The University of Cambridge in England is one of the most recognisable and universally respected universities in the world. In 2009, the university began using social media to develop and deepen the connection between the school, its long history, and potential and existing students, employees, and wider communities.

  • Facebook followers icon


    increase in Facebook followers

  • Social accounts icon


    social accounts successfully managed & monitored

  • Empowered staff icon


    staff empowered to advocate on the university's behalf

What they did

Marketing University of Cambridge to global audiences

Social media makes the University of Cambridge more accessible to new and broader audiences. It also gives the communications team the opportunity to build and promote a greater understanding and public awareness of the work, programs, and research taking place within the University.

A close up of a building at Cambridge UniversityA lecture hall at Cambridge UniversityA student studying at Cambridge University

The challenge for the University is that there are over 260 social accounts that bear the University’s name but are managed by a variety of people—from students to different departments across the organisation.

The relatively small communications team, led by Head of Digital Communications Barney Brown, didn’t have the resources to monitor and maintain that many channels manually.

With over 9,000 staff and nearly 18,500 students, they needed an effective way to manage so many profiles in a way that protected the University's reputation while still encouraging broad participation on social media. They also needed to help its various stakeholders become more effective social ambassadors.

The bulk of what we do from our central channels focuses on sharing content, asking questions, and gauging audience responses to different types of content, which is often experimental in nature.


Barney Brown
Head of Digital CommunicationsUniversity of Cambridge

How they did it

Managing more than 260 social media accounts

To gain a better understanding of the content shared, conversations taking place, and the various accounts representing the University, the communications team turned to Hootsuite.

Cambridge Social Media Manager in front of his Hootsuite dashboardSetting up multiple streams and using insights from Hootsuite helped them get an overview of all communications in order to begin creating social media guidelines.

By developing an evolving set of social media guidelines for training, Cambridge helps its many advocates and contributors feel confident engaging in the University’s name on social media. These guidelines provide ideas and best practices on types of content to produce, how and when to share, and how effectively to engage the University’s core audiences.

Using Hootsuite's social monitoring, the communications team aggregates reports to monitor over 260 social media accounts belonging to PhD students, university departments, affiliated organisations, influencers, and friends of the University. This also allows them to see the impact of those channels and measure the effectiveness against the University’s overall digital strategy. Knowing how content performs helps optimize external communications for the biggest impact.

Metrics from Hootsuite have provided us with tangible and quantifiable insights to measure content that is shared with leadership teams. These metrics illustrate the success of content and how we can reach new and existing audiences better.

Barney Brown
Head of Digital CommunicationsUniversity of Cambridge


Using social media to understand public sentiment

Now that the University knows what content works, they’ve improved results by providing easily digestible, engaging content that draws a broad audience into a traditionally academic-focused world. Based on recent rising numbers of shares, likes, and comments, this strategy is working. Facebook—a key platform for the University—saw a 400% increase in followers in just a few months.

Cambridge University at nightSocial data from Hootsuite provides superior insight into how the University’s social media efforts are being interpreted by the public in real time. This helps shape how the organization engages with their target audience and gives them a chance to play with new content and ideas.

Together these insights and Hootsuite’s listening and monitoring capabilities prepare the team for crisis management and quick responses, should something arise.

Brown and his team can now track their output and see the impact that social media is having on attracting and engaging with the best students and top talent.

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