As I share the progress I make toward formalizing the social media strategy for the university where I work, I can’t help but feel like I’m offering a very narrow perspective. I hope that my summary here is seen as one example of the countless ways a university or organization could proceed through the steps of defining a social media strategy. In this case, social media work was already being conducted on my campus and I’m working to formalize and measure our efforts. In cases where a strategy is being built from the ground-up or more quantifiable goals are set, there is much more to consider. I will try to note these considerations in short form along the way. Perhaps in the future I’ll expand.
In any case, with my disclaimer complete, let’s move to the topic at hand: the second step of building our data-driven social media strategy.
Choosing Social Media Channels
Given that the university is already engaged on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Foursquare, we are not in a position to choose channels from scratch. Instead, our choices concern the channels on which to focus our energy. Which channels offer the greatest potential for building community? In our University Relations blog, I reported that:
…because we’re working a little backward, we have the advantage of seeing what’s been successful thus far. Our data tells us that:
- Facebook is the most successful channel for us in terms of connection and engagement. As of this writing, the UM-Flint Facebook Page has more than 7,400 total likes with a potential reach of over 2 million. Engaging successfully with this audience will increase the likelihood that our content is viewed and shared.
- With nearly 1,500 followers, the university’s Twitter account has considerable potential. There is some work to be done toward quantifying engagement and reach, but there has been a growth of interaction between followers and the @umflint account, as well as an increase in the use of the#umflint hashtag.
- And then there’s YouTube. The videos on UM-Flint’s YouTube channel have been viewed nearly 80,000 times. Over half of those views occurred on the YouTube channel itself. The content we post is being consumed on YouTube, not just where we embed videos on the web. We’re not going to get the interaction on YouTube that we get with Facebook or Twitter, but we do need to contribute more content to our channel.
All of this isn’t to say that the university should ignore or abandon other social networks. We will continue to use Flickr for event photos, add tips to Foursquare, and brainstorm ways to utilize new tools as they come along (Google+? Pinterest?). But as we move forward toward the goal of building and engaging communities in measurable ways, we will focus on our biggest assets.
If the university were starting this social media strategy from scratch, this would be the time for research. To guide that research, we might ask questions like:
- Who do we want to reach/engage?
- Where are these people already engaging online?
- Which channels that will best allow us to connect and engage?
Existing research can provide information about audience behavior online. A fantastic resource is the annual Noel-Levitz E-Expectations report that examines the expectations of potential students and their parents when it comes to your university’s website or social networks. But don’t stop there. Dig deeper. Survey members of your target audience to find out which social networks they use (or don’t). Take a look at what’s working (or not) for your competitors. Familiarize yourself with the capabilities of potential networks. The key is to commit to a social network based on evidence that it will help you achieve your goals.