How a school handles its social media endeavors says a lot about the culture on its campus. Some institutions treat their social media channels like virtual billboards. Content is pushed out, conversations rarely take place, and posts get little to no engagement. It's essentially a hallmark of the old ways of doing communications. Think of it as PR 1.0...it's not engaging and it's certainly not adding very much value for the various audiences who like to engage with a school. Contrast that type of social media use with what most agree as being part of the best practices communications mix: conversations, reciprocity, customer service, community-driven content, and a commitment to engagement-oriented missives.
Additionally, social media policies at a school can give you insight about the climate of a campus. Some institutional policies are quite restrictive when it comes to how they frame social media use by campus communicators. A quick read of social media guidelines/policies for a school can be quite telling. Oftentimes, if a school's policies read as being fairly restrictive when it comes to social media use, it's due to a lack of understanding of the medium by those in leadership positions.
Consistently, those in senior leadership positions at institutions will ask me about the value of social media. The value of something is almost always a bit tricky to measure. Thankfully, there are a number of sites that provide social media metrics. In fact, Twitter has recently opened up access to a fair amount of tweet data. Drilling down into specific data for individual tweets is helpful for figuring out what types of content are working for your account. For example, when I retweeted this tweet from an ed tech event, I had no idea that it would garner so many retweets and favorites. Twitter's analytics provide all sorts of metrics for strategic communicators. You can see how many people have clicked on a hashtag in one of your tweets as well as the number of times viewers have emailed, retweeted, favorited, and clicked on links in your tweet.
Now, how do you translate clicks to value? Sometimes value via social media is as simple as looking at the number of times that something was engaged with by the community. If something gets a lot of interactions, it probably had something to do with whether or not people found it to be worth sharing, favoriting, replying, emailing, etc. By the way, did you read that Instagram has rolled out "account insights" for all Instagram advertisers? Social media data/metrics/insights is such a wonderfully evolving space!
One of my favorite things about social media is when schools engage in a spirit of social media openness. For example, when Duke University hosts "One Day at Duke," posts from all over the Duke-sphere are showcased. It's a beautiful thing. And, it's the type of social media initiative that says a lot about the spirit of leadership within those who do social media at Duke.
While it's not always mentioned in social media posts, Reddit AMAs are another awesome way that schools have used social media to provide candid answers to a variety of community-generated questions. Dan, an admissions officer at Tufts University, held an admissions-oriented ask me anything (AMA) event on reddit and generated 488 comments!
Okay, so this post has quickly turned into a social media variety pack...and I'm totally okay with that. In fact, here's a great read about hashtag guidelines that you probably need to read sooner than later. The "Art and Science of a Hashtag Strategy" is a great post for anyone who is formulating their hashtag tactics. And, if you don't have time to read an entire post about hashtags, that's okay. The University of Michigan (U-M) gets concise with their hashtag advice.
According to the U-M social media team's website, "Social media platforms may be new, but the strategic implementation of successful communications is not." While some might argue that quite a few of our social media platforms are actually not that new, the basic gist around being strategic with all communications is such a great concept.
In related news, in about three weeks, I'll be giving a virtual talk at the #InnovateEDU event that will provide even more examples of how institutions are effectively connecting their social media channels to create community, conversations, and clicks.
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