I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how many inquiries I’ve received in the past month from offices and departments about to dip their feet in the social media tributaries. Inevitably, the email/phone call/chat starts with:
“We are thinking about getting a Facebook page and we’ve been told you can help us set it up.”
Every time I get the above inquiry, I take it as an opportunity to take two steps back. Yes, Facebook hit over 1 billion users at the beginning of October, but are they the right users for what you want to do? Thinking about Facebook is a great gateway into conversing about social media, but it’s not necessarily the answer to everything.
When I gather with the group in person, we tackle the following questions together:
Why are you considering social media for your office/department/organization/initiative? It’s a combination of any number of things — We’ve seen other offices at other schools do it! We’ve been told this is the way to get hip and connected with the students! I LOVE social media and want to try and use it in another way! and much much more — but identifying the answer to this question first allows you to start contemplating how your actions might be perceived (and begin to work in this space). This question usually ends up identifying different kinds of things needed to convey — and not just “announcements” but ways to enhance the overall mission and offerings of a particular group. Yep. You heard it here first. Content first. Social media second.
Who are you trying to talk to? This tends to be a bigger question of who do you support on campus and our greater community, but then we dig into the more specific details. Who needs what you want to share and why do they need it? Do you wish to inform, engage, or create a community? All of the above, or something different entirely? Knowing who you’re talking to means you can better frame your message.
Now that we’ve identified why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you’re trying to connect with, we ask:
What social media should we consider using? Sometimes, Facebook is the answer. Sometimes, it’s Tumblr, or Twitter, or a blog, or a video, or a set of photos, or perhaps something low-tech rather than online. There’s no cookie cutter answer to this question, because it is so closely tied to who and why we’re diving into this pool of tools.
How often will you be updating? This question is a must, because it makes us plan ahead to sustaining a social media presence on any site.
Even more questions bubble up in the course of these conversations, but these four biggies are consistent when we start to explore the possibilities. Thinking about testing the waters? Email me or comment below and we’ll start talking!
This post can also be found on the Oberlin College Webteam blog.