What 2013 Taught Me About 2014

Becca Ramspott (@beccaramspott) is a writer and social media specialist at Frostburg State University and leads FSU’s social media group. 

The new year is about looking at the year you just survived and deciding what worked, what didn’t and where you need to grow. You can call it making resolutions, goals or bucket lists—I call it making clear-cut decisions that take into account what happened that I didn’t like and making changes to ensure I’m headed in a new and better direction.

Here are some things I learned about social media and the work I did in 2013 that will inform 2014.

I’m ditching the editorial calendar concept for creating content.

For a long time now, I’ve said having an editorial calendar, with specific features happening on certain days, was a solid way to create content for social media. And in the beginning, this made sense because creating content that covered all the key things at my university was daunting at first. But in 2013, I began to see how editorial calendars can be constrictive and overly prescribed to the point of being trite, even fake. There are so many interesting updates and developments on our campuses, and when you try to squeeze them into a specific category on a certain day, you risk diffusing their potency and your posts become robotic. A good rule of thumb is WWRD or “What Would Robots Do?” If the answer to this question even remotely resembles your social media strategy, you need to switch things up and try something more conversational and in the moment. In 2014, instead of cute-sy calendar features, I’m focusing on creatively communicating my university’s general goals and initiatives as they happen, rather than worrying about what day they fall on and what content type is assigned for that day.

I’m going to take “ephemeral” social media for what it is—interesting and responsive in spontaneous ways that command attention.

Like most people who work in digital communications, I’ve been keeping my eye on Snapchat and other “ephemeral” social media—where shared thoughts, imagery and text disappear after a certain amount of time. And, what it boils down to is this: Chatting, whether through images or text or another medium, is all about having a conversation, and conversations have been around for a while. Think about all the chat applications that institutions increasingly use to reach out to and connect with prospective international students and alumni overseas. Think about the first-year students at our schools who tweet out questions about Move-In Day and the responsive staff who answer them. If you are actively working to acknowledge your constituents, whether through your Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram Direct, you are already engaging in ephemeral types of digital engagement.

The lonely pioneer phase is over. It’s time to empower others to use social media as well as we do on our campuses.

Like some of you who are reading this, I was one of the very first advocates of social media on my campus and I built a lot of projects from the ground up. It was exciting to be a part of it and to create communities that had never existed before. But now that I’m older and busier, I really enjoy learning from and developing ideas with new groups of people who are increasingly sharing the social media responsibilities at Frostburg and helping our campus do great things—like our admissions staff, alumni and faculty, who are beginning to realize our students need to learn about digital storytelling and visual literacy. Not everyone works in marketing or branding, but everyone has the potential to be a communicator and an ambassador for our institutions, whether it is through a class project, a crowdsourcing campaign or a photograph. It’s more than creating a social media major or a social media group on your campus. It’s about inspiring and empowering everyone who loves your institution to be its best storytellers and giving them the opportunities to do just that. Make digital identity development an institutional priority, so students are more cognizant of how they communicate about themselves and others online. Help graduates use LinkedIn effectively in their career development. Mentor interns so they get great jobs and shine on their own, long after they’ve moved on.

This is how I’m approaching 2014–with an open heart, an open mind and a lot of determination. How about you?

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