Help me become a social media marketing expert
January 19, 2013 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I want to transform my department's social media team into the campus experts on social media. What are the books, workshops, tools, websites and communities I should be looking into?

The person who managed this stuff left a year ago, and it's clear that our student team that was hired in the lurch isn't getting enough attention or guidance. What I'd like to do is learn enough to mentor this team, partially to help build my own niche within the dept, and partially to become competent enough to relieve our director of the duty of managing this team.

I know how to use most social media (except maybe Pinterest) on a personal level, but I'd like to figure out the 'srs bsns' side of it. For example, Twitter. We have a few accounts, with a total of around 3500 followers. I'd like to have some guidelines on what / how much to retweet, when to use a hashtag, and what relevant metrics (other than the obvious, followers) to track.

I'd also love to have some software (preferably open source) to queue up stuff and release it over time, to help compensate for variable student schedules. You can tell which days our social media student employee is in, for example, because we get five to ten tweets / posts that day, and none on the others. I think having a buffer will help smooth things out, and let us focus on reaching goals.

I know there's a lot of sketchy advice on SEO and social media, so I'm turning to the metafilter for advice!
posted by pwnguin to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: SEOMoz blog, Brafton, Blueglass, Stepforth Marketing Blog, Hubspot blog, Search Engine Land... Those are just a few of the places I would start reading regularly.

Social media is really a personal medium, so I don't think scheduling tweets and updates is the answer. Social media is all about building and maintaining relationships. There is SEO value ("social" counts as a significant signal) but fundamentally, though, the real value is connecting with others in a meaningful way, and automating updates is just not the way to go.

As well, social media marketing isn't anything without "content" - it's always good to have something to talk about, preferably something that adds real value to your "audience" (although it's not an audience, because social media is conversation - posting a series of updates is not the best thing to do).

Content in your case might be a schedule of events, talks by people in your department, books people are publishing, a blog that talks about current trends, or stuff you are "curating".

Pinterest is great for curatorial types. Facebook can act as a quasi-blog. Twitter is great for discussing events in real time.

Ultimately you'll have to find the platform that works best for you, and focus on getting traction in one space (ie, choose Twitter vs Facebook).

There really is not a handbook for social media, other than to be authentic, and to engage in conversation.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think the real metric is traffic to your website coming from social. If you can track what they do once they get to your website, even better. Best thing is if they "convert" by signing up for a newsletter or buying a product.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:18 PM on January 19, 2013

Also Mashable has some good content/tips. For my previous job I used ShortStack to run a contest and a couple of other Facebook widgety stuff, and they have some good ideas.

It's super easy to set your content to publish on a schedule. I used HootSuite but there are probably some other options.

One thing that I think is important to keep in mind is that not every single post should be about *you.* I hate when a company/brand/blog just posts links to their own blog posts, events, etc. - I could get that info from their website. You should be sharing relevant content from across the web.
posted by radioamy at 8:22 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: I've become a pretty serious professional social media user over the past couple of years, but most of my learning has come from colleagues or friends. Stuff in this world changes so fast that books tend to be pretty useless.

One thing that's been great for me, though, is the conferences, workshops and webinars of the group that's dedicated to building the online engagement skills of people in my field. The trainings themselves have been awesome, but what's been even better has been building a network of people who do the same kind of work that I can go to for advice. I imagine there's gotta be something similar for the academic world, or maybe your discipline?

NTEN, another organization, is a great resource for nonprofits, which I think you qualify as? They have a yearly convention, local groups, etc.

Mashable and techcrunch are two good places to check out on a semi-regular basis to see what the new stuff in social media/web is. These are the sites my boss recommended to stay current.

I'd also love to have some software (preferably open source) to queue up stuff and release it over time, to help compensate for variable student schedules.

Most people I know use hootsuite for this.

As for general advice: I usually advise organizations to start small with social media. You don't need a presence on every platform. Think about who your constituency is (majors? students? the larger university community). What do they need/want from you? What kind of engagement do you want with them? Do you want them to come to events? Know more (or share info) about your field? What kind of information do you want to disseminate? Your answers to these questions will help you decide which platforms you want to use and how.
posted by lunasol at 8:22 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hmm, looking back over your post, I realized I assumed you were an academic department, but I'm not sure if that's the case. I noticed that you used "nonprofit" as one of your tags - if you consider your organization to be progressive and/or advocacy-oriented, I have more specific recs for you in terms of resources.
posted by lunasol at 8:27 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: I Am a Campus Social Media Expert (though probably Not Your Campus Social Media Expert).

Some thoughts:

1) A lot of the social media info out there is really intended for businesses and entrepreneurial individuals. The rest of us seem to be making it up as we go along. I certainly haven't come across anything that really fits with the goals we're striving to reach at my campus and I've been looking for almost two years now.

It sounds like you're looking for 'best practices' for social media and that's really unsettled territory. I have two suggestions: a) look at top recent Google results for '[best practices] + [area of social media you're interested in]' and b) look at recent academic research written on the topic (there is actually more than you might think. Look at the standard place you'd get academic research--or ask your friendly campus librarians--and there should be some good articles to read).

That said, there is definitely value in following the social media news. This is especially true if your campus is active in Facebook, because it seems like Facebook puts out a new feature or privacy tweak every week or so, and the impact that the latest update can have on your audience really varies. Running a Facebook fan page is nothing like running a personal account and your sources of news should therefore be a little different for the professional stuff (I check Mashable and Fast Company, and my colleagues check other places. We email articles constantly to each other to stay current). The other thing I use social media news for is to follow the emerging media and decide whether to advocate that we move to a new platform (so, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Imgur are all on our radar).

