freshers’ Fairs and sports events. Here is Harry in action at the Winterfest celebrations last year!


If you would like to get involved with any of these options then please get in touch with the social media team and we can come up with a plan! Email us on

Watch this space for social media training workshops – coming soon!

For more examples, visit our Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat* profiles.

*You’ll need to download the Snapchat app to your phone and create an account to follow us.

Social Media and the Rise of Fake News

Fake News and Social Media – Can false stories online affect our reality?

You may have noticed that the term ‘fake news’ seems to be cropping up more and more frequently; particularly with regards to the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to be named President of the US. But what is fake news? Who publishes it? How can you tell fake news from news that is true? And are there real-life consequences for spreading these false stories?

Firstly, let’s explore what constitutes fake news. Amol Rajan, media editor for BBC News, cites 3 different types of fake news in relation to the presidential election:

  1. False information deliberately circulated by those who wish to advance a certain (usually political) viewpoint
  2. False information that is circulated by journalists who are unaware that it is untrue
  3. News that causes Donald Trump discomfort

The first type of fake news is what this blog will be focusing on. This particular kind of fake news was rampant during the election, with unreliable websites claiming that Pope Francis and Denzel Washington had endorsed Trump – claims that were completely unsubstantiated. However, the post about Mr. Washington (which now appears to have been deleted from the American News Facebook page) had garnered over 22,000 shares in just a day. The post claiming Pope Francis had endorsed Trump for President was the most read and shared story on Facebook during the last three months of the campaign. This is the worrying part – people are actively sharing content that is completely fabricated, without first checking to see if it is actually genuine news. 


So where does this ‘news’ come from? Many of the fake news articles focusing on American politics are actually created overseas. As the BBC and Buzzfeed News reported, a small town in Macedonia, called Veles, operated a large number of pro-Trump websites that were pedalling fake news. Many of the people selling fake news stories are reportedly teenage students, who can make thousands of euros from their online activities. The articles they post are often plagiarised from right-wing American websites and then re-branded with sensationalist, clickbait-style headlines. But fake stories can’t really have that big of an effect, can they?

Actually, they can, and they have. One fake news story that led to a real-life emergency situation was the infamous ‘Pizzagate’ rumour. An online conspiracy theory (explored here) claimed that the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour in Washington DC was actually the headquarters of a child sex ring headed by Hillary Clinton. In a recent poll, 14% of Trump supporters said that they believe this to be true, with a further 32% saying they aren’t sure whether the claims are real or fake. One such person, Edgar Welsh, went in search of answers himself. On 4 December 2016, Welsh entered Comet Ping Pong with two firearms. He allegedly pointed a rifle at the head of an employee, who ran away. Welsh then proceeded to discharge the firearm in the restaurant, causing widespread panic. Luckily, no one was harmed.

In an interview with the New York Times, Welsh revealed that he originally heard about the fake news regarding Comet Ping Pong through word of mouth. He then went on to investigate the claims using the internet, saying that what he found left him with the impression that ‘something nefarious was happening’. According to the article, he said he ‘did not like the term fake news, believing it was meant to diminish stories outside the mainstream media, which he does not completely trust.’ This trend of not believing trusted media is increasingly popular amongst Trump supporters, and even the Trump administration itself, as Sean Spicer’s news conference revealed.

But it’s not just right-wing publications that are publishing false information. Left-wing Facebook page Winning Democrats published an article in May 2016 which claimed that Ireland would be ‘officially accepting Trump refugees from America’. If you try to click on the link to that story now, however, you are brought to an error 404 page, which likely has something to do with the fact that the claim was debunked by the Irish Department of Justice. Despite this, the story was still shared over 15,000 times. This prompts the question; how do we stop the spread of such falsehoods?

The answer to that lies mainly in our own responsibility as readers. Non-partisan organisation FactCheck, whose mission is to monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by American politicians, have produced a checklist for people to improve their ability to differentiate between real and false news. This checklist advises considering the source of the story, checking the author is an actual reporter, and ensuring that the sources cited are real and actually back up the claim being made, amongst other advice. The BBC also published a similar article with advice on how to spot a fake news claim.


In addition to being more vigilant as readers, Facebook have announced that they are introducing a series of changes to help reduce the spread of fake news. They will be working with third-party fact checkers, who will flag stories which they identify as being fake. There will be a notice on the disputed story and a link explaining why the story has been marked as likely to be fake news. These stories are then likely to appear lower in your newsfeed than news from verified sources. Users also now have the option to report hoaxes themselves, and an alert will  show if you try to share a story which has been earmarked as fake.

Will this be enough to deter people from sharing fake content online? That’s difficult to answer. Some people will continue to share these ‘news’ stories simply to further their own agenda, regardless of the fact that the articles’ claims have been proven false. On the other hand, I believe that there will be a significant number of social media users who will take the warnings from the new Facebook flagging system on board. Hopefully these improvements will make the majority of users think twice before sharing a questionable story on their social channels.

5 approaches to making your social media content irresistibly clickable


Posting on social media can be tough. You can spend hours creating the perfect blog post or article, you share it on social media… only to have no one click on it.

It’s essential to ensure that your audience is front of mind, both when deciding on the topic of your post and when writing the social media post itself. Your audience are almost definitely time-poor, so you need to do everything you can to capture their attention in the increasingly busy social media space.

Here are a few ideas to help make your content more clickable.

1. Demonstrate the value

When creating your content and writing your social posts, you should be asking yourself “Why should anyone want to read more?”.

Your followers are real people, not just a number. They have real needs and real problems (that you could potentially help to solve). You need to take the time to get to know who they are, and tailor your content around their interests, demands and needs.

When creating your social media post, make sure it answers the “What’s in it for me?” question – put yourself in the shoes of the reader.

  • How will the reader benefit?
  • What problem will it solve?
  • What will they gain or learn from clicking through?

2. Speak to your audience

This may seem like a silly one – of course you need to speak to you audience! What I mean by this, however, is using words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ to make your audience really feel like it’s them you’re sharing something with, and helps to make your content feel more accessible.

For example, which of the following seems more engaging?

Discover how you can use social media to communicate effectively with your audience: [link]

Discover how social media can be used to communicate effectively: [link]

Consider how personally compelling your post is, and whether that’s actually enough to result in a click-through.

3. Build curiosity

Asking a question is one of the easiest ways to arouse your audience’s curiosity and really get them thinking. However, also be sure to include a bit of extra context around the topic and give the reader a hint of what they might find if they click-through.

Quotes, statistics and surprising facts are other ways of capturing attention and building curiosity, helping to drive engagement with your content.

4. Keep it simple

Research on how people read online has found that they actually don’t read at all—they scan. People approach social media feeds in the same way, meaning it’s essential your content captures their attention. Users scan, rather than reading word-for-word, just waiting for something to catch their eye.


Keep your language clear and simple. This is the best way to catch followers’ attention long enough to encourage them to click.

Never use a three-syllable word (like “utilise”) when a one-syllable word (“use”) will do. Use active (rather than passive) sentences to keep your sentence structure simple and easy to understand.

5. Include a call to action

It’s an easy thing to overlook, but if you want potential readers to click through to your content, it’s a good idea to actually ask them to click through in some way. That ask is a call to action.

Next time you’re creating your social media posts, attempt some of these universal tips and see if they make a difference to engagement on your posts. If you need more help on creating some winning social media posts, check out our 12 steps to success

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