Making the Decision
The first thing your office or department should consider before starting an account on a social media channel like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, is whether you should do so. While social media is a fantastic way to share your news and photos and keep in touch with students, alumni and the Pomona community, you must be able to devote some time to maintaining your accounts.
So before you start, 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. 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? This is primarily a discussion of Twitter vs. Facebook. You may also be interested in posting photos on Instagram, Snapchat or videos on YouTube. 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 perfect one of the "big two" (Facebook or Twitter) first, rather than split your attention among too many platforms.
- Why...are you starting a social media account? If students and alumni are asking for it; you've gone through this list of questions strategically and feel it will strengthen your community outreach and engagement with students, alumni and the College at large; and you know your office can maintain one or more accounts, it's time! If you are unsure, contact Carla M. Guerrero in the Office of Communications for help.
- How...will you keep up with it? 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.
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.
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 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. 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. 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!
Facebook vs. Twitter
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.
If you can only handle one platform, choose Facebook.
In the current social media landscape, you have a growing set of choices of social media presences for your department or office. You may choose one or a couple, depending on your resources and audience, but our general recommendation is if you choose one, go with Facebook.
With 1.86 billion 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.) Groups require an active moderator or administrator.
- Pages. Pages are publicly accessible 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, alumni groups, 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 running down the page.
- 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. This is helpful for giving student employees limited access.
- 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, and add you to our Social Directory. Just ask us!
Visit Facebook to learn more about setting up your Facebook Page.
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. You can shorten links and upload photos within Twitter or use outside services like bit.ly and goog.l for links.
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 bots, 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.
Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube
Three other notable social media services are Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Instagram lets you artfully filter photographs, short videos and "stories" (similar to Snapchat) to share with your followers. Snapchat is for posting pictures or videos that will be deleted after a day. YouTube is for sharing videos.
Generally, if you have just one or two videos to share, contact the Office of Communications and we can utilize our own account to help you share your video.