LONG POST ALERT!
TL;DR: Writing strategies for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Long process, loads to do, need help. Watch this space.
I’m currently leading on a very exciting piece of work: a set of platform-specific social media strategies for the University’s corporate social channels.
Until now, I’ve argued that we don’t need a social media strategy – we have a communications strategy which directs our approach to all of our comms, and social media is a set of tools we use as part of that.
That’s still true. We don’t need an over-arching social media strategy. But we do need to know exactly what we use Facebook for, what we use Twitter for and what we use Instagram for.
We’ve come a long way over the last year, developing more collaborative approaches to social media, opening corporate channels up to student takeovers and becoming much more serious about our approach to content planning.
So it’s an opportunity to take things to the next level.
Taking things to the next level – there will be challenges and pitfalls, and an enormous monkey
The starting point for these platform-specific strategies is identify the priority platforms. I’m looking at Facebook first – because it’s just huge, with 1.7bn monthly users – followed by Twitter, then Instagram.
In fact, let’s call those platforms The Big Three.
Why are they a priority? Because a lot of what we do on social media is about recruitment and retention of students, and those channels tend to be where most of our engagement happens with that target audience.
Added to those three, Snapchat and Yik Yak are lurking in the background. We were late to the party with Snapchat, so our network is less developed than it is on The Big Three. That doesn’t mean those platforms are out of scope, it just means I’ll get to them when they emerge as priorities.
Additionally, I’m doing a similar piece of work for our LinkedIn presence. It’s a very different platform to The Big Three, so is completely separate to this work.
Of course, there’s a process to follow here. Although there’s knowledge and expertise in our marketing and communications teams, much of what we do is instinctive. So we’re starting from scratch.
Step one is putting the team together. Initially, we have representatives from across our mar-comms teams, from content specialists to internal comms experts. That group might expand, and we might break into smaller groups for specific pieces of work.
The next step is to establish some goals. This bit is essential for an effective strategy. We’re looking at business objectives first (get people to an open day), then aligning them to goals we can achieve with social media (track clicks, measure conversions).
Basic stuff, but without it we’re jumping straight into tactical stuff.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked during this step, as we either get lost in the possibilities, or we get dazzled by shiny things. When this happens, it’s important to ask ‘why’.
“What’s our objective?”
“We could do with a social media account for X audience.”
“So that we can achieve Y.”
Bingo. That’s a goal. Everything leading up to it is tactical, and can be shelved for now.
The next thing to do is an audit of existing channels. Specifically, what we’re doing with the corporate Facebook page. With the main Twitter account. With our Instagram account.
How do we use Messenger? What are we doing with check-ins? Reviews?
What works well as an organic post to our timeline? What generates engagement? What works well as an advert?
Who’s doing it well, or better than us? What works well for them? What are they doing that we’re not?
A lot of this is about the technology. How are we using it? And what does that say about us?
This is a huge piece of work, and needs to be focused on each channel separately. The aim here is to look at functionality, audience and competitors. Top level stats like the size of the network are less relevant right now (unless ‘to grow a bigger audience on X channel’ has emerged as a goal).
What’s clear from this step of the process is that knowing your audience is essential. And that knowledge needs to be qualitative, as well as data-driven.
Finally, once we’ve established the goals, done the audit and audience research, we’ll be ready to work out what content we need for each platform. That’s when we’ll have a strategy.
There’s a mix of content to be determined. ‘Shouting about’ things and endless promotion switches audiences off, so we’ll need to be conversational and human.
The annoyance factor is real
We do need to promote things and raise awareness of stuff, but we need to do it in the right way, and at the right times.
Our content needs to be tailored to each channel. The days of ‘have you put it on social media?’ are over.
Audiences choose their platforms because they want to experience that platform. If we want to engage an audience on Instagram, we need to make a thing for Instagram. And knowing that audience, what they want from a platform, and what they’re OK with from us, is fundamental.
Your audience: who are they and what do they want?
This is such a big piece of work (really it’s three pieces of work) that I expect it will take two or three months to ‘complete’. And, even then, it will never really be finished. We’ll need to review and adjust regularly, depending on what happens to each platform.
I’ll post more about our strategies for our social platforms as the work develops. It’s still very early. If you’ve got questions, or you’d like to know more about the process, drop me a line or a tweet and I’ll tell you what I can.
And if you’ve got experience of writing a social media strategy, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.
Joe Field, social media manager