Scrolling through TikTok recently, amongst the short, quirky and distinctive videos, I was slightly gobsmacked to find still images among the short, quirky and distinctive videos.

With TikTok trying to BeReal, Instagram trying to be TikTok (and everything else), YouTube trying to be TikTok/Instagram, and Twitter trying to… (well I’m not quite sure about what’s going on there), it’s easy for social media professionals and academics using social to build their profiles, to feel overwhelmed by the rapidly expanding platform ecosystem.

So, here’s what is top of my mind for changes that might impact us in the higher education space in 2023.

Hottest topic first – ChatGPT. I have had a bit of a play and tested its social media skills in writing posts, and it can actually be quite impressive. The possibilities seem endless with tools like this – and of course, not only in social. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this isn’t going to put social teams out of a job. It’s still too early to say what impact AI like this will have on broader society, but for now, I feel really hopeful about the potential efficiencies tools like this can bring. Social teams or individuals could use tools like this to save time on crafting tweets and simpler posts, freeing them up to get more creative and tackle the highly unique and time-consuming challenge of producing Instagram Reels and TikTok videos.

Next up… have you noticed you’re being served more content “you might be interested in” on your social feeds? This is how TikTok’s main algorithm “For You” has always served you up delicious content – focusing on what it thinks you will like, based on what you have done on the platform already, what you have engaged with, what you dwell on for a few milliseconds longer and what other people who behave like you like.

And they are unbelievably good at it. Other platforms have learned from this and are now leaning in to “interest-based” algorithms rather than what you have actively “followed/liked.” Platforms that are structured according to niche interest areas like Reddit (where “subreddits” are like mini communities of their own) are thriving and we are seeing lots of success there with our UNSW Newsroom content. So, followers will be less important in 2023, and making content about what people are interested in, and finding where your audiences are seeking that content, is king. But you’ve already been doing that, right?

My team and I are continuing to find that emerging and evolving short-form video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels (and for China, Xiaohongshu or “Little Red Book” contribute a greater share of our reach and engagement, compared to traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Two points here.

First, creating content for TikTok and Reels takes way longer than traditional social content, and you need to involve digital natives who live and breathe this type of content to help you create it. One of the absolute best things about working in a university is that we have a huge pool of talented, interesting students to draw on. Incorporating student creators into your social teams is one of the best ways to stay relevant in 2023. Future students are spending hours every day on these platforms, and what they see there is helping form their views about what and where they want to study.

Lastly, whether you are a professional staff member managing social for your university, or an academic using it to get your research out there, you don’t have to be everything to everyone on every social platform, or use every feature of every platform for that matter. If you try to do this, you will spread yourself and your hardworking teams too thin.

I’m calling it – there are now officially too many platforms, sub-platforms and content formats to keep up with. But all is not lost. Take time out to fly up to a bird’s eye view and adapt your strategy… .Where do your key audiences spend their time, what type of content do they share and consume? What are you/your teams’ skills and interests? If you can successfully find where these two areas intersect, you’re on the path to success.

Jack Breen is the Social Media Manager at UNSW Sydney


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