from the PrISM Best Practices Guide
First, what are “social media?” Social media are online tools for social interaction, collaboration and participation, using highly accessible and dynamic communication techniques. The term refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. The spectrum of social media is wide and includes blogging, social networking, video and photo sharing to name just a few. Examples of these are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.
Before deciding to use social media, it is important to consider some key questions before taking action.
1. What sort of goals are you hoping for? What would you like to use social media to accomplish? If you’re an individual professional, are you considering social media to increase your professional awareness, to discuss your own research and projects, and/or to make connections with other professionals? If you want to use social media “officially” on behalf of a department or school, do you want to increase brand awareness, recruitment, donations, or be more engaged in marketing? Do you plan on actively communicating with your audience? Every social media platform is different and one size does not fit all needs. By determining your goals and objectives before choosing a platform, you can better decide on the best one to fit your needs.
2. Who is the intended audience you want to engage, and why? When selecting the best social media platform(s), consider the people you wish to connect with. Each social media tool has its own strengths, drawbacks, unique usage, and demographics. Finding the best platform–whether it is Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or other popular tools–will better assist you in connecting effectively with your network or audience. You may consider using multiple platforms, depending on your goals and resources.
3. Do you have the resources to maintain, monitor and update the content? Most social media is free to set up, but do requires time and effort to effectively manage and build. To make the most of your investment of time and effort, start with a plan for your online presence. For an individual professional, consider when and how frequently you will be best able to interact through social media, and how you can keep your professional social media presence distinct from your personal presence. If posting officially on behalf of a department or school, decide what sort of updates will be made and on what basis, as well as the tone and voice that will be used for the account. Either way, your plan should be flexible and dynamic, so you can adapt to changing audiences, experiences, and opportunities.
4. How will you or your staff manage communications? What is your message or professional persona, and how will you ensure it is consistent throughout your online presence? Regardless of the administrator of the social media platform, your message, purpose or goals should be consistently communicated in a way that conforms to professional expectations and institutional policies.
5. Do you have protocols or policies in place to handle feedback? Negative or positive feedback is to be expected in the social media environment. For example, if you have an unhappy visitor/student/donor, how will you or your staff respond? On the other hand, how will you respond to a satisfied comment? The best way to handle different types of feedback is to have an effective communication plan in place before you post.
6. Do you want to measure effectiveness or return on investment? There are built in reporting tools on certain social media platforms (such as Facebook Insights) as well third party tools (such as bit.ly and hootsuite) that will allow for measurement of traffic and user interest. Taking advantage of these tools to measure the effectiveness of your social media will assist in you in making adjustments and improvements that can benefit your audiences.