Posted: April 27, 2012
It’s a no-brainer. Social media has to be a part of your institution’s marketing strategy. By now, you surely have some sort of presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and maybe even a blog and a Pinterest account.
But now what? How do you effectively communicate with this stuff? How do you create a dialogue with those you’re trying to connect with? What are the rules (or at least guidelines) for this brave new world?
At the end of the day, you want to make sure your strategy is one that helps meet the goals of your institution and represents your program well. By considering the following tips, you can make sure your goals are achieved and that your organization looks good in the process.
1. Understand your audience.
‘Targets’ are people too. When we use terms like ‘target audience group’ or ‘prospective student’ it’s easy to forget that these are real people we’re dealing with. Each person you communicate with has his or her own personal story, situation and motivations. Traditionally, marketers are taught to group like-minded people into these ‘target audience groups’. While this is still relevant in social media marketing, it’s also important to know that this social medium is where you can really connect on a one-to-one basis and start a true dialogue with the people you want to attract to your institution.
"What’s in it for me?" Hear that? That’s what your target audience is constantly asking. Put yourself in their shoes and try to answer that question when it comes to your social media approach. If you can’t find a reason for why they’ll be interested in your content, don’t post it.
2. Use common courtesy.
Thank others for their feedback. Unlike a printed postcard or a mass email to members of the student body, social media provides the opportunity for an exchange of ideas. When someone engages with you (retweets, comments, likes, etc), make an effort to thank them.
Deal with disagreements in a professional manner. When someone disagrees with a post you’ve made, understand that your conversation is often occurring in a public setting. Therefore, make a concerted effort to respond to concerns or statements courteously. And take the attitude that disagreements or negative comments are opportunities for you to address someone’s concern and to try and set the record straight.
3. Be transparent.
On a personal note. As a marketer, you probably have plenty of personal social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog, etc) that you use in parallel with the institution account you’re helping manage. If you have identified yourself as a staff member of your institution on your personal profile, make sure it’s stated that your views do not necessarily match that of the institution you work for.
4. Be sharable.
Make videos or photos you post easy to share. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to share photos and videos of events relevant to your institution. By posting low resolution photos with a watermark, you can make sure people following your organization can see what’s happening while also protecting your institution’s property from illegal distribution.
Make full resolution images and high quality versions of video available to the media. It’s helpful to have lower quality versions posted on social media accounts for easy viewing, but make it known to members of the media that high quality versions can be obtained for publication with permission from your institution.
5. Be accurate and consistent.
Follow your institution’s accepted standards on spelling and grammar. This idea isn’t groundbreaking, but keep in mind that your institution will be reflected positively or negatively based on what you say and how you say it. Spelling and grammatical errors will obviously reflect poorly on an academic institution. Don’t be afraid to have an extra set of eyes look over the content you’re about to post.
Get the facts straight. There’s nothing worse than taking the time to craft the perfect status update or tweet, only to find out the content you’ve posted is factually wrong. As an academic institution, you pride yourself on research and getting things right. Make sure to apply that to your social content as well.
These guidelines aren’t enough to base an entire social media policy on, but hopefully they give you a good idea of some of what you need to consider when crafting one. VisionPoint Marketing has been effectively developing social media strategies for higher education institutions for years, so if you’d like to know more about how to craft an effective policy for your institution, shoot us an email at email@example.com.