There’s something special about the campus recreation atmosphere that cannot be experienced elsewhere. Aside from a common interest in fitness and wellbeing, campus recreation center patrons are united by something bigger: a deep passion for their university.

Think about it. In what other recreational settings will you find such a shared sense of pride? In those campus rec spaces and during those programs you’ll often find an incomparable bond among students, staff, and faculty that defines and shapes life on campus.

As your department searches for innovative ways to promote its campus recreation programs and spaces, it might be tempting to rely on traditional media like posters, fliers, graphics, and events. But spotlighting your students and illustrating your one-of-a-kind campus culture is your most effective strategy.

When you focus your marketing content on students and other people connected to the campus community, it feels personal, not promotional. This approach can foster emotional connections and more effectively inspires your audience to take action. It also aligns with the psychological phenomenon, social proof, which signifies that people are especially influenced by the actions of others.

Social media should be social

Thankfully, social media makes it easier than ever to spark conversations and feature students, faculty, and staff in your marketing messages. Here are some ways to highlight the people who bring your programs and offerings to life:

  • Share stories. Everyone on campus has a story to tell! Build community by sharing inspirational stories of determination and triumph, which are common themes in sports and fitness.
  • Conduct interviews. Rather than relying on promotional copy to convey how amazing your programs are, let your audience hear it from other students. At your next event, find some students who are willing to hop on camera to talk about their experience.
  • Engage back. What good is social media if it isn’t social? If your followers take the time to check in or tag you in a photo, share the love! Like or comment on their posts, or reshare them.
  • Do Instagram takeovers. Switch things up by letting a student or staff member be the face of your social media profile. You can have a fitness instructor show how they plan their group exercise class, an intramural official speak to their close calls, or a personal trainer explain how to work the weight floor.
  • Ask questions. Demonstrate that you value your audience by asking for their input and opinions. Ask what songs get them going during a cycling class, or where they’d like to go on their next outdoor adventure trip. Use the poll feature on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to create a friendly debate.
  • Go live. There’s nothing more authentic than an unscripted live feed. Bring your audience closer together by letting them interact in real time. You can conduct a live Q&A or invite a stream of encouraging comments as your followers watch a competitive sporting event.
  • Spotlight your staff. Humanize your student employees or faculty members by giving them a platform to showcase what they are most passionate about in fitness and campus recreation. Their enthusiasm will be contagious.
  • Celebrate accomplishments. Have you crowned a new intramural champion? Or did one of your sport clubs just dominate a tournament? Congratulate them on social media and get their perspectives on the road to victory. Tag them so they can share in your pride.

The common theme throughout these tips is that they put individuals at the heart of your social media strategy. When you use social media to unify your audience and build meaningful relationships, not only will your programs will be stronger, but campus pride will increase too.

  • If you are interested in highlighting your campus or a NIRSA member’s achievements on your campus, pitch us your ideas.

Brianne Fleming began working in campus recreation as the marketing lead at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. She is currently a marketing instructor at the University of Florida and a brand consultant. Her blog highlights marketing lessons found in pop culture; follow along at