Social Media Strategy

Social media. I think it’s a beautiful thing. This way of communicating has come onto the scene with hurricane-like force and has impacted most, if not all, industries. In higher education, it has allowed professionals, like myself, to partake in professional development for little to no cost, to learn directly from the movers & shakers in the field, and to find friends, colleagues, and mentors from all over the country. Also in higher education, social media has allowed us to have a new avenue through which to connect with our students. Students who may, or may not, ever step foot into our physical space of an office. My social media skills were the something extra that helped me secure my current position. I don’t claim to know everything about social media, because that is seriously impossible. However, I know a decent amount. I know that to do social media well from an office standpoint on a college campus, you’re better off to have a plan. A strategy.

I spoke to this very idea in my first ever solo conference presentation in April at the Minnesota Career Development Association Spring Conference. I know I already talked about giving the presentation, but I didn’t really give you any details about what I said. I wanted my attendees to think about the different types of social media, social media’s importance to the field of higher education, why having a strategy is important, questions that need to be answered to start forming a strategy, and lastly I shared some examples of different social media platforms.

Having a strategy is important because according to Tanya Joosten in her book Social Media for Educators, an implementation is never effective unless users know WHY they are using technology. Eventually, they’ll probably end up floundering or stopping their social media presence. Knowing how using social media fits with the mission of your office, division, and/or university can help you make your case for implementing social media. The strategy also helps to justify human and financial resources that are to be invested. Having the strategy can also show how you can better connect with and serve your “customer.”

From my experience, having some sort of plan helps. You can always tweak the plan once you get going with your social media implementation. Having the plan ahead of time can help the decision makers decide that implementing social media for your office is a good thing. They aren’t always going to go along with “trust me, this will work” type of thinking without any proof. In an era of higher education where every penny counts, human resources are stretched thinly, serving the student should be number one, and everything needs to be assessed, implementing something new will probably need some evidence for why it should happen in the first place.

I’ve been in offices where the plan happens first and where it happens once the social media implementation has already happened. If you’ve already got social media accounts happening for your office, great! Don’t have an official plan? That’s fine. The office I’m currently in, had the accounts come first and the plan come second. Having the plan has allowed us to strengthen work we were already doing and to actually grow our social media presence onto other platforms. Here are a couple questions to get you started for putting together a social media strategy plan.

  • What is your goal/purpose/intended outcome?
  • What is already happening on your campus or in related offices?
  • Who is your intended audience and what platforms are they using already?
  • Is there someone, or group of people, who can dedicate time learning the platform(s) and using it on a daily basis?
  • What are you already doing and are you doing it well?
  • How will you assess if you’ve achieved your goal(s)?

The bulk of my presentation revolved around these questions. If you have follow-up questions or strategy ideas that have worked for you, feel free to share in the comments.

Edit it add: Here are a few of the research articles & resources I used while prepping for this presentation.

  • Digital Identity: How social media are influencing student learning & development in college, by J. Dalton & P. Crosby from the Journal of College & Character
  • Social media for educators: Strategies & best practices, by Tanya Joosten
  • Guiding social media at our institutions, by T. Joosten, L. Pasquini, & L. Harness in the journal Planning for Higher Education
  • The new normal: Social networking & student affairs, by K. Kruger in the Journal of College & Character
  • Student affairs strategic communications, webinar by Eric Stoller
  • Our shared future: Social media, leadership, vulnerability, and digital identity, by Eric Stoller in the Journal of College & Character
  • A student affairs social media plan, by Ed Cabellon found here
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