A foggy autumn morning on the University of Arkansas campus.
Take a moment to implement these steps and transform your social media updates from white noise to a clear signal for your audience.
Get A Goal
What are you trying to accomplish? Identify the top-level achievements that will define success for your unit. These are your objectives. Having objectives will make setting your goals.
What do you want to communicate? This is your message. It’s important to have a primary message for each post.
Social media is loud enough without our updates.
If you can’t say things of value to your audience, be assured they won’t pay attention. You’ll be left talking to yourself on an empty Facebook page or spamming tweets on Twitter with no one listening. Add value to your audience to remain relevant.
Consider your organization’s mission. That’s a good first place to look for inspiration for a goal. Also, consider the university’s guiding principles and unifying themes when thinking about your mission.
University Relations has established a set of Unifying Themes to help convey these goals in social media and other narratives. These goals and themes are important in development of impactful and inspiring content. Start by choosing only one or two goals max. By focusing your effort, you can tailor your message in the right way and evaluate success as you accomplish your goal.
This provides proof of your efforts, or what’s called the Return on Investment (ROI).
Perhaps your department, program, office recently created a strategic communication plan. Social media efforts should always be integrated within those larger communication goals.
Goals often start simple.
Common Goals in Higher Education
- Reputation building to raise awareness of the mission and impact of the university
- Build connections to the university across the state and nation
- Demonstrate value of the mission by showing life-changing opportunities, dedication to Arkansas, building a better world or how our campus community is a home.
- Recruit students to attend your program
- Retain students from one semester to the next
- Recruit high-quality faculty
- Raise money for your program
- Help recent graduates find jobs in their field
- Engage recent alumni with your program
- Engage with current students in your department or program
- Increase awareness of your program, event or new course(s)
Pick A Channel
Who is your audience? Where are they?
Knowing your goal helps you define your audience.
Knowing the audiences you want to reach helps you choose the social network to use. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. Therefore, having an account on every social network is probably not necessary. It is better to choose fewer channels and do them well, rather than adopt many.
Consider where your audience spends time online, what kind of information you want to share with them, and what type of content they expect from the people they follow on the networks you’re considering.
Twitter is based on brevity where users are allowed no more than 280 characters in each post. It has the widest audience demographics and all audiences can be found there. It is a good platform for reaching the general public and stakeholders.
Content type/frequency: Short
- If someone follows you, it is not required that you follow them back. You should follow those accounts who will provide value to you and/or your followers. Twitter is about engagement so talk to your followers in a conversational fashion. Do NOT argue. Reach out to University Relations if you face negative engagement on your feed.
- Jump on the bandwagon with trends like #tbt (Throw Back Thursday) or #FF (Follow Friday) but only in genuine ways that add value to the conversation. But keep hashtags to one or two per tweet.
- Use visuals as much as you can when publishing updates. Adding photos or videos can help your content stand out on Twitter.
- Tag outside partners where appropriate. Is news about new research funding? Tag the funding agency. Does and event partner with the city or other organization? Tag them. This increases reach and impact.
Things to Remember: The shorter a tweet, the better it will be received. Hashtags originated on Twitter, so they are supported.
Instagram is image-based and can be linked to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and other social media accounts. The audience tends to be younger; this is a great platform to reaching students and young alumni.
Content type/frequency: Photo/videos/IG Stories/IGTV
- Share beautiful photos that express who you are online
- Focus on aesthetics rather than pure marketing. For example, adding an event flyer will not perform well on Instagram. Try adding a photo of the special guest or lecturer. You can also add a video or audiogram.
- Use the multiple-image feature documenting an event with many photos. This allows you to add up to 10 photos in a single post.
- Use Stories to reach a larger audience. IG users are viewing stories at a higher percentage than IG Feeds.
Things to Remember: Instagram is not a web-based platform, so you must post photos from their mobile app. When responding to comments use the individual’s handle or they won’t be notified of your response.
- Getting started on Instagram
- How to Instagram, the Do’s and Dont’s
- The beginner’s guide to Instagram
Facebook is the largest social media network in the world; however the algorithms work against large organizations and may limit how many people see a university post. Also, the audience on Facebook is older, so it is a good place to communicate with alumni, but not a good platform to engage students or young alumni.
