5 Tips for Social Media Engagement

What does engagement on social media look like?

May 20, 2015
5 ways to engage using social media

What does engagement on social media look like? How can we use social media for engagement? We have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn...now what?

I often write about using social media for engagement on this blog. As communication channels, social media are terrific platforms for connecting with your campus community. In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of individual user accounts as tools for engagement, inspiration, and education.

Let me first say that engagement via social media takes time. If you don't have enough time to engage with people then you'll never truly get the value of social media. If you want to get "better at social media" you have to work at it.

It sounds straightforward in the sense that if you translate your existing engagement efforts: workshops, hallway conversations, phone calls, office hours, emails, and coffee conversations, then you'll be able to see that in order to engage with your community via social media, you'll have to allocate a good amount of your daily routine to staying digitally connected.

Once you're committed to giving social media engagement the time that it requires, then it's time to start engaging. First off, please note that I am a bit of a proponent of using Twitter for engagement. It's exceptionally versatile, mobile-friendly, and it offers everything you need from a social media channel.

Having said that, these tips can be applicable to other services/apps, but there's always nuance with every single social media platform. In addition to the need for time, I would say that the next most important aspect of using social media is that realizing/appreciating that each channel has its own unique set of norms. What works on Twitter isn't always going to work on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat. However, think of your social media engagement experience as part of a scaffolded learning journey. Each moment improves your fluency, competency, and confidence.

To help you get started (or even if your mid-stride) I've listed 5 ways that you can use to jumpstart your social media engagement endeavors:

  • Search and Answer - Use a social media dashboard like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to create columns of relevant search terms, user profiles, and segmented lists. Social listening is a major aspect of engagement. What is your campus community saying? What do people want to know more about? How can you inject your message, information, and personality into the stream? Social media channels are often referred to as "parties." If you go to a party and only talk about yourself, you'll never actually "meet" people. How can you assist the staff, students, and faculty at your institution? Provide something valuable via your digital channels and you'll give people a reason to connect with you.
  • Follow Everyone - Clearly this is Twitter-based jargon, but the fact is, you need to let people know that your account exists (something that's obviously important for getting out of the engagement starting gate). Following accounts is a great way to start a conversation. Follow and then send out a mention. Something like "hey, we're here, we followed you, here's why, and have a great day!" Links to your social media accounts should be in your email signature, digital signage, website, and any printed materials. You've created a wonderful social media presence...now let everyone know about it.
  • Less is More - Don't try to be everywhere all at once. Focus on a single social media channel (e.g. Twitter) and then make sure that you provide content and conversations galore. Also, if you're just sending out links/information, you're doing it wrong. Sorry to be so harsh, but engagement doesn't mean that you replicate a bulletin board in a digital context. Promotion of events/services should be done on a limited basis. Be social with social media and engagement will occur.
  • Translate Brick-and-Mortar - How do you build rapport with your campus community in a face-to-face context? Think of social media as the digital equivalent to those efforts. Build rapport, create connections, and engage. Remember, just like in-person networking, social media engagement doesn't happen instantly. Take your time to develop your voice, style, and tone. Above all though, it's important to emphasize that this is human-to-human communication. Departments that communicate as an "office" should strive to add personality to their social media posts.
  • Consistency and Availability - You've promised your community that you'll provide quality content and interaction. Now you have to keep it up. Manage expectation on your social media channels. Once your community starts to engage with you (because you are reciprocating said engagement) then you have to maintain a certain level of connection. The best part of this is that once you've got things running at a certain level, you'll be able to keep it going with less effort than when you started. Why? Because you'll be much more adept at engaging via social media sites/apps/channels due to experience.

What would you add to this list? How are you using social media for engagement at your institution?

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