Tony Dobies (@DOBIEST) is a senior writer and social media manager at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.
Summer is a great time to look back at what you’ve accomplished and, then, plan for the future. Take a step back from the daily work and go big picture. It’s refreshing to look at your university from a 10,000 foot view instead of the usual on-the-ground view.
This summer has given me a chance to evaluate the way social media works at West Virginia University. We do some things well, but, as always, there are ways that we can improve.
The day after our May commencement ceremonies ended, I began working on a plan that would identify and solve the biggest issue our university faces with social media: decentralization. It’s a common problem at large institutions. We have 30,000 students, 15 colleges and schools and about 500 student organizations. It’s a struggle to create a strong, united voice for an entire university on social media without a strong grasp on all of those moving parts.
In addition to identifying our largest issues, I completed an end-of-the-year social media report and looked at social media trends based on our key audiences to see what we could or should do differently. I also talked with social media professionals from around the country.
The result of this information gathering came in the form of a 22-page document that I termed “The WVU Social Media Solidarity Master Plan.” I came upon the word “solidarity” early on, and it stuck. It stands at the core for any change that we would make in the near future.
Within the 22-page plan, I identified 10 steps we should take to move forward with social media at WVU as a whole. The plan won’t revolutionize social media in higher ed, but it will at WVU. The plan focuses our efforts and sets a path that will allow us to move forward.
The plan has the ability to be executed in full, or more likely, in pieces over time. Some steps will never come to fruition due to different variables at WVU, but nevertheless it is a plan–a starting point to measure strategic progress toward our social media goals.
Here are the 10 steps:
1) Create a university-wide guideline for personality and suggested voice. For so many of WVU’s social media managers, it’s a challenge to decide on the right language to use in posts. This step should help create some of the consistency that has been lacking in our posts. The University of Denver has a wonderful example.
2) Create a set of university-wide social media goals that can be passed down to other colleges/departments. Some of our social media managers have trouble consistently coming up with content, so this may be of help. As we create a list of overall institutional goals, we’ll share it with our colleges and departments to give them an opportunity to help us achieve the goal and improve consistency.
3) Create a social media users group. There are many examples of this working at universities across the country, and it’s something social media managers at WVU have asked for. It will be a place for us to gather, discuss and create, and will allow us to open communication lines across the university.
4) Create a student social media ambassador program. Right now, we don’t have a productive way to see what’s truly going on around campus from a diverse student perspective. Creating a group similar to the University of Delaware’s social media ambassadors program will give us a better opportunity to showcase our campus life.
5) Re-develop our social media website. We have a dedicated website for social media, but it doesn’t feature a university-wide social media database, a content submission form or best practices. This re-developed site would house all that and more.
6) Start using Snapchat. There has been a trend of universities jumping onto Snapchat and that’s because students use it. And, we have had requests from students for a university presence. They want it. We may as well jump on the bandwagon. There are many universities out there finding success, like the University of Michigan.
7) Develop a marketing campaign around social media. If we’re doing all this work to improve our social media on campus, I want people to know about it. This will be closely connected to the re-developed social media website and Snapchat account.
8) Start “A Day in the Life” project that would detail a 24-hour period at the university through social media, with a strong focus on an institutional perspective and on the different academic opportunities available. There are many universities that have done something similar. My favorite is from the University of Nebraska.
9) Create a social media consultation process for colleges and departments. I often meet with social media managers or other people from the university who are interested in the topic and discuss anything and everything related to social media. This would allow us to be more proactive with building cross-departmental relationships and implementing the steps in this plan.
10) Develop ways to share success. We do have some great things happening on social media across our campus, but if nobody knows they’re happening, are they really successful? By placing these projects on our re-developed website and making it a point to share them with our community on a regular basis, we can improve the way we communicate our successes.
So, take some time and plan for the future when you get the chance. Yours may not be 22 pages or have the same goals, but it will give you framework for future successes.
If you’d like to see the full copy of my plan, tweet me (@DOBIEST) or email me (Anthony.Dobies@mail.wvu.edu), and I will be happy to share.
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Excellent piece, Anthony, and some great best practices any university or college could learn from. Kudos on your commitment to take the big picture view of social media and, in turn, improve your presence!