The challenge of catching the attention of our own audiences: opportunities and risks of Instagram in Higher Education Institutional Communication

Juan Francisco Gutiérrez Lozano, Euprio Conference Poznan 2019 speaker

Juan Francisco Gutiérrez Lozano - Spain

Juan Francisco Gutiérrez Lozano has been Director of the Communication Office since 2017 and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Malaga (Spain). Previously he was Academic Secretary (2007-2016) and Acting-Dean (2016) of the Communication Faculty-Media Studies at the same University. His research interests include TV Studies, Television History and Culture, and Broadcast Journalism. He is author of the books ‘Television in Memory’ (2006, Spanish) and ‘The Analogue Start’ (2014, Spanish). His recent publications in English include contributions in Transnational Television History (2012), After the Break: Television Theory Today (2013) and Popular Television in Authoritarian Europe (2013). He is a member of the Editorial Board of VIEW, the Journal of European Television History and Culture, and is currently also Director of the production and media content section of the Spanish Association of Communication Research (AE-IC) and Chair of the ECREA Television Studies section.

In this workshop we will share our experience of different internal communication practices used at the University of Malaga (UMA, Andalusia, Spain). Specifically, the workshop will focus on the recent use of Instagram as a way of approaching younger audiences, especially current students but also those who are interested in joining the UMA. The use of this external tool has grown exponentially in number of followers during the last few years, developing a new trend of interaction with internal audiences. As well as explaining the sort of messages and campaigns published on Instagram by UMA, we will show case studies of success and failure in using this social network. At the same time, we will show examples of other new tools – such as the mobile UMA-App – to demonstrate how these ways of catching the attention could improve effectiveness, but also create new challenges, in institutional communication processes. Participants in the workshop will be encouraged to discuss and share their own experiences about these social networks or applications, in order to find out what are the greater risks or opportunities of using external tools for internal communication.

Full description
The current complexity of the digital world means that emails or institutional websites no longer represent the most powerful ways to carry out effective University communications. They could even increase the risks of being ineffective, given the large number of messages users receive each day. This context forces us to look for different ways of engaging internal key audiences: from screens showing short messages and images, to mobile applications; from more effective use of social networks to more imaginative video production, in order to interact with internal audiences.

In this workshop we will share experiences of different internal communication techniques and practices at the University of Málaga (UMA), a young but large Spanish public university created in 1972 and with nearly 40,000 students and 4,000 employees. We will expose the weaknesses and strengths – depending on the strategies sought – of the most used tools: emails, web content, newsletters and other established methods. We will also demonstrate our most recent and effective use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and our own app developed by the University of Malaga, which allows customised information for both students and staff.

To encourage debate during the workshop, we will touch upon two concrete ways of internal communication: one as a success and the other that needs clear improvement in the forthcoming years:

  • The first tool, which has emerged recently as the most successful, is the use of Instagram as a way to approach younger audiences, especially current students but also those who are interested in joining the UMA. Instagram has become one of the more lively communication and interaction tools. The University of Malaga account (@Infouma) was created in September 2014, but has grown exponentially in number of followers during the last two years. The posts and stories are regularly viewed by 11,000 potential followers, who at the same time can request daily information through direct messages. In addition, this expanding tool allows the institution to quantify the effectiveness of each post.
  • The second case will focus on the more traditional email distribution list. Despite its direct nature, this tool has lost its effectiveness. As an alternative, the customisation of messages that the newly created UMA App allows appears to be a better option. However, we still need to improve the effectiveness of our current email lists, since audiences unused to mobile tools should still be able to receive the most relevant information about the institution. This workshop will demonstrate how effective internal communications will only be possible if we can avoid noise amid the increasing information and visual storm.