All posts by Morgan Noonan

What Higher Ed Can Learn from Olive Garden

As I returned home from a five-month study abroad experience in Italy, I had to readjust to many things about America that I had either forgotten about or missed while gone. Fidget spinners, new music and Selena Gomez and The Weeknd’s budding romance are all a little perplexing to me, but I do have a newfound appreciation for one of the latest fads…the return of Olive Garden.

It’s no secret that millennials prefer to shop, dine and support small businesses. But just when chain restaurants seem to be on the decline in popularity, the Olive Garden logo makes a reappearance on my Twitter timeline.

While reworking through executive board changes and menu updates, the Darden restaurant seems to have found a witty brand voice that really resonates with younger demographics. Olive Garden’s messaging on Twitter plays into key concepts that digital natives are drawn tolike humor and pop culture. Here are three ways Olive Garden is getting millennials and Gen Zers to hit the retweet button:


1. Highlighting the latest pop culture like songs and memes.

The typical millennial Twitter feed is packed full of memes because they’ve become a culture for younger generations. They’re messaged back and forth, commented on and shared as a reflection of one’s personality. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a meme is worth a million. Olive Garden carries out the meme culture perfectly, not only getting a laugh out of millennials, but also calling attention to their food and culture.


Idea for EDU: Find ways to incorporate images of your school or campus culture into popular memes. When a piece of content is relatable for them, they’re quick to share with their friends.


2. Using polls to interact with their followers.

Polls are a really great way to get your audience involved, as well as gauge what people want. Olive Garden runs polls quite frequently on Twitter that not only get engagement from followers as far as retweets and likes, but that also start a conversation among friends about preferences at the restaurant. Some are done in humor which make them shareable.



While others are done as a strategic way to find preferences among their Twitter audience. When they run these polls, they’re pulling new information about what followers want to see and hear about and what this specific audience appreciates most about the Italian establishment.



Idea for EDU: Run a poll asking students/alumni about their favorite parts of campus or university culture. This is a great way to gather information about your target audience and curate content based on their feedback.


3. Tuning into current events pertinent to their followers.

Olive Garden is aware of what’s going on in their younger followers’ lives and what they find important. When prom rolled around, the restaurant had a series of tweets displaying their expertise in the art of asking someone to the dance.


Idea for EDU: The new semester is just around the corner, which means another move-in day for the books. Start a series of fun Tweets around move-in week with a hashtag to thread the conversation. Offer advice on must-see places on campus or how-to’s on laundry and eating for one.


Colleges and Universities on Social

By refining their brand voice, Olive Garden has found and engaged with a whole new audience. Their sharp listening and social monitoring skills has helped them create content that younger generations find shareable and humorous. Colleges and universities who listen to their followers and have a little fun with their content will find it much easier to connect with digital natives.


How is your institution adapting its brand voice to connect with new generations? Leave ideas in the comments below.

Higher Ed Technology: Inside the New Houseparty App


Houseparty is a new app that allows users to join video calls with up to eight of their friends. Similar to the AIM chat rooms of the late 90s, Houseparty is growing rapidly in popularity with Generation Z. According to a recent Forbes article, the app currently has one million daily active users, 60 percent under the age of 24.

app-in-hand-1200x800The app is easy to use and straight-forward in functionality. Once you set up an account with a username and password, you are asked to add a phone number. This is how you add contacts.

Once you’re in the chat mode of Houseparty, you can invite friends to join your ‘party.’ Users already set up as your contacts will be notified that you are ‘in the house’ any time you open the app, making it easy to join in on conversations.

After you are ‘in the house’ with friends, the app works as a video chat room. Any friends or friends of friends can join the chat unless the room is set to ‘locked’ and only the people currently in the room can be in the chat.

How can higher ed use this popular app?

Houseparty is a personal app that requires an effective strategy for those in higher education wanting to utilize it.

The app could be useful for schools engaging with prospective undergraduate students. With such a young demographic, universities could stand out from their competitors by meeting prospects where they already hang out. Schools could also use the app to create personal interactions between students and staff who can answer their questions.

Admissions counselors or program directors can schedule times for up to eight students to join them on the app, giving students a chance to engage in face-to-face, small group conversation. This creates a space for casual conversation and opportunities for live Q&As, campus tours, how-tos and other helpful engagement sessions with prospective students.

