96% of 18-35 year olds are on a social network. With statistics like these, higher education institutions are rushing onto social media to meet their students where they are. What they often forget however, is that creating the accounts shouldn’t be the first step. When developing a social media strategy, planning and preparation are important to ensure direction and proper execution that will deliver results. Before creating social media channels or jumping into any conversations, it is important to have goals, procedures and responsibilities set. At John Jay College, we have cultivated a social media identity separate from the general college pages in order to more readily communicate the information that current students want and need to know. So here’s what to do if you want to develop social media channels for your division or department.
Before you start creating accounts and posting content, define what your goals are and what success looks like for you. Is it:
- Building buzz and conversation around a particular topic?
- Better overall brand awareness among students?
- More attendees at events?
- Increased use of resources in your office/department?
- New knowledge about the students and how they view your brand?
Every strategy should begin with measurable goals and objectives that you work towards throughout your campaign. By deciding on the goals first, it helps to decide what channels you should be on, and what approach to content you will take. Next you will build the foundation.
Your foundation will help to instruct how you structure your strategy and communicate. First you must identify your audience, brand channels and the kinds of content and information your students seek. Answer the questions:
1. Who am I talking to?
2. Where are they online?
Create a list of possible brand channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, Vine, Snapchat, Yik Yak, Whatsapp etc.
3. What do they want to know?
Do a brain dump of all of the topics that your audience is truly interested in knowing about. Remember, that just because something is a priority for you, does not mean that it is also a priority or of interest to your students.
Community and Content
Once you have your goals and foundation set, you can begin to create content and engage. Students need to be engaged in a way that seems natural and organic. Social media in higher education should be approached like a conversation that encourages and facilitates two-way dialogue. Social media managers should ensure that you are not talking “at” students but “with” them and engaging in the conversations they are already having online. As you will see, although the student didn’t @mention us directly, we were able to find their tweet by monitoring keywords and reply in a timely manner.
— John Jay Students (@JJCStudents) October 3, 2014
At John Jay, we focus on a personable approach using GIFs and memes to make students laugh or brighten up their day. That might not work for all institutions, so it is important to do your homework internally and see what students respond to most.
Below are some content types and ideas you can begin to implement.
- Fill-in-the-blank posts (e.g. “If I had _______ I would _________”)
- Tag posts (e.g. Tag your favorite ________)
- Photos: candid shots of your students, campus activities, your employees/staff, or snap shots of the campus landscape.
- Infographics: Students feel a sense of pride and connectedness when they can share some information about their campus. Create infographics that share campus history, facts, demographics and tips.
- Digital guides: upload your campus publications to Issu and share those information guides and campus magazines online.
- Fan photos: Search for hashtags related to your college or university on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and repost or feature it on your channels.
- Photo Collage: Whether it’s advice on what to wear to a particular event, things to bring or places to go, a visual advice piece is not only helpful but easily shareable.
- Twitter Trends: Amplify your reach by finding content that’s popular and trending on Twitter and jump into the conversation.
- Twitter Chats: Twitter chats are a great way to engage with your community. Chat for an hour about a pressing student topic, host a digital town hall or a Q&A with successful alumnus.
- ‘Caption this’: Post a photo and ask your fans to come up with creative or funny captions.
- Holidays and Monthly Observances: Create content around holidays that are occurring and observances such as Domestic Violence Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month etc. Don’t forget to celebrate odd holidays like National Beard Day. Use a websites like Days of the Year to find out what today’s holiday is.
- Profile an employee: Let your followers virtually meet the people who make the magic happen.
- Badges: Celebrate student and happenings like Dean’s List, graduation, birthdays or even a large win for an athletic team by creating easily shareable graphics.
- Google+ hangout and live streams: Connect with students that are off-campus by live streaming events and hosting virtual panels and Q&A sessions.
Bonus: Promote your events and services
There’s a reason this one is last on the list and a bonus. There’s a time and a place for self-promotion on social media, but it shouldn’t be the main reason you are on it. Each channel is different, but a good rule of thumb to follow is 70% of content is informational, engaging and inspirational and 30% promotional.
In order to tell your story, you first need to become aware of what your story is. After you uncover your story, it is important to find and hone your authentic voice. How and what do you want to be portrayed, represented and known for? What do you believe in and want to promote? This process requires research to ensure that there is an accurate portrayal of your brand and institution. Remember that social media is all about conversations and storytelling. You want to use your brand’s channel to spark students’ interest, make them feel inspired, connected and motivated and build a connection that allows them to be invested and prideful.