Should you jump on social bandwagons?

Rachel Reuben shares strategies to evaluate new social channels.

February 9, 2016

Last month there was a great deal of hype about Peach, a new social network that seemingly came out of nowhere. It is a bit like Facebook (lite), Twitter and Tumblr combined. You can post a short update and photos; search for an animated GIF to share your emotion; answer pre-defined questions or trigger Magic Words; wave, “boop” or “cake” friends; and see your friends activities. (Here’s a Complete Beginner’s Guide.) It’s currently only available as an app for iOS, but they say they’re working on Android and other features too.

Brands such as Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster on Peach), who interestingly didn’t jump on the Instagram bandwagon, have established a presence and are starting to experiment. They share tomorrow’s word-of-the-day today in a doodle and sometimes with perfect animated GIFs to bring the meaning alive. According to this article, their new strategy focuses on exposing people “to the love of language” rather than just share definitions.

So, should you jump into using Peach and will it be the next Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? Or, will it go the way of Meerkat, Google Wave and Buzz which were hot out of the gate and fizzled fast to non-existence? With typically stretched human resources and bandwidth in higher education, how do we evaluate whether we should jump on the latest social bandwagon? Here are some strategies to consider.

  • DO land grab. Grab your institution’s username. It doesn’t mean you need to use it — it holds a place for you if you’re going to play the Wait and See approach.
  • DO research audience use. Read news articles (avoid tech-writer and paid blogger hype) and seek research data on use of the new media by target audiences from sources such as Pew Research Center and eMarketer. Poll or survey your specific audiences too. A great moment for this is during the college visit.
  • DO think outside the box. How can the latest tool be used for your brand platform?
  • DO think carefully about your brand voice, tone and association. Are they a strong fit for this new media?
  • DO use it personally first. Have your own playground to experiment before you bring your institution’s name into the mix.
  • DON’T delegate to student workers. Sure, staffing and bandwidth is tight, and students can be super helpful to help you stay on the pulse of what’s new, but marketing staff should be driving decisions, content and strategy.
  • DON’T feel you have to use every new social tool soon after it launches. Waiting can be an acceptable strategy. Universities being first on new social sites aren’t given any kind of special award. Make sure you’re mastering your existing media presence first.

Emily Truax, Boston University's social media manager, shares in this case study how their university started experimenting with Snapchat in early 2015. Knowing their audience and understanding the platform’s unique capabilities, they bucketed their snaps into news, events and celebrations. Although there was a fun factor, Truax says one of their primary goals is finding new and engaging ways to repurpose existing content their office has produced and the ways in which the stories they shared on Snapchat contributed toward that goal.

How are you using newer social media in strategic ways? Do you struggle with deciding which media your university should use?


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