Social media represent powerful communication tools. Popular services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn have become ingrained in our culture. While these social networks first became popular by connecting friends and family members, organizations and brands increasingly are using these platforms to communicate with their audiences.
It’s tempting for offices and departments at Denison to consider utilizing social media, but social media requires a huge commitment. And, for that reason, it’s not right for everyone. No social media presence is better than a poor one.
If you’re considering an official Facebook page, Twitter account, or other social media presence, please first consider the following questions:
Have I tried putting this content within my Denison.edu section?
Without question, Denison.edu is the spot where your content will get the most views–that's where our audiences go first. We don't want to confuse audiences by forcing them to figure out where certain offices and departments put their most relevant content. Put another way, we don't want five departments using Denison.edu as their primary communications vehicle; three others using Twitter; two using Facebook; and one using Tumblr.
In certain cases, social media can complement or amplify Denison.edu content (e.g. individual voices offering insight and perspective), but social media can never be a substitute for keeping Denison.edu current. Denison.edu always should have the most up-to-date departmental news, event listings, services, and more. The college has a brand-new website and content management system on the way that will make the publishing process on Denison.edu even easier.
In short, social media should be reserved for special audience needs and content cases.
If you're trying to reach alums & students, have you heard about the new DenisonEverywhere site?
Last fall, Denison launched a new portal for alumni & students called DenisonEverywhere. It is heavily marketed through print and online channels, and, in short, has become the destination for Denisonians all over the world. The portal includes online groups, so we'll be able to create places for students, alums, faculty, staff to gather like "Political Science Students & Alums" or "Hilltopper Alumni Group." Your audiences will already be on DenisonEverywhere, and you can reach them under the Denison brand—you'll have a much better chance of reaching them on this site than on Facebook, where your Page is just one of millions vying for their attention.
But all my students are all on Facebook…
Almost certainly, your target audiences are on social media. But even though your students are on Facebook, it doesn't mean they'll follow you on Facebook. Put another way, students might be willing to follow a brand if it's Red Bull or the Daily Show, but probably not if it's an administrative office at Denison. There has to be a compelling reason to follow your office and department on Facebook. And that's why a content plan and commitment to frequent updates is key.
Do I have a content plan in place?
It's not enough to just be on Facebook or Twitter—social media is not a case of "If we build it, they will come."
Before you establish a social media presence, you'll need to map out what content you plan to post, determine a frequency of posting, and assign monitors to keep an eye peeled for comments and questions. Content updates should be more than just text—they should incorporate visual components such as photos and videos. And the content needs to be geared toward generating interactions (e.g. re-tweets, likes, comments).
Can I commit to posting several content updates per week?
Social media requires a constant stream of news and information—it's a real-time and ongoing conversation. It won't suffice to post updates every couple of weeks. If you want to engage your audiences on social media, you have to be ready to commit to this level of participation.
Will I respond quickly to comments and questions?
You're going to get frequent questions and comments from your audiences on social media. Do you have staff or students earmarked to watch for questions and interactions? Do you have a process in place for answering those, at the very least, on the day that they were asked?
What if I receive negative comments? Am I prepared to respond?
On social media, you may face tough questions or comments from your audiences—you can choose to delete them, but, if you do, your office or department will look bad, and so will the institution. Social media is all about transparency. You have to take the bad with the good, and you will need to address concerns in an open manner.