Getting social at Southwestern
|Social media refers to online tools that people use to connect with one another, including social networks (from AP Stylebook Online ). These services allow users to create and publish content about themselves and their organizations. The social aspect of these tools lies in the ability for individuals to interact and connect with others, thereby building online communities.|
Social media offer a unique opportunity for two-way communication with our constituent groups, such as prospective and current students, faculty and staff, alumni, parents and others. These tools allow the University to share information with the world, but perhaps more important, to allow our constituents to communicate with us in return. Therefore, listening and responding are key parts of the social media equation. Social media also allow us to share traditional media stories and other online resources with our online communities quickly and easily. Southwestern University supports the appropriate use of social media in support of University communication goals.
This handbook provides guidance on how to do so effectively, safely and within University guidelines. Parts of this handbook have been adapted from the resources of other institutions, including Puget Sound University and Wright State University.
HOW SOUTHWESTERN USES SOCIAL MEDIA
Southwestern University’s social media is managed by the Office of University Relations. The Associate Director of New Media maintains the University’s presence on the following sites:
In addition to these main University accounts, many offices, departments and programs have launched their own social media efforts. A list of University social media accounts as of March 2013 can be found in our University Social Media Directory.
Answer “yes” or “no” to the following:
Did you answer “yes” to all of the above? Then you are probably ready to get started! Here’s what to do next:
STEP 1: Get Approval
First, discuss social media with your department head to determine the feasibility of your efforts and to get the go-ahead to explore the possibilities.
STEP 2: Consult with the Office of University Relations – Communications
Next contact the Office of University Relations – Communications for consultation and assistance in preparing for your social media efforts. Listed below are some of the topics we’ll discuss during our consultation to help you determine which (if any) social medium is right for your needs.
Defining your goals and creating a strategy. Before you sign up and start posting, spend some time considering what your goals are for using social media. Who do you want to reach? What type of information do you want to share? How will you determine and measure if your efforts are successful? It can also be helpful to look for similar programs at other universities and see how they are using social media tools.
Choosing your tool(s). The Office of University Relations - Communications can help you examine the goals you’ve outlined above and determine if social media is the right fit for your needs. If so, your goals will typically lend themselves well to one or more forms of social media. Here is brief list identifying three of the major social media tools and how they might be used.
Choosing a name. The Office of University Relations – Communications can help you consider a variety of factors when choosing an appropriate name for your department’s social media handle. It goes without saying that no department should choose a name that might lead people to believe it was representing the entire institution, such as “Southwestern University.” But other factors may come into play, such as username restrictions in various social media programs, other University social media identities, and consideration of your target audience.
Developing an icon. The Office of University Relations – Communications has developed a family of icons that can be used for individual University programs, while still maintaining the overall University identity and brand. At no time should the University seal, wordmark, or admission type treatment (found at the top of all website pages and on admission printed materials) be used as a social media icon without express permission from the Office of University Relations – Communications. Development of custom social media icons for various departments is also possible by working with the University’s Director of Creative Services.
Finding images/media.The Office of University Relations – Communications often can assist in identifying existing media resources you might need. See the Communications Resources page or contact a representative from the Office of Communications for assistance.
After the issues outlined above have been addressed, it is important to revisit the concept of social media with your department head. With a better understanding of the strategy being planned and the time involved in successfully executing it, you can determine who on your team will have responsibility for implementing and maintaining social media efforts. (We recommend that you have more than one person trained so that there is a backup in place.)
STEP 3: Build your presence
When establishing your social media account, we encourage you to start slowly. Spend some time posting (maybe a few weeks) without publicly sharing the account, and invite feedback from a small and trusted group, such as Southwestern’s Social Media Advisory Group (SMAG). This will help you work out any issues prior to your public launch. Having the site up and running well before you officially launch it also establishes a cache of useful and valuable content for your first visitors and ensures that you’re comfortable supporting the account.
STEP 4: Go Public
When you’re ready to launch your site to the public, you can use a variety of means to advertise your new communications outlet: email, website and/or print materials, for example. Be sure to notify other departments with social media accounts so you can connect with one another and form a network of Southwestern University social media sites. You can also re-post each other’s content when appropriate to cross-pollinate information through various University social media outlets. For instance we often re-tweet significant sports news from the @SUPirates account on the main university Twitter feed, @southwesternu.
Be sure to alert the Associate Director of University Relations – New Media when you announce your account so we can share the news with our fans, followers and subscribers, and stay abreast of your posts. We can also add you to the SMAG listserv so you can join us periodically to discuss trends and strategies for making the most of our social media efforts and learn from others on campus engaged in social media.
Other resources to consider when publicizing your social media efforts: adding links to your University Web page advertising your feeds, adding badges created on the social media sites to your page, and adding notations to any print pieces you do advertising your online presence. These online and print acknowledgements of your social media outlets may include the use of the well-known icons for these media. Recommended icons of the major social media outlets (Facebook Twitter, and YouTube) can be found on the Communications Resources Web page.
As you work with social media, you’ll see that some things you do are well-received and foster communication from your audience, while others fail to do so. Learn from this. You can tweak your use of the tools to make the best possible use of your time and resources. Most social media tools also offer tracking options, allowing you to see which content is most effective and who is using your feed. For instance, when we started the University Twitter feed, we originally thought many of our followers would be alumni and current students. While we have some followers in this demographic, our 500+ followers include prospective students, parents, faculty and staff, and local community organizations. We continue to tweet campus news and events via this outlet, which is useful information to our followers.
Be transparent and honest
Listen and Respond
Negative comments are part of social media. Do not delete them or you may risk losing authenticity. Do your best to address them in a positive and honest way. Take the high road, and avoid getting into an argument.
If you do not feel like you’re the best person to respond to a question or comment, ask somebody else to do so. It’s better to have an appropriate voice respond rather than letting something go unanswered or replying with inaccurate information.
Understand the community
Familiarize yourself with privacy and safety
Everything posted online lives forever. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see or you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of The Statesman.
Remember: content is king (or queen)
Do not allow advertising or soliciting
When in doubt, ask.