Are you new to your role as a social media manager, or are you managing a new account? Start here:
Identify your primary audience (students, alumni, community members, etc.) and think about what kind of content you want to deliver and why. More importantly: What content do they want from you?
There's no 100 percent correct answer to this question. Your unit does not need a presence on every single social media site. For many units, one Facebook Page is sufficient for meeting social media goals for alumni engagement. Others may want both a Facebook Page and a Twitter feed.
Each social media site has defining characteristics to help you decide whether it's a good fit for your unit. Here are some examples to guide your decision-making:
Source: Pew Research Center, August 2015. For examples of units using each of the above, visit Illinois State's Social Media Directory.
Managing a social media site (especially building an audience from zero) can be time-consuming. Consider your unit's goals and resources when weighing whether to create a new account:
Assign one manager for your unit's social media account(s), as well as one backup. Making social media one person's responsibility gives that person ownership and avoids too many cooks in the kitchen.
Be careful when making a student your social media manager. Students graduate, and your social media account should be consistent from semester to semester. (That doesn't mean students can't help out.)
Use your main departmental email address, such as UniversityMarketing@IllinoisState.edu, as your social media account's primary contact email, rather than an individual staff member's. If that staff member leaves the University, you may lose access to that account. (It has happened.)
Also, to prevent losing access to a unit's Facebook Page if the manager leaves the University, make "State Normal" (UMC's Facebook profile, SocialNetworks@IllinoisState.edu) a manager of your Page. UMC will not post to your Facebook Page and will only access the Page after consulting with your unit.
If you have your own personal, non-ISU Facebook account and also manage a Facebook Page for ISU, for example, be sure you are posting to the correct one. Especially when using a smart phone, double-check that you've switched over to your personal profile before you post about your vacation plans or dinner.
If your unit already has social media accounts but is struggling to build an audience, consider teaming up with a related unit inside your college or division. Together, you may be able to post better content more often, with the added advantage of it being easier for some users to find.
A stale or abandoned social media account that represents a campus unit is detrimental to the University's reputation—more so than not having that account at all.
If you need help recovering or reactivating an abandoned ISU-related account on a social media site, please contact SocialNetworks@IllinoisState.edu. UMC cannot guarantee that an account can be recovered or reactivated.
If your unit's social media account(s) has not been updated in the past three months, UMC will contact your unit for more information. If an ISU account has not been updated in more than six months, it will be removed from the University's Social Media Directory and UMC will move to deactivate it.
When you create a new social media account for your unit, follow these naming conventions:
And choose wisely. Some sites limit the number of times you can change your account's name.
Please note: While "Illinois State" (not ISU) is the preferred way to reference the University in external communications and narrative text, ISU is acceptable in these Web-based naming conventions.
Put your unit's social media strategy on paper, addressing each of these questions. You should craft (or at least discuss) this strategy with your unit's director, chair, or lead supervisor:
There's no right or wrong answer for how often your unit's social media site(s) should be updated. But if you are not able to post new content at least once or twice a week to your Facebook Page, Twitter feed, or other account, you may be overextended and should consider consolidating or shutting it down.
The best way to keep track of your content is to maintain a social media schedule for your unit—a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that allows you to organize and spread out your content. An example of such a schedule is below:
|Date||My Unit's Facebook Page||My Unit's Twitter|
|Monday 4/2||Link to newspaper article about a Unit alum||Link to article about alum|
|Thursday 4/5||Photo album of Unit event||Photo of event, with link to more|
|Tuesday 4/10||Question: What was your favorite Unit class?||Promote upcoming Unit event|
|Friday 4/13||Flashback Friday: Old photo of your Unit||#FlashbackFriday: Old photo|
Facebook and Twitter (via Tweetdeck) both allow you to schedule posts/tweets to be published at a future date/time. You can also preschedule posts using third-party applications, such as Hootsuite.
Though scheduling posts/tweets is valuable, leave yourself the flexibility to post in real time, such as from a live event or during an important announcement. Not every post needs to be pre-planned.
Don't automatically send your Facebook posts to your Twitter feed, or vice versa. Treat each social media site independently, so you don't lose opportunities to drive comments or tag other users. (Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so a Facebook post may get lopped off midway through.)
One of the best places to find easy, sharable content is on the Facebook page or Twitter feed of another unit. You should "like" other ISU Facebook pages and "follow" other ISU Twitter feeds and check them routinely. By sharing another unit's content, you're keeping your own account updated, and you help promote the other unit.
When possible, link back to a University website. If you're promoting an event or program, don't feel the need to cram everything into that post. Just share the basics and link to your unit's website.
Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect both on the manager and the University. Be cautious of controversial content that may create issues for the University and you. If you have questions regarding posts, consult your supervisor.
When representing the University on social media, social media managers are encouraged to maintain a professional tone. While it is understood that each unit has its own culture and relationships with on-campus constituents, tone should be carefully considered so as not to alienate prospective students, alumni, and other off-campus constituents who may be removed from the campus culture. Always maintain a friendly, professional voice.
Double-check your posts/tweets for typos and grammatical errors before and after they're made public. Posts coming from the University should never contain such errors.
There are easy ways to measure your success on social media. Most social media sites offer free, on-board analytics tools that show you data about your audience's size and engagement level.
You can quickly see what types of posts/tweets are most popular and adjust your strategy based upon that information. For example, if you learn from Facebook Insights that your audience loves historic photos of your alums from the 1970s, you should consider posting even more historic photos. If you find students aren't responding much to your 9 a.m. Facebook posts, consider posting it at 7 p.m. instead.
In most cases, these tools allow you to export data files that you can use/analyze in Excel or elsewhere.
There are also more sophisticated social media analytics and monitoring tools available for a cost, such as Adobe Social or Google's Wildfire. Start with the free tools before considering these products.