A foggy autumn morning on the University of Arkansas campus.

Strategy should always guide your social media efforts.

Take a moment to implement these steps and transform your SM updates from white noise to a clear signal for your audience.

Get A Goal

What do you want to communicate?

Social media is loud enough without our updates.

If you can’t say things of value to your audience, be assured they won’t pay attention. You’ll be left talking to yourself on an empty Facebook page or spamming tweets on Twitter with no one listening.

Consider your organization’s mission. That’s a good first place to look for inspiration for a goal.

Perhaps your department, program, office recently created a communication plan. Social media efforts should always be integrated within those larger communication goals.

Goals often start simple.

Common Goals in Higher Education

  • Recruit students to attend your program

  • Retain students from one semester to the next

  • Recruit high-quality faculty

  • Raise money for your program

  • Help recent graduates find jobs in their field

  • Engage recent alumni with your program

Start by choosing only one or two goals max. By focusing your effort, you can tailor your message in the right way and evaluate success as you accomplish your goal.

This provides proof of your efforts, or what’s called the Return on Investment (ROI).

Pick A Channel

Who is your audience? Where are they?

Knowing your goal helps you define your audience.

Knowing whom you want to reach helps you choose which social network you should become an expert at using. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people.

Your general audience on Facebook is not the same as the one on Twitter. You’re not going to reach prospective students on LinkedIn and you’re probably not going to reach donors on Instagram.

If you need to get out information on updates to a particular system, or daily changes on campus, Twitter would probably be good for you.

If you work outside and travel often, with access to great visuals, you might think about using Instagram.

If you want to provide third party resources to your audience, Instagram would not be for you, but Facebook and Twitter might.

If your audience is into networking, Google Plus might be for you.

Consider where your audience spends time online, what kind of information you want to share with them, and what type of content they expect from the people they follow on the networks you’re considering.

It is likely wise to choose fewer channels and do them well, rather than adopt many.

Please see Section 4. Best Practices to get more detailed demographic information about the main social media channels.

Measure Your Effort (The ROI)

Is this working or not?

Face it; those of us who work in social media are often characterized as “that person who is on Facebook all day.” Well, there’s only one way to combat that assumption. Results!

Learn to measure and report your efforts. The number or numbers you use to measure are called your Key Performance Indicators, or the KPI.

A good starting KPI is to determine measure your social media Reach. This is a count of the number of people you can reach with an update.

Start a spreadsheet and measure the reach of all of your social media channels each month. Combine this number together for your total social media reach. Express this as a percentage and you’ll know how fast your reach is growing on social media.

Over time, you’ll see what channels grow and if any of them stagnate. This data helps you determine strategy and where to prioritize resources toward social media.

Another important KPI for measuring success is Audience Engagement.

It’s a simple formula that can be quite effective in judging what works with your audience and what does not.

Audience Engagement = 

Size of Audience Reached / Number of Engagements With an Update

The “size of audience reached” might be your total number of followers on Twitter or it might be your “reach” as shown in the insights area of a Facebook Page. The number of engagements includes all the likes, retweets, comments or other visible actions taken by your audience with a single post.

You should get involved with HootSuite (See Section 3.B below), a social media management tool that is supported by the university.

One of the easiest analytics from that program involves using an ow.ly link shortner. That link shortner will tell you the number of clicks your social media update garnered.

By calculating engagement or number of clicks through HootSuite’s ow.ly, you’ll begin to get a picture of what your audience is engaging with and what they don’t respond to in social media.

Use this information to become better and report to others in your department the successes you are seeing with certain types of content. Do more of content and do less of the kind that doesn’t resonate with your audience.

You should begin measuring your efforts today so that you can benchmark against yourself. Your data becomes more valuable the longer you accumulate it.

If your Audience Engagement percentage is only .5 percent, don’t worry. Just try to get it up to 1 percent as time goes on. Then 2 percent … 3 percent. You get the picture.

Please contact Jessica Leonard at share@uark.edu if you’d like to discuss measuring your social media efforts in more depth.

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