The Social Media Tools I Can’t Do Without

All of us–whether it’s NFL star J.J. Watt who sports a VERY cool black arm brace or Pharrell Williams who dons an interesting(?) hat--have our tools of the trade; objects which are instrumental in helping us do our jobs better and/or feel a greater sense of comfort. When I was little, these tools consisted of my thumb (which could usually be found in my mouth), a “blanky,” and a stuffed giraffe I dragged around by its neck until it’s head literally fell off.  As I grew older and matured (well, that’s debatable), these tools became more elaborate and practical. Toys and stuffed animals were replaced by sports equipment, pens and pencils, personal computers, cellphones, Blackberry handheld devices, and so on.

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Today, I have vastly different tools of the trade–especially from a  professional perspective–than I did when I was younger. And in this post, I’ll share what some of these items are and how they are integral to my work as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

#1 Storify

My first–and these are in no particular order–indispensable social media tool is Storify. Most alumni would agree that we tweet A LOT. In fact, from January 2013 to December 2014 we tweeted 37,000 times which resulted in 4,900 retweets, 8,782 replies, and 6,905 favorites. While much of this activity consisted of day-to-day engagement with alumni, a significant portion of it also focused on event coverage as well as chats we curated with alumni.

Given this flurry of daily activity, I needed an easy-to-use means of collecting, organizing, and publishing specific tweets. Storify seemed to be the best option and one I was familiar with from my previous position at the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

)Here’s an example of some of the event coverage and chats we have published through Storify.)

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From the outset, the main objective of my social media work has been to engender as much alumni engagement as possible. This goal can be met through Twitter alone, but Storify opens up additional outreach opportunities. For example, once I publish a Storify I can send the link to classmates of alumni quoted in the story. Or, conversely, if I post a Storify of an event I can forward it to alumni who attended the event or were unable to attend. This can lead to additional alumni engagement and inform even more alumni of our social media efforts.

#2 TweetDeck

During a typical month, I’ll curate 2-3 chats on a particular business-or career-related topic via Twitter. These conversations usually last a few days and commence with a leading statement I want alumni to complete (“Leadership is…”) or a question I’d like them to answer (“Which HBS Professor had the greatest impact on you and why?”). In the hours leading up to the chats, I identify the alumni I would like to target–this can be based on everything from business interests to when they graduated–and then, using TweetDeck, I schedule tweets to these individuals

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TweetDeck is an ideal tool for this type of outreach. Like Storify, it’s easy to use and as a bonus it offers the option of seeing additional social media activity like notifications and mentions.

#3 Spredfast

I had been working at HBS for about a year when I heard about Spredfast for the first time. Our central communications office had adopted the social marketing platform and was gradually rolling it out to several departments at HBS. At first, the platform didn’t seem like a good fit for my work, since one of its primary features was the ability to schedule tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media activities.

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With the exception of the chats I highlighted in the previous paragraph, I do little scheduled social media messaging. And when we do, I prefer to use TweetDeck. But when I looked deeper into Spredfast and its functionality I found some very useful applications, one of which is its ability to provide excellent analytics. This is vitally important to my work since one of my mandates is to drive traffic to our alumni website. So, beginning in August 2014, I began sending all tweets and Facebook posts to our content via Spredfast, making sure to tag the content appropriately (i.e., all of our articles are given an “HBSWeb” ID). The following is example of some of the reports the platform generated.

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With these reports–which provide everything from clickthrough numbers to engagement stats–I’m able to provide yet another means to justify the impact and importance of our social media efforts. I can show, in a pretty detailed way, that Twitter and Facebook are useful means for getting alumni to consume (and hopefully amplify) our content.

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.

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