Tag Archives: social media 101

How often to update social media? How often to shop for groceries?

A question I hear all the time from those managing office, departmental or organizational social media channels is how often to update: “How often should I update our Facebook page?” “How often should we tweet?” “How often should we do that Instagram thing?”

My answer for all organizations and institutions, large and small, is the same: You should update when you have something interesting to say or share.

It’s that simple. If you don’t buy that because some alleged social media guru advised updating at 8:55 a.m. every Thursday, let me put it another way.

How often do you shop for groceries?

You shop for groceries when you need something, right? You don’t say, “I shop for groceries three times a week,” and then feel compelled to go grocery shopping even though you don’t need anything, do you? Of course not.

fbrecentSame thing with social media. If you have something relevant worth saying or sharing, say or share it. If you don’t, maybe you should do something else and come back when you do.

If you run a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, Tumblr, [insert name of trendy platform] or other social media channel, think about it in the context of receiving text messages from an acquaintance. If you (like some Facebook pages), post lame chatter like “How is everyone’s Monday?” “What are you having for lunch today?” or “What’s your favorite movie?” — consider some random acquaintance sending you these text messages. You’d think that person is fairly lame (or creepy) and would just assume everything they send is just as lame (or creepy). So you could block them (not dissimilar to unsubscribing from a page) or just ignore their messages.

If your Facebook page or Twitter account is spewing info for the sake of spewing info, then everything you send will automatically be seen as less important. Moreover, if you haven’t updated a Facebook page in several months, did you need it in the first place? So many people feel they have to “have a Facebook” or “set up a Twitter” only to abandon them with the wreck and refuse of so many other discontinued accounts.

If you want to maintain a Facebook page, Twitter account or other channel, content strategy is key. You should think about updates that are important to your audience. You should get a feel for what they respond to and find interesting. You should map interesting content within the context of what’s happening (i.e. do you have Admissions Open Houses, major speakers, campuswide events, etc.?) You shouldn’t say, “Oh, I haven’t updated our company’s Facebook page this week … so I should ask everyone what their favorite type of pasta is.” (Unless, perhaps, you’re a pasta company.)

So there you are. If you don’t have something interesting to say or share, why force it? You also could go looking … or sometimes (in our case) content just suddenly comes across your path. Stay active, engaged and watchful. But most of all, stay interesting.

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social media 101: 5 golden rules

In creating a Social Media 101 workshop for campus users as well as a new social media users’ guide, I recently crafted five golden rules to consider before beginning social media efforts on behalf of one’s institution or organization. They borrow from advice from many colleagues, but I figured posting them here just might benefit others.

1. Be present. Acquaint yourself with any social media outlets before trying to use them professionally. If you’re not familiar with Facebook, creating a group or fan page 15 minutes after you sign up could be an uphill climb. Learning as much as you can about a particular platform or community will increase your chances of success.

2. Be prepared. Have a plan for who will post and/or respond to social media, how often you may want to post content and what goals you want to accomplish (see below). You may want to prepare a content calendar based on major related activities and what your audiences should know … but be flexible to accommodate great news or suggestions whenever possible.

3. Be responsive. The biggest problems with social media efforts involve a lack of responsiveness and community abandonment. If someone asks a question via a Facebook page or Twitter account, they do not expect to wait days for a response. If you don’t know the answer to a posted question, don’t be afraid to say you’re looking into the response and get back to the person later. And don’t start a social media community unless you plan to make it sustainable.

4. Be friendly. Social media is conversational. Don’t talk down to your audience. Don’t bury readers in jargon. Don’t get angry and defensive. Do start conversations. Do what you can to help others. Do what you can to represent a friendly face for your area and the institution.

5. Put goals before tools. New sites, applications and communities emerge all the time, but before you commit to jumping in somewhere, ask three questions: 1) Does this help us meet a specific goal or goals? 2) What’s in it for us? 3) What’s in it for our users? If you can’t answer these questions, don’t forge ahead into an area of social media. While OSS (“Ooooh! Shiny Syndrome) can be hard to resist, success in social media involves focusing on communities and outlets where you can do a good job, both for the institution and for your users.

Any other tips anyone would suggest?

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5 reasons businesses should be using social media.

I gave a presentation to a community leadership class last week and realized that (despite my arrogant assumption to the contrary) not all businesses and organizations are yet sold on the value of using social media. Whether it’s fear of the lack of control, tight resources or not believing they have the skills navigate Web 2.0, some businesses hesitate to take this step into what appears The Great Unknown.

