You’d be hard-pressed to find a college or university anywhere in American that isn’t on social media. They understand that social media are critical components to the vibrant communities they need to build to stay engaged with their varied stakeholders. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and future students are all online. So schools need to be, as well.
But how do you ensure that you use social media effectively, with meaningful efficacy? Start with clearly defined goals, a uniform voice, and a plan to follow though.
Create Guidelines and Bring All Your Social Media Under a Single Umbrella
That doesn’t mean any one person or department is in charge of it all. On the contrary, while a consistent university voice is important, tone can—and should—change depending on the club, organization or sport. The Dance Club will have a decidedly different social media community than the football team. Channels and communities on which Institutional Development is active will have different messaging than those sponsored by Student Recruitment.
Although there will be differences in how an internal organization builds and maintains its social media channels, anyone representing your school’s brand must adhere to certain rules. You decide what they are. But they should be documented and posted. New York University does a fantastic job of managing its hundreds of social media accounts. It also explains how to create profiles and speaks to the dos and don’ts of social media, as determined by NYU.
Observe The Best Practices of Whichever Channels You Use
Each social media platform has its own distinct feel and format. You wouldn’t post the same kind of content on LinkedIn as you would on Snap Chat. And even though images have become important components across channels, some sites, like Instagram, call out for more artful imagery and picture stories. You will also need to obey each channel’s rules about messaging, protocol and character limits and pay attention to what’s typically done on each channel. Hashtags are still a must on Twitter, but do you need them on Facebook? And each platform has its own unique feel. As you’d guess, LinkedIn is professional and business-focused, but how would you use Pinterest? Or would you?
Customize Content for Your Audience(s)
Whether you use social media to organically interact with your audience or use the platforms for paid media advertising, provide users with content they actually care about. Your big donors want to know about capital campaigns, financial decisions and long-term planning. But those future students of yours want to see a little bit about campus life. Is it fun? Will they fit in? Social media allow you to highlight the very best of your institution. And use a variety of content types. Images and short posts serve one purpose. Synopses of your professors’ most recent publications server an entirely different one and will likely hit a different audience.
Trust in Student Ambassadors
If you want to elicit positive reaction from what you post to social media, employ a few native speakers. No one knows how to interact with people on social media better than those who are on it every day. Allow active community members to step up as student ambassadors. It doesn’t matter if your ambassador is a member of the Drama Club, Lacrosse Team or Study Abroad program, he or she probably knows what is of interest to fellow members. Of course, they will need to follow the same rules and guidelines as all your other social media users, but if you want an authentic voice, enlist real people.
Be Social and Responsible
Social Media are sometimes viewed as trivial because they are about being social. But social media also allow users to connect with an immediacy unheard of just a couple of decades ago. Use the platforms to raise social consciousness on topics that matter to the mission of your institution. Highlight all the good your students do. Also, use social media as an integral part of your crisis communication plan. Whether it’s an all-out emergency or just important campus updates, use social media to alert relevant stakeholders.
If you’re ready to improve your social media presence, contact the Social Media experts at ESM Digital. We know all the nuances of all the media and what works best in higher education marketing.