The purpose of this “playbook” is to give you an understanding and idea of the direction Student Affairs will be going in when it comes to social media. It highlights some best practices as well as a general path to follow when looking at how your unit’s social media fits into the greater context of the Student Affairs story.

Survey The Landscape

As you start exploring the use of social media, it is important to get a sense of the landscape. The first part of doing this is exploring what social networks are available to you, taking note of what is unique about them, thinking on how they are used to communicate with others, and how your unit may be able to fit into those networks. The second way of doing this is thinking about the student population, what messaging they are already receiving about your unit, and what other entities you may have to compete with.

Know Your Team

While thinking about the landscape, you also want to begin to think about your team and how they factor into the channels you are thinking of exploring. Do you have a good photographer on your team who may be able to help you leverage Instagram? Do you have good writers who can craft great tweets or Facebook posts? Focus on the strengths of your team and who will be able to help you as you begin to work more with social media, and position them correctly based on those strengths.

Know Your Audience

More than knowing whom you are trying to reach, it is important to gain an understanding of how to reach them. If you are targeting specific populations, do some ways of contacting them or drawing their attention work better than others? Learning what content your audience responds to can make or break your usage of social media.

Beyond this, it is important to really take stock of it you are reaching the right people. In some cases things may seem like they are going well because you consistently get a good number of likes, shares or retweets, but really look at that data. Are you getting new people with each of those engagements? Or are they the same people every time?

Take Stock of Your Content (Is It Enough?)

Social media is largely about what you post, so it is incredibly important to know what you have to share with your audience. As with thinking about your team, you want to focus on elements that would be highlights for your area. Does the work photograph well? Are there videos that emphasize its importance? Or can you have a little fun with it and write some jokes about what you do that will resonate well? Whatever the case, know what you have to share and decide if it is enough or if you will need to rely on borrowing content from other spaces to help flesh out your pages.

Set Your Path

What is the course you are going to take? Using what you have looked at so far, start to make a plan around how you and your team are going to use the content you have and some that you borrow, to reach your audience with everything else competing for their attention. Think about what sets your unit apart, determine what you determine to be successful and make sure the whole team knows what the goal is.

Tell Your Story

It is important that we do not allow our pages to become postings solely of what events are coming up. This is not to say that you should not share events on your page, but think about ways that you can couple sharing upcoming events with telling your unit’s story. What are ways in which you can really share what your area does? Are there ways to showcase behind the scenes aspects of your day to day? Are there success stories from students you have worked with? Find ways to showcase what your unit does and how it affects people. These stories go a long way in helping people understand the importance of Student Affairs. Video is another great tool to leverage for storytelling and easily integrates into several types of social networks.

Do The Work Justice

No one wants to look bad, so don’t take chances. Make sure that all posts are well written, grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. These posts should also tell the right stories and entice your audience, so avoid underselling your unit. If you are posting photos, they should be clear and well composed. Avoid sharing blurry, out of focus, grainy, and poorly composed images to ensure that your unit is represented in the best way possible. When you can, share high-quality videos with clear audio, you want your audience to be able to easily tell what is happening. Remember, you want your content to get people excited about what you have to offer and high-quality pieces of content can help you do just that.

Don’t Spread Too Thin

Your unit does not need to be on every social network, and there is no imperative to post every hour of every day if you do not have the content for that. Keep things in perspective and focus on what is working and where you can most effectively reach your audience. Always focus on your team, content and audience and only expand I you have the means or absolute need to do so.

Have a Conversation

Social media is not a one-way street. Your audience will comment on things and send you messages, and you will need to respond. Make sure that you respond in a timely manner, missing messages or failing to provide information can turn a follower off from engaging with you very quickly. Additionally, do not be afraid to post content where you ask your audience to respond. Social media is a great way to gain feedback and gain insight that may be difficult to achieve in person.

Pay Attention To Your Audience (Even If They Don’t Pay Attention to You)

This may seem like a strange concept, but your audience is not always following you. Sometimes parties who are interested in your content may not be aware of your existence or just are not interested in following another account. These audience members can still provide valuable insight and feedback. Social listening can be incredibly important, and hashtags and Facebook searches can be your best friends. By using tools like these, you can see if there are conversations about your unit or something relating to your unit, even if it is not directly addressed to you. You can also gain some valuable insight on changes in your audience’s behavior and new trends through social listening.

Always Be Ready To Respond

Social listening may sound kind of creepy, but it is a good way to nip some problems in the bud. Look for questions or concerns you can reply to and show your audience that you care and are there to help. Don’t be afraid to make hand-offs if you know there is another unit, which could better assist. Your followers will also have emergency situations that they may approach you with via social media, and these can happen at anytime. Work with your team to figure out the best way of monitoring these elements and create a response plan.

Take It Offline

Social media can be a powerful tool, but face-to-face interaction has a place in everything that we do. Be sure to supplement the use of social media with activities that encourage in person conversations and interactions, which can help feedback into the social media accounts you are building. Offline is also one of the best places to promote your accounts, do not miss out on that opportunity.