Ever since I was young, I’ve used “To Do Lists.” These lists have gone from the simple (a small notepad in elementary school) to the more complex (I load my current list onto my Android). I used to think my “To Do Lists” were the result of my–at times-obsessive nature. But upon reflection these lists were (and still are) more about my desire to have a plan, a strategy if you will, for each day of the week.
What does this all have to do with my approach to social media? Quite a bit, actually.
Because, in my experience, one’s odds at social media success are enhanced by having a well-thought-out strategy which also takes into account both staffing and specific goals.
And, yes, I do have a weekly social media “To Do List.”
In this inaugural Social Media Matters blog post, I’ll share some strategies I’ve employed–as social media manager for Tufts GSAS and the Harvard University Business School’s alumni office–as well as some specific approaches which have proved successful.
Pick a Spot, or Spots
Any discussion of strategy needs to take into account where you want to be on social media or, as Michelle Golden says “the truth is you must assess each one [social media channel] to determine if it’s right for you.”
One way to make this social media decision is asking yourself the following question:
“Do I have the staffing necessary to make the most of Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform?”
The staffing requirements for Twitter, which is based on regular engagement often in real time, are different than those for, let’s say, LinkedIn. For Twitter, a college or university may have a dedicated staff member or team that monitors the feed, responds to questions, and looks for other engagement opportunities.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is less engagement-focused (at least for the time being) and does not require near constant monitoring like Twitter.
From personal experience, I spend at least four- to five-hours a day on Twitter-related work. For LinkedIn, I may spend two- to three-hours a week posting content, responding to queries, and reviewing membership requests.
Social media staffing can be a challenge so it’s usually best to proceed with caution before launching a Twitter feed, Facebook page, or other social media.
I, for one, have been on both sides of the staffing challenge.
In my previous position, I managed social media for Tufts GSAS (Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and the Grad Matters blog) and was managing editor, co-editor-in-chief, and contributing writer for Alma Matters, the magazine for arts, sciences, and engineering graduate alumni; was editor of Graduate E-News, the e-newsletter for arts, sciences, and engineering graduate students; and worked on a number of other print- and web-based projects). While we succeeded on many fronts social media-wise, it was often difficult to fully engage with social media (e.g., blog more often, tweet as much as I wanted to) with the deadlines and related work that came with these other projects.
Contrast this with my current position, which is focused primarily on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Flickr). In this role, I can tweet very often; conduct social media research (more to come on this in a future post); cover events (see http://storify.com/hbsalumni/hbs-reunion-2013-day-2-in-review); and be more active on Facebook (see https://www.facebook.com/HBSAlumni/posts/542839085772678).
Therefore, staff support considerations are crucial when embarking on social media. Nothing looks worse than a Twitter feed that hasn’t been updated for months or a Facebook page that has few, if any, “likes” because there is no one there to do the work.
Time for Some Strategery
Once you have decided where you want to be, the next step is to clarify your social media strategy. For some higher ed institutions, the primary goal may be to expand the brand of the college or university. For others, increased alumni engagement may be most important. In any case, knowing what you want to do on social media is just as important (if not more so) as knowing where you want to be.
With this in mind, here are some approaches I applied in my past position at Tufts GSAS which may be helpful.
Goal: to expand the brand of the school, provide customer service (e.g., career-related content) to graduate students and alumni.
How I pursued this objective:
A) Twitter: I researched graduate students and alumni on Twitter and added them to a series of lists (e.g., “Tufts GSAS Alumni”) which I reviewed each day; tweeted or retweeted blog posts by current students and alumni; identified higher education influencers outside Tufts GSAS and added them to a “Higher Education Contacts” list; tweeted or retweeted blog posts of these higher ed influencers; connected graduate students and alumni based on shared interests. Tracked ALL linked content I tweeted via bit.ly to get a sense of what content was most popular amongst our followers (Note: I spent six months engaging these assorted groups of followers before I launched Grad Matters (see below) This engagement was crucial for getting traction for the blog).
B) LinkedIn: I used our LinkedIn group to promote our blog posts, promote graduate student and alumni events, and publicize the work of our graduate students and alumni. Like with Twitter, we tracked all clickthroughs to linked content to get a sense of what content interested our group members most.
B) GradMatters Blog: We launched our blog based on the analytics mentioned above. Before we started the blog, we found that our followers were consistently clicking through to career- and graduate student life-related content, so we decided to provide this information ourselves through blog topics such as “A Graduate Student Guide to Developing Your Professional Profile—Part 1: For Careers Teaching in Academia” and “The Right Stuff: Graduate Alumni on What it Takes to Get Your Dissertation or Thesis Published.” We emailed each blog post to graduate students and alumni, shared the blog posts via LinkedIn, and shared each post via direct message to our influencers via Twitter.
These direct messages were effective for a few reasons. 1) Since we spent several months engaging our influencers, the direct messages we’re fairly well-received (that is, very few followers objected to receiving them). The reason for this positive response was, I believe, due to the reciprocal relationship we had developed with our followers–that is, we shared influencer posts with our followers and they shared GradMatters posts with theirs and 2) we sent direct messages sporadically. GradMatters was published monthly so our followers were not flooded with direct messages. This approach seemed to work. For example, my “Can’t-Miss Tips for Writing a Thesis or Dissertation” post generated 208 tweets; 95 “likes”; 30 comments; and over 4,000 post views.
Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.
Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.