2) I disagree with KokuRyu to some extent: though you should absolutely be allowing your audience to shape the conversation, you should also be open to steering the conversation with scheduled tweets and updates. Academic social media people are not on the clock 24/7 the same way that corporate social media people (who are often outsourced anyway) are. The conversation needs to keep going, and we've found scheduling to be a good way to help us with that. You should also have alerts (we use Tweetdeck and it pushes notifications, I understand? I'm so much not the Twitter expert in my group. Facebook allows email alerts) so that you can respond to users and keep the conversation a two-way street. I definitely agree with lunasol to keep it small and manageable and scale slowly.

3) Our campus has a branding initiative as well as campus-wide guidelines for social media. All associated campus accounts must include the campus name and any images should preferably include the campus logo (following the logo standards, which are articulated in a different document). This kind of thing, as well as the policy standards, is really helpful and one of the best things about having campus oversight of social media. If no one's staked out this space on your campus and you are in the appropriate reporting line (so, not a random department or research institute but Public Relations/Communications or the President's Office or whatever), please do go for it.

4) Figure out what your audience will share and retweet and comment on, and figure out what your audience needs to hear but may not have a reaction to. Those are often two separate things (think: cool article on an student going to the Olympics versus campus closure for weather emergency). Then figure out the balance between the two. That one's a question of local culture and interests and nothing but trial and error will really get you anywhere on that. Your student employees will be a huge help, though, and should not be discounted.

I could probably go on but this is getting a bit long. Feel free to MeMail with questions.
posted by librarylis at 8:55 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We're a weird hybrid organization that's part administration, part outreach, part instructional. Review my user profile if you want more detail, going into too much detail likely violates Mefi community guidelines. While our department likes to cultivate a startup atmosphere, I wouldn't say we're in the "start small" phase; we already have a team, a semiannual conference, website, a facebook page, etc. I just want to continue to execute and build on what we have already going on.

It's entirely possible that our niche doesn't have a network of marketing people already. The thought had crossed my mind before about starting up a BoF session at our major conference, but I feel a bit silly organizing a community before building more expertise. A bit like the cart before the horse.
posted by pwnguin at 9:08 PM on January 19, 2013

The thought had crossed my mind before about starting up a BoF session at our major conference, but I feel a bit silly organizing a community before building more expertise. A bit like the cart before the horse.

What about something more casual like a happy hour or a skillshare?

Anyway, your department sounds really interesting! You might want to think about reaching out to your counterparts at similar entities, like the Berkman Center. IME, social media people are very, well, sociable.

As far as "start small," I meant more that, with limited capacity, your best bet is to really narrow in on the needs of both your constituency and your program, figure out which social media channels you should focus on and how, and really concentrate your energies there for now. Especially because, as someone else pointed out, it's hard to do social media really well if you're scheduling posts and then not interacting with folks (especially on facebook and twitter).

Doing social media well is annoyingly time-consuming, and if the people managing your channels are part-time interns with varying levels of commitment, then it's going to be hard to focus on more than a few things. So it's good to have a sense of what's the most important stuff to focus on.
posted by lunasol at 10:29 PM on January 19, 2013

My campus has a burdensome set of social media guidelines such as Librarylis describes. It has killed any worthwhile use of social media.
posted by LarryC at 12:33 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The best, most no-nonsense book on the topic I've found is Likeable Social Media. It's author Dave Kerpen spoke at one of my company's events last year. Very to-the-point and non-woo.
posted by jbickers at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I believe that social media for businesses is mostly about branding, not promotion--and by that I mean it's more about showing that you're "with" the times, you respond to customer/student concerns and listen, and your organization has a personality.

I like the 70/20/10 rule that's been passed around recently. 70% of your content should add value to your brand and provide info that your followers actually enjoy consuming. 20% should be shared content or links from partners. 10% is for promotional use--publicizing your next event, for example.

If your org is part instructional, I would suggest doing a regular "helpful tips" type of post on Facebook and Twitter. People eat that up. It really depends on your audience, though--anything that's like an inside joke or reference that most of your followers would recognize will go miles, especially if it's humorous. If you have older followers, inspirational quotes and old school "chain mail"-y things go far. Younger students? Meme references and funny photos. Intellectual folks? Puzzles and quizzes. If your brand is much more "professional" and can't really be light or "fun," then up-to-the-minute relevant news bites and link shares.

For software, Hootsuite is still by far the best tool for scheduling and monitoring Twitter feeds. I don't see how any other Twitter tool stands up to it yet.
posted by dede at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everyone.

Hootsuite looks interesting, but since our organization is Open Source focused, I probably want to spend some time researching some open source tools to use. But even having names of good closed software to use as search terms helps. Right now I'm considering, if I can look past the hipster technology choices.

I like the 70/20/10 rule, but I'm having a hard time deciding what counts as promotional use vs what counts as branding / information. Obviously things like donation campaigns is a direct promotional thing, but stuff like our unconference is a free event, so you'd probably want to know information like when and where it is. And I'm not sure where to put stuff like slide decks from presentations we give on the open source software we author and publish. I think we can muddle through it though.

One thing I found after asking this question was a similar question from 2011. There's a pretty comprehensive timeline, which I'll use to double check we haven't skipped major steps, and I just put in a few holds / purchase requests at the library for books mentioned on this thread and the other.

In particular, the CDC's social media guide seems about what I'm looking for, although some things are CDC specific. It occurs to me that when the team feels more expert about things, we could totally put together a Creative Commons licensed social media guide on github or something for people to fork and customize.
posted by pwnguin at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2013

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