Tristana Nesvig Trani (@tnesvig) is a social media strategist at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The best thing about social media is that we can be in the trenches with our audience.
The worst thing about social media is that we have to be in the trenches with our audience.
I know I’m not the only social media strategist working in higher education who lies awake at night wondering…
Where are they now?
I’m talking about teenagers—a fickle, fast-moving bunch. When did they leave my trench? In my mind, I sound like a social media grandfather.
“When I was a kid, we only had Facebook and we felt pretty dang lucky! Quit trying all of these newfangled sites. Facebook was enough for me and it should be enough for you.”
Now, teens face a barrage of social media sites. They Snapchat, Vine, tweet, Instagram and feed the Pheed. Facebook has been placed in a position it isn’t quite used to—second best.
Last week, 13-year-old Ruby Karp wrote in Mashable that she and her friends don’t use Facebook. Of course, this isn’t the first time any of us that are in the business of attracting the younger crowd have heard such talk, but Ruby’s article struck a nerve. The article was shared nearly 50,000 times!
What does this mean?
It means, as a marketer dealing mainly in new media, I’m exhausted.
What happened to the good old days when new, major forms of marketing communication only emerged every 20 to 50 years or longer? Marketers had a good 60 to 70 years to master television as a medium before the Internet came along as a viable option. Now, new forms of audience communication seem to surface daily. We have no idea what will stick and what will quickly fade away. We finally reach the Jedi Master admin level on Gowalla, Digg + or Google +, just to find the latest trend losing favor with our audience after only a few months or years.
What can we do?
I think we should look to the investment industry for answers. Yep, new media has many similarities to the stock market.
- It can be volatile.
- It’s incredibly transparent.
- There is a tendency for boom or bust.
In dealing with the ups and downs of social media, it’s a good idea to see how investment experts weather the stock market storm. What are the rules for putting together the perfect investment portfolio? Can we apply those same rules to create our own effective social media portfolio? Let’s see.
- Diversify. Diversify. Diversify. Don’t put all of your eggs in the Facebook (or any) basket. Don’t be afraid to add a few other platforms to your mix. Social media has a great return policy so throw platforms such as Instagram or Tumblr into your social media shopping cart.
- Don’t be emotional about investments. If you’ve spent a lot of time nurturing your Google + account but still only have 100 people in your circle, it may be time for you and Google + to part ways. Remember, it’s business. It’s not personal.
- Don’t buy all at once. I just told you to diversify, but you also need to be smart about it. There are only so many hours in the day and resources can be limited. Have a few solid options and slowly wade onto other platforms.
- Don’t own too many names. See above. The University of Joneses may be on 50 social media platforms but that doesn’t mean that you should be. Don’t tax your resources.
- Be flexible. Higher education has a varied audience. We communicate to students, parents, alumni, potential faculty and staff, media and the community that surrounds us. Flexibility is key.
- Do your homework. There is no sense starting a Pinterest account if your audience has no interest in Pinterest. Make sure you research the typical audience for a platform and the platform’s growth rate before you make the investment.
- Don’t forget to own a few rock-solid stocks. Facebook may be in the middle of a slow down, but it has staying power with 1.11 billion active monthly users. Ruby may not like Facebook right now, but at 13, she also might not like kissing, vegetables or arthouse films. Things change quickly after age 13.
How do you decide which social media platforms are best for your institution and which to ignore?