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4 tips to help students’ unions boost student engagement


The 22/23 academic year is looming, and almost 300,000 new students will begin a new chapter in their lives come September, when they head to campus for Freshers Week. A captive audience seeking direction, friendship and support, Freshers Week (also known as Welcome Week) is a students’ union’s opportunity to welcome new and returning students to University with open arms and help them to find their feet.

In 2022, native reported that through the pandemic 47% of students didn’t  feel part of a campus culture, and 40% didn’t feel part of a community. The effects of the pandemic were felt by students and it’s Student Unions’ time to rethink their strategies to engage their communities – to vote, spend at commercial services, participate in activities, join clubs and societies, volunteer and more. We’ve pulled together our top tips to engage students at Freshers Week, and maintain engagement for the duration of their university career.

Students working together and engaging in work

Remember your audience

According to Universities UK approximately 25% of students are postgraduates. A MA or PhD finalist will have contrasting priorities to an 18-year-old undergraduate moving away from the family home for the first time. When reviewing your campaigns and events calendars take note of this. Segmentation is your best friend to ensure students receive targeted communications that resonate and result in higher engagement rates. 

Reframe your messaging

If you want students to engage with you on campus, on email or online, your words have to resonate. If you don’t respect that? The blinkers will go on and the unsubscribe button pressed. To avoid losing touch with your audience, stay up to date with the changing needs and cares of your students. Understand their loves and hates, dig into their challenges. Take these insights to shift your messaging from ‘what we do’ to ‘why it matters’. Your audience will feel heard, and your engagement rates will benefit.

Get social

While traditional channels have their time and place in the marketing mix, students’ unions should be cautious about solely relying on them. Remember, the majority of your audience are Gen Z – a dynamic, tech-savvy, digitally-native and outspoken group of young people who rely on digital platforms to stay connected with friends, families and content creators. Spending an average of 7.44 hours per day on their mobile phones, if you don’t position your students’ union where their attention is, students are unlikely to notice you. And, no, Facebook and Instagram alone won’t cut it. Get creative on TikTok with authentic, low to no budget content to connect with your audience. With many more social platforms popping up, stay on your toes and be ready to pivot your social strategy… BeReal is the latest phenomenon amongst Gen Z, gathering pace in early 2022, the app has now amassed around 30 million downloads. Will your SU be the next to join?

Create unforgettable experiences on campus

Help your students live their #bestlife through events. Whether you have a venue or not, it doesn’t matter. Lecture theaters and virtual hangouts are also great forums to bring your students together. While their varied preferences will demand a diverse line up, native’s event packages cater for just that, running events aligned to four themes: play, identity, future and care. From virtual events to beat the cost of living crisis (‘Budget like a boss’), to small live events to show you care for your students wellbeing (‘Tackling change: stress & anxiety’) and large live events (‘Glitter Ball’) to let them blow off some steam. Work with us to alleviate the event planning pressure. Oh, and don’t let local promoters steal your thunder; learn how to compete (and win) with nightclubs and promoters.

Your students’ union is the glue that holds campus communities together. With a constantly changing audience, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and trial new ways of engaging with your students.
Join our mission to improve the student experience by helping to put SUs firmly back at the heart of the student experience, and change student life for the better.