Preparing for that presentation (as well as a rush job for class when a guest speaker had to cancel for a death in her family), I assembled 5 top advantages businesses and organizations can gain from social media presence. Turns out the reasons spell out the word MEDIA — pure happenstance, as I’m not nearly clever enough to create such a thing.

Multimedia storytelling: It’s so much easier to show with visuals than words, whether with video (the richest form of online content) or photos/slideshows. For example, would you rather read about our college having more than 100 student organizations or see a user-contributed Flickr slideshow with students in action? The bonus is you can embed slideshows on your own pages or share via social media.

Engagement: Your customers or clients, students or alumni are key to, and part of the narrative of, any business or organization. Interacting with them via Facebook or Twitter helps solidify their connections with you, and may help you better solve their problems. If a potential client posts on three Facebook pages looking for more info, and yours is the only one that responds, how much of a better chance do you have of earning their business? Or if you aren’t on Facebook, that discussion can’t even take place.

Direct communication: How traditional PR pushes out a story: We write a news release. We send it to editors who may throw it in the trash, put it into some kind of story purgatory or chop down to two sentences and make it a brief. Even if you get a good story, then consumers have to actually pick up a paper that day, turn to the page where it is and find time to read it. With social media, you bypass gatekeepers and uncertainty to get directly to your stakeholders. Also worth noting that our official Facebook page has decidedly more fans than our hometown daily newspaper has circulation.

Immediacy: Getting the word out, and placed in the media, can be a laborious process … albeit one that’s still worth doing. But if you create a Facebook event and invite all your fans to it, it’s immediate (and engaging and direct, as noted above). Or if something changes at the last minute, you can let attendees (or maybes) know immediately. There are other countless reasons businesses may want to get some kind of important message out instantly, and social media is delivers quickly.

Authenticity: Our businesses, our brands are not about buildings or sales figures. They’re about people. Authenticity — being who you are, telling the truth and embodying your values — is required for social media but also provides opportunities. Why not allow users to see behind the scenes at your operation in some way? Why not invite your most loyal customers to tell their stories? Why not make everyone feel like they are a genuine and important part of your story?

I’m not saying social media doesn’t come with perils, but then anything worth doing — just opening a business in the first place — comes with some type of risk. And I’m not saying delving into social media should completely replace existing marketing efforts, although they can greatly enrich, extend and complement existing marketing. Social media is more of an investment of time than of money, but it’s an investment that can reap great dividends.

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learning about social media goes both ways.

Feels like I’ve been on a social media barnstorming tour of campus, leading four sessions in the past two weeks. There’s no one reason for this — I was asked to do two, while the other two were my initiative — but just as with social media itself, the conversations in this sessions always teach me something as well.

I’ve talked to freshmen about social media and learned their habits. I gave a session titled Everybody Has A Mic: The Brave New World of Web 2.0 to people in the room and scattered across the world on Second Life. I presented Social Media 101 to staff members. And I imparted thoughts on social media and marketing to an Advanced Public Relations class. My own presentations notwithstanding, and with my observations on freshmen listed in another entry, here’s some of what I’ve learned back:

1) Social Media 101, as an hour topic, is too big for a wide audience. While most came to learn practical applications of social media, one attendee didn’t seem know what Facebook or blogs were. So maybe something so catch-all is too ambitious and unfocused. But then I saw a college running a whole course on how to use Twitter, which is excessive too. At some point, we’ll find a happy medium for a range of audiences and applicable topics.

2) Students’ use of social media changes during their time on campus. While sample sizes so far are small, what I’ve found backs up what I’d heard anecdotally. For the upperclass Advanced PR class, 20 of 20 were on Facebook (no surprise), 18 of 20 checked daily, 8 of 20 had MySpace accounts and 3 of 20 used Twitter. Recall for freshmen, all 15 had Facebook accounts they checked daily, 10 were on MySpace (though barely used it), none on Twitter. This slim sampling reflects what I’ve heard about college students abandoning MySpace and picking up Twitter in modest amounts, but I aim to do more surveying.

3) I may have given up on Second Life too quickly. Maybe it took viewing several avatars hearing my presentation virtually, but I finally see that Second Life does have untapped collaborative and communication potential. Maybe I’m just flattered someone from NASA would show up in SL to hear what I have to say. Maybe I still think the economics of outfitting an avatar seem too much like Dungeons and Dragons. But clearly my dismissing Second Life out of hand without learning more is as ill-informed as those who’ve never been on Twitter scoffing it’s all about people tweeting what they had for lunch.

This all also reflects what I’ve long believed: presenting is a two-way street. Just like in social media, every interaction and every conversation is an opportunity for enlightenment.

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