Please note: all Page Admins on university Facebook accounts must have a personal profile. There should be multiple Admins for your Facebook Page, including at least two admins who are U of A full-time faculty/staff members.
Photos and videos tend to have higher levels of engagement than just text. These posts also tend to get higher organic (non-paid) reach. You can also create “events,” notes, or even add additional sections to your page.
- Mention or “tag” other Pages to increase your visibility and increase engagement. You tag other Pages who have enabled the “tagging” feature. Pages have the option to disable this feature, and no tagging will be allowed.
- Regularly use the Facebook Analytics and Insights section to measure the success of your content and tailor it to have the most success with your audience.
- Include a call-to-action, or a reason for people to engage with you.
Organic Reach versus Paid Ads. You may have heard the terms “organic” and “paid” when referring to reach. Organic reach is defined as reaching people through your content without paying. Paid ads are – paid advertising. This means you are paying Facebook to show your content to a targeted audience, which may or may not be fans of your Page. Boosting your post(s) is also considered paid advertising reach.
If you are interested in running a paid advertising campaign and need more information, send an email to Ramona Collins at email@example.com.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, used widely for professional personal branding, job searching, and networking. In addition to personal profiles, the site is home to company pages as well as groups, where online networks and communities grow and discuss topics relevant to their fields. Given the audience and purpose of the page, LinkedIn is best used to reach stakeholders with information about research, discovery and points of pride.
- Groups are a good place for expanding your networks, sharing ideas and advertising for specific jobs.
- If you’re looking to pay to post a position online, work with central HR.
- Creating a company/showcase page is a good way to highlight the more professional accomplishments of your organization/unit.
Things to Remember: LinkedIn is a professional network. By setting up a personal LinkedIn page, you can boost your own credibility and that of your organization through association. LinkedIn now supports hashtags. Using hashtags can increase your reach on the platform as users are allowed to follow hashtags.
YouTube is the largest video-sharing website that allows users to upload and share videos. The website is a host to millions of user-generated videos.
- Don’t let videos get too long. The ideal video length is under 2 minutes.
- Engage people in the comments section, and when possible, collaborate with other channels when making videos.
Things to Remember: Building up a library of video content can be challenging. Videos should be useful and impactful.
Measure Your Effort (The ROI)
Is this working or not?
Face it; those of us who work in social media are often characterized as “that person who is on Facebook all day.” Well, there’s only one way to combat that assumption. Results!
Learn to measure and report your efforts. The number or numbers you use to measure are called your Key Performance Indicators, or the KPI.
A good starting KPI is to measure your social media Reach. This is a count of the number of people you can reach with an update.
Start a spreadsheet and measure the reach of all of your social media channels each month. Combine this number together for your total social media reach. Express this as a percentage and you’ll know how fast your reach is growing on social media.
Over time, you’ll see what channels grow and if any of them stagnate. This data helps you determine strategy and where to prioritize resources toward social media.
Another important KPI for measuring success is Audience Engagement.
It’s a simple formula that can be quite effective in judging what works with your audience and what does not.
Audience Engagement =
Size of Audience Reached / Number of Engagements with an Update
The “size of audience reached” might be your total number of followers on Twitter or it might be your “reach” as shown in the insights area of a Facebook Page. The number of engagements includes all the likes, retweets, comments or other visible actions taken by your audience with a single post.
You should get involved with HootSuite, a social media management tool that is supported by the university.
One of the easiest analytics from that program involves using an ow.ly link-shortner. That link-shortner will tell you the number of clicks your social media update garnered.
By calculating engagement or number of clicks through HootSuite’s ow.ly, you’ll begin to get a picture of what your audience is engaging with and what they don’t respond to on social media.
Use this information to become better and report to others in your department the successes you are seeing with certain types of content. Do more of the successful content and do less of the kind that doesn’t resonate with your audience.
You should begin measuring your efforts today so that you can benchmark against yourself. Your data becomes more valuable the longer you accumulate it.
If your Audience Engagement percentage is only .5 percent, don’t worry. Just try to get it up to 1 percent as time goes on. Then 2 percent … 3 percent. You get the picture.
Please contact Ramona Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to discuss measuring your social media efforts in more depth.