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by Veronica Steele
Scenario: You're the Social Media Manager for (fill in the blank). Better known as the expert, guru, maven, or one of the other 181,000 self-proclaimed appellations we social media people like to give ourselves. Your college or university sees you as the all-knowing social media wizard. So why do you feel so lost when given the daunting task of creating a social media strategy?
You're not alone.
From one social media manager to another, here are some best practices for creating an effective social media S.T.R.A.T.E.G.Y that goes beyond “that tweet thing,” producing results (brand awareness, seo, client support, leads, etc.) that even your boss will appreciate.
Rarely does success appear overnight; you have to plan for it. Your social media strategy should begin with baby steps that help build a strong foundation for future campaigns. Success will follow.
It takes a village to create, promote, and maintain quality social media campaigns. It is a HUGE misconception that one person can do it all. Recruiting people across your institution to become community social media managers is the best way for content to be generated and shared. These individuals are responsible for finding and promoting stories from their side of the house.
Often times we are handed new projects with less than realistic goals and virtually no resources. To this I say, use what you have.
There are plenty of good and reliable resources at low or no cost. It may require research and conversations with other managers but I promise they are out there. One of my personal favorites is Hootsuite. With an easy to navigate interface, this product allows you to connect multiple social media accounts in one profile, schedule posts across platforms, and delivers decent analytics. (I stress decent because most platforms are prone to inaccuracy or offer minimal reporting at little to no cost.)
Another resource that is very valuable and rarely tapped into is interns. College students these days are eager to get their foot in the door at an organization or field like yours. Most universities offer units toward graduation for internships, which means you don’t have to pay them - experience is enough. Plus, their enthusiasm generates creative ideas that can then be implemented - a win for both parties! (Check out this Harlem Shake Youtube video one of my students organized.)
Every strategy should begin and end with an assessment. Questions such as "who is our target audience," "what social media sites is our audience on," and "what resources do we have in place already," should be considered before diving in to any social media venture.
Assessment is like reading a map; it’s hard to know where you’re going if you don't know where you are or have been. Assess where your school's social media strategy is currently and evaluate how you got there.
Was it a straight shot or a journey with Frodo through the mountains of Mordor? Next, look ahead and see where the strategy should be going and decide on the best route to get there. Once you've reached your destination, assessing the way you got there is the only way to know if goals were reached effectively and efficiently.
It's a nice thought that when you have a social media team assembled you're ready to go - but unfortunately having the team is only part of the equation.
Some people may have a natural voice that communicates the brand in an appropriate way over social media platforms; others not so much. Other team members may have that tech streak and can find new or unused features in social media platforms. Nonetheless, there are two main points to remember when training:
Just as you should recruit a team to help move the institution's social media efforts along, you should also recruit an executive champion to support your cause from above.
This person could be your boss or your boss' boss. No matter whom this executive is, they should understand, respect, and promote social media efforts. Having at least one person on the executive level that understands the value social media can bring to an organization equates to less intimidating and frustrating conversations needed to express why your job is essential.
Set goals and objectives that fit your school's needs and realities. I'm sure I'll take some heat on this one, but I'm going to put it out there anyway: “It's okay to set a goal of having a certain number of likes on a page or retweets per month when beginning any social media campaign. “ I have read numerous blog posts and articles that demean these goals as being irrelevant and unimportant but I disagree. In the early stages of a campaign or strategy, it's acceptable to have a metric like this to look towards because, the truth is, unless you offer engaging, authentic, and relevant content, you won't generate likes or retweets anyway.
As your social media strategy grows, your goals and objectives will change along with it. Other goals to consider: brand recognition, program recognition, topic engagement, and even something as simple as delivering relevant and quality content. Whatever goals and objectives are set, be sure they are monitored and measurable.
Social media platforms have commonly and inappropriately been used as bulletin boards or soap boxes. Sure, it's a place to share your institution’s stories, news, and views but, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to listen to your audience.
Social media allows schools and businesses alike to host customer service centers, run polls, and facilitate impromptu focus groups for little to no cost! But, in order for it to be effective, you must listen to and validate your audience. It's easy to push an agenda onto people but it takes finesse to have your audience willingly adopt that agenda as their own.
Listening and validating customer thoughts is the finesse that is lacking in many social media strategies. Meet your audience where they are and be willing to promote their successes, apologize for your mistakes, and sometimes, let comments sit and just walk away. We all want to be heard but, if we're all talking at the same time, who is going to listen?