It became clear early on that my role as a social media manager is like being lost on a land between two islands. One island consists of marketing’s version of “The Skipper,” social media laggards fearful of social media’s unpredictability, vulnerability, and transparency. These folks have a common phrase of "I don’t have time to be on [insert your favorite social media platform] and be putting out fires" or better yet, “We don’t have the resources or budget to worry with people tweeting about their lunch.”

Higher Education Digital Marketing

The other island holds your Gilligan’s. Early adopters of social media who jump on every new social media network just so they can say they had an account way back when. You'll recognize these folks because they're typically the ones saying something along the lines of, " The [company] has to be on Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine." The list goes on and on.

Higher Education Digital Marketing

My island lies in the middle with two very shaky bridges connecting the other two. As the Social Media Manager at Concordia University Irvine, it's my responsibility to hold the hand of the fearful (“No,” “Not today,” “Maybe next fiscal year.”) and turn down the volume of the pushers (“We should try,” “Did you hear about?”). The only way to merge these two islands into one is to map out a strategy that addresses the fears of the woeful and acknowledges the enthusiasm of the advocates. 

So what does this strategy of adoption and collaboration look like?

I couldn’t tell you. Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all” strategy when it comes to implementing social media marketing. Having said that, there’s still hope by incorporating these key practices:

Plan for success. It's amazing how one person's vision can inspire others toward a common goal. Be a visionary and expect to succeed. My vision for Concordia University Irvine’s social media presence was (and still is) to be a leader in Higher Education online engagement. When I report back to the campus on the successes of this vision, my faculty and administrative stakeholders get excited and are inspired to promote and engage with our students, parents, and colleagues.

Get your training wheels ready. In implementing a new social media strategy you are taking the role of a parent teaching their child how to ride a bike. The child is wobbly at first until they get the hang of it. Then, when their confidence is built, it's time to remove the training wheels. 

Train your social media community managers in the same way. Start them off slowly by giving them ongoing training; support their engagement with convenient and comprehensive resources (social media playbook, company-wide policy, user guides); and then let them loose.

Know your competition. Doing research on what your competitors are doing on social media is one way to win over fearful executives and inspire buy-in. Creating rss alerts and/or Twitter searches - for names, hashtags, images, video, and phrases - related to the competition makes it easy to keep track of competitor content as well as gain insight into how the market is interacting with them. Monitoring the competition oftentimes uncovers opportunities for you to engage with prospective students searching for information.

It doesn't have to be lonely at the top. Find the executive leader and social media champions in your organization that can identify with the vision you have and bring them on board. This could be your admissions officers, faculty using social media in the classroom, or even your students. Skeptics are more likely to give your strategy a chance if their peers are doing the same.

The social media manager’s island should be filled with people who have diverse talents and thoughts. I invite you to join myself and my co-presenter - Rachel DiCaro Metscher, Hobsons director of communications - at Hobsons University in Orlando, Florida if you would like to learn more about executing effective social media strategies at your institution. You can also follow Rachel (@rachelmetscher) and Veronica (@VSteeleTweet) share more social media nuggets and best practices using the hashtag #HobsonsU13.

Social Media Strategies Q&A – July 23 at 4:30PM at Hobsons HQ - Hobsons Director of Communications, Rachel Metscher, and Concordia University’s Social Media Manager, Veronica Steele, delve out the deets on how to design a successful social media strategy that will engage prospects, parents, students, and alumni.

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