building a social media users’ guide: it’s a question of trust.

Creating a social media users’ guide for our college was high on my summer project list. It’s interesting how often institutions talk about the need for a social media policy, when what they really need is a guide … instead of focusing on what NOT do in social media, doesn’t it make sense to discuss what one SHOULD do in social media?

While your mileage may vary, these are my suggested steps for crafting a social media users’ guide:

1. See what you have. I mean this in terms of both gathering your own social media inventory (which I’ve blogged about before) and what kinds of personnel measures (if any) exist.

2. See what others have. As this great .eduguru post notes, plenty of other institutions have social media policies, users’ guides and other documentation available. Don’t feel you have to reinvent the wheel.

3. Start writing. Seriously. Think about formats you may like from Step 2 and begin plugging in your inventory, including why you use what you do, from Step 1. Harness what you know about social media and how it relates to your institution … trust yourself, your knowledge and your instincts.

4. Get some reviewers. I don’t mean send it out to a committee to sit around and parse. I do mean send it to other employees who work in social media, who can see if you’ve missed anything, and co-workers who don’t work in social media, to see if this makes sense to them. You’ll likely present this to people who don’t know their Foursquare from their Formspring, so make sure it’s a simple entry-level piece.

5. Set it free. Unless you’re under strict orders to create a be-all end-all social media straitjacket for the campus (which is the wrong approach), get the necessary approvals to release this on the web. Having something in place, even if it needs revisions, is a first step. If someone’s looking for a social media policy, at least let this be a framework where such discussions can begin from a positive direction.

For me, having completed that social media inventory was very helpful. For guidance, I looked particularly at the Tufts University social media overview (thanks to @radiofreegeorgy) and the Laurentian University social media handbook (merci a @JPLaurentian). But when I sat down to write, a funny thing happened: I decided to trust my experience. I pondered what social media is and why we should use it, collected 5 Top Tips (Golden Rules) for Social Media, explained the social media communities/platforms we use, gathered basic pointers for monitoring and responding in your channels, offered brief thoughts on content strategy such as what to post/how often and, finally, some simple advice on professional conduct in social media.

I gained some (great) feedback from co-workers, then launched the social media users’ guide in time for a Social Media for 101 staff session last week. I consider it a living document, as would be expected in a field that evolves so quickly.

A word that serves as threefold advice here is trust. Trust that other institutions out there have policies or guidebooks you can adapt. Trust yourself to have enough understanding of social media to work this project through if this is your responsibility. And trust others to do the right thing if you have social media guidelines that can prepare them for this exciting communication field.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “building a social media users’ guide: it’s a question of trust.

  1. As usual, Tim, you are reading my mind. Do you live in the filing cabinet under my desk or something? I also have social media guidelines on my summer project list and am working on steps 1 and 2 this week with a goal of having a draft ready to share with our Web Professionals Working Group (or as we like to call it, “WippyWog!”) next Friday, and as always, this post will be immensely helpful. You are a jewel among men, sir!

  2. I like your “just do it” attitude… and I agree!

  3. Tim Nekritz

    LORI: You are too kind. I’m thrilled that this comes in handy! And, btw, you really need to clean your files out a bit … it’s getting cramped. ; )

    BRUCE: Thanks! There’s a semi-legendary video ramble by Kyle James somewhere with Kyle telling people to stop just talking about social media and to “just do it.” I think, especially given the speed of everything, that’s a good approach to consider.

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  6. Thanks for the good info. This is a subject I am passionate about. User’s guides (policies, whatever you call them) empower people if they’re done right. At our campus (Montana State University), I wrote the policy for athletics and our campus legal counsel wanted to be very involved. I know that’s not true at every campus, but something to think about.

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