Planning and steps
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 that turn communication into interactive dialogue. The spectrum of social media is wide and includes blogging, social networking, and video and photo sharing, to name just a few. Examples of these are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr. Examples of social media channels in use at the Health Science Center are listed in the Social Media Directory.
Before deciding to use social media, it is important to consider some key questions before taking action.
1.) What are your goals? Every social media platform is different and one size does not fit all. By determining your goals and objectives before choosing a platform, you can decide on the one that best fits your needs.
“Official” vs. “Individual”
- Do you want to use social media “officially” on behalf of a department or school to increase brand awareness, recruitment, donations, or to be more engaged in marketing?
- Or are you considering using social media on a personal level as an “individual” to discuss your own research and projects, and/or to network with other professionals?
2.) Who is your intended audience? When selecting the best social media platform(s), consider the people with whom you wish to connect. 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 audience. You might use multiple platforms, depending on your goals and resources. Consider researching how other departments or individuals use social media before you decide which you’ll choose.
3.) Do you have the resources to maintain, monitor and update your content? Most social media offer quick and free set up, but require time and effort to effectively create, post and manage content. Consider when and how frequently you will be best able to interact through social media. To make the most of your investment of time and effort, start with a plan for your online presence.
- When 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.
- 'When posting as an “individual,” remember that although you’ve chosen to use social media on a personal basis, you are an employee of the UT Health Science Center. Use common sense when posting anything to social media because your content is a reflection of you as an employee of the Health Science Center.
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? As the administrator of a social media platform, your message, purpose and goals should be consistently communicated in a manner that conforms to professional expectations and institutional policies. Be consistent in communicating the mission of the university and with the highest standards. Always use common sense.
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 hear from an unhappy visitor/student/donor, how will you or your staff respond? How will you respond to a positive comment? The best way to handle different types of feedback is to have an effective communication plan, including a crisis communication protocol, in place before you establish a social media presence.
6.) Do you want to measure effectiveness or return on investment? Free built-in reporting tools are available on certain social media platforms (such as Facebook Insights) as well as 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 help you achieve and track your goals, as well as benefit your audiences.