Social Media Planning
Planning for results
It is easy to start a Facebook or Twitter page, but getting effective results requires research, planning and ongoing effort. Answering these questions can help you define your goals, content strategy and ideas for promotion.
1. Define goals
- What are your organization's goals?
- How does social media fit with your other communications? How will the content complement or differ from the content on your website?
- Do you want to engage or strictly broadcast information?
- Social media invites engagement, but is occasionally used effectively as a broadcast tool. MIT’s News Office uses Twitter to broadcast, the MIT Admissions Office uses a blog, and the MIT Alumni Association uses Facebook to engage with their audiences.
- If the goal is to engage, your posts should encourage interaction. Be prepared to respond in a reasonable timeframe.
2. Listen to your audience
- Who is your target audience? What do they find compelling, funny or interesting?
- Are they already active in existing social media communities? Perform keyword searches to find out. Observe and listen to their conversations before starting your own page. Rather than trying to build a new community, can you join an existing one and add to the conversation?
- Does your audience want to be reached in this space or would they find it intrusive? Social media is not always the right thing to do. Consider alternatives:
- Do you need to update a discrete set of people on a topic? An email newsletter may be the better solution.
- Do you want to give readers access to content that is updated on your blog? A Twitter feed that retweets shortened URLs might work, but an RSS feed achieves the same goal without establishing an expectation of interaction.
3. Develop a content strategy
- How will you create content or facilitate engagement?
- What tone should you use? Before choosing a tone, reflect on the expectations of your audience. An MIT alumni page may be less formal than a professional education program page.
- Content contributors will have their own tone. This is more acceptable in social media versus traditional media. When you post, let your personality shine through!
- Social media tends to be less formal than other forms of communication. Even so, when you communicate on behalf of MIT, you represent MIT and its brand. What you say will likely be attributed to MIT.
- In addition to posting original content, you can keep your pages active by sharing relevant content created by others through:
- Links, likes and retweets
- Follow-up stories or comments on original blog articles
- Videos, photos, podcasts, vodcasts, audio
- RSS feeds
- How frequently will you publish? Building an active community requires care and feeding and can be time intensive. You may want to create a plan for maintaining a Twitter feed, Facebook page or blog, especially if your staff resources are limited.
- Consider creating a calendar to divide the task among colleagues.
- Consider posting to existing MIT social media pages to promote your department, initiative and/or project.
- To help manage your social media, use tools like HootSuite, a social media dashboard, that allows you to post to multiple networks, schedule updates and track results and mentions.
- Here are some ways to promote your pages:
- Cross-promote—"like" and "follow" other MIT pages.
- Include links/buttons/icons on email communications, your website and print materials.
- Add “share” buttons to encourage people to share your content. Download the share button applet at ShareThis.
- Use feeds from your Twitter or Facebook pages to populate content areas on your website.
- Create trackbacks by commenting on other social media sites.
- Retweet and link to updates on other related MIT social media (Alumni Association and MIT News are good places to start).
- Use Facebook ads to promote events.
- Use hashtags. The News Office often posts hashtags for MIT events.
- Review your goals and focus on measurements most meaningful to you:
- Number of followers (does not always represent engagement)
- Number of interactions with your fans/followers including likes, comments and retweets
- Number of posts per week
- Use tools to help you aggregate and analyze your data (see Glossary).
- Evaluate and make adjustments if you do not see improvements.
- Are you posting often enough? Too often?
- Are your posts interesting? Are they geared toward engaging?
- Is your audience large enough to sustain an active community?
7. Stay current
The future of social media is being redefined every day. You can stay current by keeping informed of broad trends and how they could impact higher education.
Consider a few practical tips for keeping informed:
- Learn of trends and innovative approaches by following social media blogs, joining interest groups and sharing information with peers.
- MIT Social Media Working Group - email questions or comments to the group’s listserve to learn from peers.
- MIT Communicators Toolkit - has links to social media blogs and websites.
- Harvard Social Media User Group - events are open to MIT staff and often posted on MIT WebPub.
- Peruse the websites and mobile apps of other universities. If something interests you, contact that department to inquire about their approach.
- As you gain new insights, consider how to incorporate them into your social media strategy. At a minimum, note trends and technologies you should follow.
- Change is inevitable—learn to be agile. Don’t invest everything in one technology. This does not mean you should change your strategy with every new feature or product, but be willing to consider how new approaches fit into your overall strategy.
- Being agile does not imply you must be an early adopter. Before you jump in, it is sometimes wise to watch what other organizations do and learn from them.
- Don't make the assumption that products marketed for universities will automatically address your needs.
- If you want to explore a particular approach but have reservations, consider testing concepts and tools on a small scale and refine your overall strategy based on the outcome.