Having a well-planned social media strategy is essential before setting up a personal, professional or institutional account. The following information will help you identify your communication goals and map out a strong strategy to launch, grow and sustain engagement on your channels.
Determine your intended audience and identify your community. Which communities would you like to engage and communicate with? Does your digital community already exist? If so, how can you leverage it? Asking these questions will help you create a content strategy and identify which social media channels to use. Consider that prospective students use very different platforms than older alumni, for example. If there are influencers and thought leaders within your department that have a social media following, collaborate with them to activate and include their existing audience.
Define your goals in the beginning so you are able to measure results and refine your content strategy. Why do you want to start an account? Do you want to increase access to students, faculty and staff? Spark digital engagement with a specific community? Solicit user-generated content? Determine your goals, write them down and seek feedback from your team. Platforms and channels evolve fast and frequently, so it is important to map out your goals before you choose a platform. Social media allows you to deliver tailored messages to hyper-targeted audiences, so different channels often have different goals.
Allocate Time & Resources
Do not start an account unless you have the dedicated time and resources to maintain a consistent content strategy. A lot of campaigns fail because there is a lack of commitment to the channel. Many campaigns and channels start out strong but then become stale as content runs dry. Plan ahead! Realize and respect the amount of time your community spends on social media and allocate your time and resources accordingly. Also realize that social media are tools that will help you achieve communication goals, but may not always be the best option for every project or goal.
Research similar accounts within your niche for ideas and best practices. Create a competitive landscape of your peers and conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. What do you see working? What could you adopt, apply and augment for your own content and community? What do you see that isn't performing as well? Think outside of the higher education community for opportunities. Some of the best ideas and campaigns come from unexpected places. Explore communities that have similar goals and see what's working well for them.
Become an early adopter and be an active user of the platform. Respond as necessary to inbound questions and comments. Remember that social media is a two-way street. Each channel has its own unique set of functionalities and requires rethinking "traditional" engagement from static websites. Timeliness and consistent engagement is expected. Engagement often requires collaboration across teams. Share information across departments and work closely with your colleagues on how to best respond to comments, engage and promote content.
Determine what success means to you and your team. Your success metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be defined when you map out goals. Page Views are no longer the only metric that matters. Look at Comments, Video Views, Likes, Shares, Reactions and content submissions. Social Media channels are increasingly the primary communication channel for your community and contain a wealth of data. Are you delivering and tailoring the right messages on these channels? Use all available data, insights and metrics within each platform to measure and quantify engagement.