Social Media Decisions to Make Before You Begin
The first thing to consider before starting your department’s social media account is whether you should do so. While social media is a great way to share your news and photos, you must be able to devote time to maintain your accounts current and engaging.
So before you start, ask yourself these questions:
- Who...is your main audience? Your audience may be students, alumni, faculty, staff, the community, fellow researchers and professors in your field. Knowing who you wish to reach will guide the content you post.
- What...will you post on the account? You can promote events, discuss student and faculty research and projects, post relevant articles, post photos, share alumni news and keep your audience updated on news in your department.
- When...will you find the time to learn about social media and post regularly? This is crucial. Understanding social media will help 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? Deciding upon the social media platform 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 perfect one platform first, rather than split your attention among too many platforms.
- How...will you keep the account current? You must have at least two staff or faculty members administering the account -- one main person and one backup person. Students may provide assistance but they graduate or move on in their interests. You need a steady commitment for social media.
- Why...are you starting a social media account? If students, faculty or alumni are asking for it; you've gone through this list of questions strategically and feel it will strengthen your community outreach and engagement; and you know your office can maintain one or more accounts, it's time! If you are unsure, contact Patricia Vest in the Office of Communications for help.
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 more frequently because posts are much shorter (280 characters or less) and are less interruptive.
At a minimum, set aside at least one half of a day to set up your account. Make sure you have all your settings in place and have uploaded 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 how to respond to something inappropriate – contact Alexa Block in the Office of Communications for assistance on this. 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 perhaps 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. 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. 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!