This is my Final Project post/memo for J7330 Social Media Theory & Practice. Some of the key takeaways I’ve gained from this course include: gaining a better understanding of the historic rise of social media use; how it applies to communication theories as well as the broader implications for not just journalism, but society too; applying that understanding to how consumer connections are made in this new two-way communication; understanding the different social media platforms that are used in those conversations; employing the practical application of different social media tools as well as learning how to assess and measure the power of social media using metrics; and developing insights into how to organize and manage social media programs for my own organization.
I also really thought the book we read for this class — Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky — was good for setting the stage to think strategically about social media. Through theory and personal stories, Shirky notes that “social tools don’t create new motivations so much as amplify existing ones,” and that of course “more is different.” To me, this means that having a good understanding of social media depends as much on understanding regular, everyday social interactions/motivations of people as it does in mastering the latest social tool/platform. To understand social media, you need to understand basic human nature and the desire to communicate, connect, create and share.
As the Executive Director of Communications & Marketing at Tennessee Tech University, I have worked on the advertising end of social media, but as an office, we are just in the beginning stages of developing a fully integrated social media strategy that aligns with the university’s larger communication plan. Implementing some of the takeaways from this course, I feel confident that I can now put forth ideas to help boost social media interaction and engagement with target audiences (and not always have to rely on advertising dollars to get results).
Tennessee Tech University has official social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest that are maintained by the Office of Communications & Marketing. In addition, the university has hundreds of office and departmental profiles, ranging from the Financial Aid Office to the Mechanical Engineering department. Currently, there is little to no coordination that takes place among the official, university-wide accounts and these smaller office/departmental accounts. In addition to the communications professionals in the Office of Communications and Marketing, there are many different types of individuals (student workers, support staff, faculty, etc.) who manage these accounts with varying levels of activity and/or effectiveness. While some of the smaller office/departmental accounts do an excellent job of maintaining/updating their pages, a majority do not, leading to a lack of consistency. This lack of consistency in message (knowing that a prospective student might find one of the smaller accounts before finding the official university account) could lead to a decrease in overall communication effectiveness that could negatively impact the Tennessee Tech brand.
Our office currently maintains a set of Social Media Guidelines that outline the following objectives:
- Extend the university’s reach and influence online by connecting and building relationships with key audiences, such as prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni.
- Provide additional channels for these key audiences to communicate and interact with the university.
- Provide additional channels for audiences to receive and share official university information.
- Monitor the university’s reputation in the social media sphere.
Taking what I learned in this J7330 Social Media & Theory class, the following tactics can be used to coordinate and strengthen the university’s social media efforts and to incorporate social media use as a regular, integral part of an overall communications strategy for the university.
- Ensure regular communication among those responsible for university-affiliated accounts. Invite those offices/departments who have accounts to form a group to share information/ideas/metrics. Develop examples of what worked best to engage audiences.
- Share messages from other university-affiliated accounts. The official university accounts can help generate increased exposure for posts made by smaller office/departmental accounts. On the flip side, for slow content days, the smaller accounts can repost information from the university’s official accounts.
- Develop consistent hashtags to be used to aggregate conversations regarding the university (especially valuable on Twitter).
- Ensure Tennessee Tech branding standards are met across all social media platforms and accounts. This is critically important for consistency in message — smaller office/departmental accounts can still maintain their unique identity, but should be easily identifiable as belonging to Tennessee Tech.
- Participate in trends in social media, such as Twitter trending topics like #ThrowbackThursday and encourage smaller office/departmental accounts to do so as well.
Another key takeaway from this class has been my introduction to blogging. Prior to this class, I did not have a blog. I have found it to be professionally rewarding to maintain a blog on my personal experiences in higher education marketing (Awesome Since 1915). In tracking metrics for my blog, I’ve learned that linking blog posts to my Twitter account has helped to increase the number of views to a post. On Twitter, which is much a reflection of my blog and professional life, I’ve gained a total of 23 followers since starting the blog, which I think is great because of the personal connections I’ve made. Going forward with my blog, I think it might help to make my blog more personal about me. Right now, it relies heavily on co-branding with the university where I work. I also think branching out my topic a little more to include not just topics of interest concerning my work (marketing) but also about work/life balance since I am also a mother of three and community volunteer with several organizations; and also include information about being a woman and working professional in my field. I think adding in more personal insights would make my blog content more valuable to my readers.
The new social media tool I chose to explore is PowToon. PowToon is an online business presentation software that allows you to create short, free, animated videos. Since video production is one of my weaker skills, I looked for a social media tool that could help me create and share engaging content. I found PowToon to be easy, intuitive and surprisingly customizable, even for the free beta version I used. Below is the link to a short video, detailing my marketing background and higher ed blog, that I created using PowToon.