Schools should cautiously leverage the app due to its level of privacy. However, for schools looking to try something new and engage students, Houseparty is an app worth considering.

Watch the Houseparty demo on their site for a quick run-through of how to use the app.

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What Higher Ed Can Learn from Taco Bell: Social Listening

According to Sprout Social, social listening is “the process of tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging them to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences.” Companies and brands listen to conversations on social platforms and use what they find to engage fans.

Taco Bell established their brand personality on social media and has an audience that’s quick to interact. Through social listening on Twitter, Taco Bell is showing us all how it’s done.

Image1TBContent Engagement

One of the main ways Taco Bell uses social listening is with followers’ content. Whether simply retweeting a follower or quoting the tweet and including a message, a lot of Taco Bell’s content on Twitter is follower-generated. Not only does this make the Taco Bell brand more personable, but it also gives other followers a reason to engage and interact with the company – so their content might be featured.



Support on DemandImage2TB

Another useful facet of social listening is the opportunity to maintain almost immediate customer support. Have a question about the latest deal on Doritos Locos Tacos? Social Listening allows Taco Bell to see who’s talking about their brand and directly answer user questions. Businesses able to quickly answer questions via users’ favorite social media channels appear helpful and connected.

Setting up alerts in Google or using a tool like If This Then That allows you to receive notifications when someone mentions your brand. Customer service is crucial in retention, and paying attention to what people are saying about you will set you apart.


Image3TBA Case for Higher Ed

Though higher education brands might not be tweeting about Baja Blasts, following Taco Bell’s lead in social media interaction with users could greatly improve brand personality and community retention.

One school with a good social listening strategy is Belmont University. Belmont responds quickly to questions students tweet and replies calmly to issues they might be having. Quick responses on social media allow Belmont to diffuse potential problems almost immediately before they become larger issues.

Image4TBBelmont is even able to do this without the user directly tweeting at them. They use social listening tools that send an alert when someone posts about Belmont on the web or on social channels.

Don’t want to clog your generic school account with mentions answering followers’ questions? Taco Bell retweets a few exceptional users on their main account, but answers the majority of questions they receive on their @TacoBellTeam account. This way followers’ timelines aren’t bombarded with Taco Bell mentions, and people’s questions still get answered. It’s the best of both worlds.

Ready to create a social media strategy that gives your brand a relatable personality? Get in touch with us about our Content Strategy services.

3 Interactive Features of Facebook Live

Interactive content is becoming more prevalent in higher education advertising. It’s no secret that digital content is crucial in generating and converting leads. Staying up to date on platforms that allow you to interact with prospective students can help you engage on a more conversational level and get students to relate to your school’s brand.

Facebook Live was launched last summer to public figures and has since become available to mobile users all over the world. In April, Facebook released multiple new features that make Facebook Live even more interactive during live broadcast. These features all contribute to the quick and bilateral style of social that Facebook has implemented with their video-focused feed.

I recently gave Facebook Live a try and quickly realized how useful the tool could be for recruiters looking to engage with prospective students in a new, practical way that’s mutually beneficial to students and brands.

Here are the three features I found most useful for recruiters using Facebook Live:

FB Live Comment


Real-Time Reactions

During a live broadcast, viewers can communicate directly with the video host. Viewers can also post an emoticon action (the new “wow”, “sad”, “love”, etc.) that acts as audience feedback like laughter or applause. They can comment directly during a live broadcast, which allows the host to have a real-time conversation with viewers.




FB Live Group


Ability to Post in Groups or Events

Before going live, you’re asked to set a framework for your video: who you want viewing your video and a video description. You can choose to make the video public (the next feature on our list) or private. You can also post directly in an event or group and the video will be shared only with users who are members.

Side note: an event set to public will establish your video as available to the public.



FB Live Map


Ability to Share on the Facebook Live Map

If you choose to set your video to public, your video will appear on the Facebook Live Map. This allows anyone from all over the world to see and interact with your live video.


Millennials are hungry for video content as the most active video users and consumers. Facebook’s updated tool allows a more colloquial and interactive way to reach prospective students, which could be incredibly useful for institutions looking for more engagement.

Ready to revamp your recruitment strategy? Learn more about our digital advertising services.