Strategies to consider when starting a social media presence
Why start a social media presence? Social marketing! Social marketing has become an integral part of all relevant brands. Its positioning in the current economy has gone from desired to demanded.
Social marketing leverages your ability to:
- drive traffic to your social network
- increase the amount of time users are in contact with your brand
- provide information without making users feel as though the information is being pushed upon them
- use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve the prominence of your online content
- increase traffic to your social network via targeted links
- increase the longevity of your online content via users who tag, bookmark, and share your information
- be a leader within your online community
- control and monitor—to some degree—the reputation of your online content
When starting a social media presence on behalf of any entity at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), first identify a specific need and goal for your intended social network. A clear need, with a business reason, must first be identified before initiating a social media effort on behalf of CFAES. If there is no clear benefit for the community members of your intended social network, there will not be a community. Also, your social media presence should be a complement to existing media—a place for conversation generation, not a replacement for your entity’s website.
Ask the following:
- What is the best approach to disseminate my information?
- Is there a competitive edge to be gained by having a social media presence?
- In this environment, how will I differentiate the programs and services offered by my CFAES entity from those offered by competitors?
- How does creating a presence on Facebook or Twitter invite potential consumers to engage in the CFAES brand?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help focus the conversations that will take place in your social media network.
Strategy should guide your decision. First, determine what it is you want to talk about. Then, build an integrated approach to do it. Remember, social media is not a replacement for a traditional website. Conversations and interesting links—humanized by the person posting—can appear in social media if a benefit for the community is identified. The most success comes from outlining a mutual purpose and business case first, before hosting or even contributing to a community. Strike a balance between the benefit to your CFAES entity and the benefit to the community members of your intended social media network. Also, the most benefit arises when first targeting your loyal following and then building off of communities where a solid brand image can be found.
Two of the most popular social media tools are Facebook and Twitter. These two tools, when used effectively, can help raise awareness of your CFAES entity and can communicate the relevancy of the CFAES brand to audiences.
The key to understanding and using Facebook in a productive manner is to:
- define what you want the interaction, privacy, tools, and content to look like
- show your CFAES entity’s relevancy by determining how a Facebook presence can engage a community of consumers
- be mindful of the CFAES brand, including the humanity of that brand
The key to understanding and using Twitter in a productive manner is to:
- answer strategic questions in your tweets
- sound human, which is a hallmark of the CFAES brand
Once you have decided on the social network of your choice—whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or something else—make sure to refer to the CFAES Brand Guidelines before setting up your account and constructing your first post or tweet. All CFAES entities are required to cohere with the CFAES brand, which should be reflected in any social media account, including every post and tweet.
When communicating with your followers, define the limits of acceptability. Formal rules can’t be applied to casual conversation, so be cautious when having conversations that reflect CFAES. However, keep in mind that the voice of the CFAES brand is humanistic. If there has been something negative in the press, it might find life on your Facebook page or in a tweet. You must be prepared for this. Having a presence in the conversation can be an opportunity to participate in, shape the perception of, and provide transparency about the topic.
Think of your social media interaction as a branding exercise. Social media represents an opportunity to project the CFAES mission and vision. In each of your social media accounts, communicate the CFAES personality and tone of voice. When you post information, remember that you are representing an outstanding group of educators and researchers who are dedicated to solving real-world problems. Repurposing an RSS feed for Twitter doesn’t add value. You can post links to recent news and updates, but a real person needs to contextualize them. This is where the value is added: A credible source—you—has made a judgment call that the information is worth posting. While doing so, you can weave CFAES’ brand and credibility into the language of the post, discussion, etc., and you can add your own perspective. You are unique and can enhance and extend the CFAES brand. Audiences want an authentic conversation with people, so the CFAES brand needs to take on a persona and speak as the audience would expect. In other words, be credible while being real.
Don’t just post or tweet about one thing. A person who communicates about only one thing can lose the interest of his or her audience. If you are passionate about your CFAES entity’s programs or research, share your passion. Take the opportunity to explain CFAES initiatives with enthusiasm. Creating this kind of dialogue enables you to target a variety of markets and audiences; communicate the exciting nature of CFAES; and explain the relevancy of CFAES teaching, research, and outreach on a broad and global scale.