Social Media Decisions to Make Before You Begin
Social Media Links
To find Pomona College-related Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social media accounts, click here.
If you can only handle one social media platform, choose Facebook.
Making the Decision
The first thing your office or department should consider before starting a Facebook Page or Twitter account is whether you should do so. Even though it may seem like everyone is doing it, if you don't have the time, resources, audience or a good reason to start a social media account, you don't need to do it. It is worse to start and abandon an account than to not start one at all.
When considering whether you need a social media presence, ask yourself these questions:
- Who...is your audience? Your audience may be students, alumni, faculty, staff, the community, fellow researchers and professors in your field, or all of the above. Knowing who you wish to reach will guide the content you post.
- What...will you post on the account? You can promote events, discuss current student and faculty research and projects, post relevant articles, post photos, share alumni news and keep your audience updated on the daily goings-on in your department, which alumni really enjoy.
- When...will you find the time to learn about social media and post regularly? This is crucial. If you don't "get" social media or understand its capabilities, you won't be able to make the most of this effort. You will need time to get up to speed with social media--whether through self-learning, help from the Communications Office, or advice from social media-savvy students or colleagues--and time to set up the accounts properly, and a small amount of time each day to post.
- Where...will you have accounts? This is primarily a discussion of Twitter vs. Facebook (see below). Deciding upon the social media service you wish to use will depend on who you are trying to reach and the type of content you wish to post. It's best to start with one of the "big two" (Facebook or Twitter) and perfect it rather than splitting your interest among many platforms.
- Why...are you starting a social media account? If it's because everyone else is doing it, that's not a good reason. If it's because students and alumni are asking for it, that's a slightly better reason. If it's because you have gone through this list of questions strategically and feel it is something that will strengthen your community outreach and engagement with students, alumni and the College at large, and it is something your office can maintain, that is the best reason.
- How...will you keep up with it? You must have at least one staff or faculty member who is responsible for the account and one backup person when the main person is out of the office. It is fine to have students help, but remember students graduate or move on in their interests. You need a steady commitment for social media.
The Time Commitment
How much time will a social media account really take? It depends how often you post. The suggested amount of posting for a Facebook Page is no more than 2-3 times per day, whereas on Twitter you can post much more because posts are much shorter (140 characters or less) and are less interruptive than on Facebook.
At a minimum, set aside at least one half of a day to set up your account. You need to make sure you have all your settings in place and have uploaded the appropriate photos for background and thumbnail images. After that, you should visit your social media sites at least once each working day to see if anyone has asked a question you should answer or posted something inappropriate you wish to remove. (This is rare.) This can take all of 30 seconds if no one has posted anything. So, the time commitment isn't heavy; rather, you must devote mental energy (and a Post-It note on your monitor) to remembering to check your social media account(s).
As for posts, the time commitment will depend on what you are posting. Posting an event on Facebook will take you longer than posting an article link. A photo gallery will take longer than one photo. Posting on Twitter is almost always faster than posting on Facebook. So time will vary. There are also some apps like Hootsuite that help you post items ahead of time, which can be handy.
There is additional work involved in promoting your account. Ask your department or office members to put the link in their email signatures. Promote it to your students via word of mouth or flyers, and on event notices. You should regularly remind everyone in your office that they can and should contribute by sending you reports about daily department life or accomplishments, links to timely relevant articles, alumni news, event notices, and photographs. Your social media account will be better if everyone is involved!
Once you have determined that your department or office wants to begin working in social media and decided who will be responsible for the account, your next big decision is which platform to use.
In the current social media landscape, you have two main choices of social media presences for your department or office. You may choose one or both, depending on your resources and audience, but our general recommendation is if you choose one, go with Facebook.
With 800 million active users, Facebook is currently winning the social media war. On Facebook, there are three types of accounts:
- Personal profile. This is the account for individual people. You must have this account to administer a Facebook Page or Group. At this level, you add "friends" who must accept your friend request to connect.
- Groups. This is like a message board. People connected by a common interest will join a Group where they can have conversations with one another. Groups have limited functionality as compared to Pages and are meant as a way for people to connect, not as a way for an institution or organization to reach out to people. Group members receive notifications of group activity, rather than seeing posts on their news feed. (See screenshot at right.)
- Pages. Pages are publicly accessible (you don't have to sign in) accounts that can be "liked," i.e., followed by people. Once a person likes a Page, that Page's updates usually show up in their news feed. You can have a unique URL like www.facebook.com/pomonacollege, and there is a lot of functionality in terms of statistics, promoting posts, etc.
We recommend that departments and offices use Facebook Pages as their main Facebook presence. Groups are more appropriate for smaller discussions among research teams, current students, classes, etc.
Why do we recommend Pages over Groups?
- Pages are public. Anyone can view your Page, and you can opt to let people post on your Page or not.
- Custom URL. Having a short, unique URL is useful for promoting your page, whether in print, email or word of mouth.
- Apps. You can add more functionality through apps (boxes that appear under the banner image) -- things like photo galleries, notes, events, etc.
- Timeline functionality. All Pages are now "timelines"--meaning you have the large banner across the top and the timeline on the right side. You can add Milestones to your timeline, which highlight historical or important events. You can even highlight particular posts so that they stretch across the screen--giving them more visibility.
- Posting as your Page. You can act as your Page--posting as it, sharing links from other people and Pages on it, and "liking" other Pages, which show up in an area on your Page, which is a good way to cross-promote throughout the College.
- Admin roles. There are different levels of admin roles, so that if you have student workers, you can limit their access to only what's necessary.
- Page Insights. Facebook offers a great deal of statistical information for your Page and posts, like reach, virality and engagement.
- "Like" button your web page. The Office of Communications can embed a "like" button on your department or office page for more visibility. Just ask us!
A Twitter account is very easy to set up and maintain. You choose a user name, select a large background image and a smaller thumbnail, write a quick description, and you're ready to go. All posts must adhere to a 140-character limit, including links. Photographs also appear as links. You can shorten links and upload photos within Twitter or use outside services like bit.ly and goog.l for links and Instagram and Facebook for photos.
The benefits of Twitter are it's easy and fast to use, especially from a phone; it inspires conversation between you and your followers; connections can be made across localities and communities (you may find yourself chatting with a researcher or journalist in your field, not just students and alumni); and you can post more frequently. Negatives of Twitter are that it's difficult to determine how many "real" followers you have (there are many spammers and businesses and organizations that may follow you); 140 characters can be limiting; and, in our experience, more traffic is generated via Facebook than Twitter.
If you wish to start a Twitter account, please visit our how-to section.