By now, most of us have been able to achieve some level of institutional buy in required to either test or use social media at some level within our universities. The issue we are now struggling with is how do we begin to use it ‘well’. While we are all still testing – and while it changes daily – there are no hard and fast rules to ‘doing it well’ no matter what some people may tell you. This is because ‘well’ is extremely subjective. Let’s discuss.
Every social media professional, it seems, subscribes to their own ‘best practices’. It’s very hard to tell people that there are a certain set of ‘must dos’ because we all tackle social media in different ways. Some swear by Facebook. Some love to use social media advertising. Some go all organic. Which ever your choice, of course, a certain mix and test of everything should be what we use to find how we can best achieve our goals with one major caveat: there is no best practice without strategy.
It’s not as easy as attending a conference or webinar on what xyz institution did. It’s great to learn from others – both mistakes and wins – but we all need to do our own individual research to find out what’s best for our institutional goals. What can we achieve with what we have? Where do we need the most help in perception? It’s not as simple as getting code from someone or doing the same creative challenge.
Which backs us up even further. What is your strategy for using social media in your communication mix? This is a question that most do not seem to ask. Many move forward with social media in a silo, asking how to sustain it – usually via creative campaigns or contests – rather than how to integrate it. Positions like ‘Director of Social Media’ pop up and dissolve as it becomes apparent that social media is not something that can be segregated to one person, but rather needs to be included into the overall communications plan. What it always comes back to is content – that which resonates with our audience, enforces our brand positioning, is creative and that we use across multiple platforms, including social media.
Because we do not fully integrate, we try to get by in gaming the system. We pay to boost posts, create ‘like gates’, rest on vanity metrics and struggle to truly define ‘engagement’ when our goals for using social were never created. We cannot just say we want to ‘build a community’ or ‘engagement’ but rather we need to tie back our efforts to our marketing and branding goals. This does not mean to say that everything needs a KPI or dollar goal conversion. We need to finally do the hard work to clearly state what our goals for social are in tangible, trackable data.
Also, social media is not just our accounts. It is conversations that people are having about us – without us – anywhere on the web. We need to think of social media more broadly than just that which we create and cultivate via our own tags. It is sharing of content from our site, other sites, forums, comments, reviews – anything. Our social media strategy – our integrated marketing strategy – should encompass these outlets as well.
Instead of thinking as social media, email, the web site, events, advertising and print as separate vehicles, we really need to work hard to weave them together in a way that makes sense to our audience. Even if this means more work and including people we may not usually include in our content planning. We may see them as separate products but our audience does not. Instead of creating new content for every medium, let’s think about multi-use of content in ways that build conversation and reiterate our points. To me, this is how social exists: as an extension of everything that we do, not an additional silo for a director to ‘keep going’.