Time to regularly create and maintain websites, blogs, and social media content is a big concern to many of my clients, particularly colleges and universities. Many colleges and universities are hiring full-time social media managers to handle all of this content, while others continue to add on this responsibility to one (or more) staff members’ job descriptions.
In my experience, some top administrators (you know, the ones who set budgets and make hiring decisions) don’t fully understand the thought, time, effort, strategy, and tracking involved in managing these “free” tools. It’s not always as simple as spending 15 minutes a day creating posts. (Just check out this Business Insider post that shows how a single corporate tweet can take more than a month to create.)
So, why does maintaining social media take so much time?
1. It requires lots of content. The person who manages your social media has to have her pulse on anything and everything happening at the university. To do that, she needs to network with students, faculty, and staff across the entire campus. She needs to coordinate photography of events or happenings to feature on social media. And if new stories, blogs, event listings, or other fresh content aren’t already regularly posted on your website, your social media manager may have to interview sources and write this content herself.
2. It requires a strategy. Some people may advise you to just jump right in and get started with social media without a strategy or plan. But before you spend your time on this, consider these questions: Does the social media tool you want to use really reach your target audience? What is your goal in using a particular social media tool? How are you going to measure success? What type of content are you going to post? Who is going to develop that content and how will that impact their other job responsibilities?
3. It requires constant attention. One of the goals of using social media is to engage your audience. Some of the best, most meaningful interactions you can have with your target audience on social media will be impromptu interactions. Constituents who post questions on your Facebook or Twitter page expect an answer right now.
Your social media manager not only needs to develop fresh content, she needs to interact with your audience members who are trying to engage with your organization. This means she needs to respond to posts, and sometimes she may have to research answers to questions your audience asks.
4. It requires writing and scheduling. Keeping social media posts fresh involves lots of planning. The social media manager needs to strategically decide when items will be posted. For example, you wouldn’t want the post about tonight’s upcoming soccer game to go up tomorrow, would you? The social media manager also needs to write the actual social media posts, confirm the URLs she plans to link to actually work, and convert any images to web-ready formats.
Using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite can help streamline scheduling, but have you tried writing something in less than 140 characters? It’s not always easy. It takes times if you want quality content in the appropriate voice to support your university’s brand.
5. It requires reviewing others’ social media posts. Part of maintaining social media is finding ways to engage with your followers and the people you follow. To engage with your target audience, your social media manager needs to monitor mentions of your organization or hashtags relevant to your mission or initiatives. Once she finds a relevant mention, the social media manager needs to decide which items to share, retweet, or respond to—and then actually do the sharing, retweeting, or responding.
6. It requires tracking to measure success. If you’re doing social media, but aren’t tracking your impact or results, you might be wasting your time. Your social media manager needs to take time to analyze social media analytics, so she can make better decisions about the content to post in the future. After analyzing the data, she can create reports to let the administration know whether all the time spent on a particular social media platform is worth it.
7. The technology is always changing. Twitter and Facebook aren’t the same as they were when they first launched years ago. Social media platforms are always evolving their functionality and design. New social media platforms are launching. Your social media manager needs to keep up-to-date and react to the changes in the technology and tools available.
Of course, there are social media management tools out there that can help automate the process. But many of them cost money, and it takes time to research and learn how to use the best existing tools (and emerging tools) that meet your university’s needs. And, no matter how automated the posting, tracking, and monitoring gets, someone still needs to generate the initial content, review the tracking reports, review the mentions, and then make decisions on what (and where) to post tomorrow.
About Dana’s Creative Services
Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.