Jump-Start Your Social Media Strategy for Your College or Department

Jump-Start Your Social Media Strategy for Your College or Department

You have probably heard from someone in your administration the words “get on this social media thing,” because that’s what everyone is doing these days. You wonder where they’ve been for the last 10 years, but another thought quickly creeps in—how do you represent an entire department or college? Having your own Facebook account is one thing. Coordinating several people in different social media platforms to speak with a single voice is a whole different ballpark.

Research has shown that images accompanied by text generates more engagement in social media. It shouldn’t be surprising since that’s exactly what newspapers and magazines have been doing for ages. Images should catch the viewer’s attention and lead their eyeballs to the text. A catchy headline also works, but most viewers are more likely to notice the image first, especially when furiously finger scrolling on their mobile devices for something interesting. Here’s some tips for when your team starts formulating a social media strategy.

1. Identify your audience

This may sound simple, but it’s one of the most important parts of your social media strategy. Ask your team who the audience is: is it students, the faculty, or the staff? What makes your audience click? What do they have in common? It’s important to define your audience because it will help you develop future content, and it’ll defend you against a lot of unsolicited ideas. A grip-and-grin photo of the provost shaking hands with a city council member may boost their egos, but students will scroll past it—at minimum, such a photo could make your college look stodgy in students’ eyes.

2. Know your platform

Not all social media platforms are created equal. Facebook is great for those you know in real life and for sharing little life events; Twitter’s main demographic is people in the 30+ age range, and it is used to have informal chats; and Instagram is a visual diary of events. Use each medium effectively to their strengths and don’t broadcast the same message across all media. Also, pay attention to the update frequency: Twitter has a continuous stream, and some people will expect new posts every 15 minutes, whereas Instagram will be less frequent, with people checking only three to five times a day.

3. Define your themes

Now that you have your audience and platform defined, decide what themes will speak to your audience. Brainstorm with your team potential topics. Check your college’s fast facts or points of pride and find out how to illustrate each point. See if you can cluster the themes around a handful of hashtags and start a campaign with a specific outcome. Should the audience be compelled to register for an open house? Attend future theater performances? What images will represent those ideas and compel your audience to follow your direction?

4. Photos are key

When the general framework is agreed upon by your team and the leadership, use these tips to effectively photograph your campus:

  • Tell a story that evokes an emotion. Does the image make you laugh or feel school pride?
  • Show real people to connect with your audience. Be genuine, otherwise it’ll feel like an ad.
  • Be aware of scale. If someone’s face is important, crop closer to their face so it’ll show up on a mobile screen.
  • Stay focused. Stick to your themes, and avoid a fishing expedition to see what sticks on social media.
  • Direct your audience towards a specific action. Ask them to visit your website or “like” the post.
  • Post regularly so people will know when to expect fresh content. Otherwise, they’ll think the account is abandoned.
  • Collaborate across campus. For example, visit your library’s special collections department to find photos for #tbt (throwback Thursdays).

These are starting points for your team to explore visual ideas. Define who you are, your goals, and go out and have fun. Building a reputation is a two-way transaction: it’s what you push out and how people perceive you. Listen and engage with your audience, and adjust accordingly.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about this topic, please leave a comment below or contact us.

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