Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr… the list goes on. And for some schools, it goes on, and on, and on: at many schools, dedicated fans, student groups, professors, and departments decide to make social media accounts that are unofficially affiliated with the school. They may use your school name or logo, but the content they post may not have to follow the same guidelines and brand messaging that the official campus social media accounts do.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it can mean that you have very passionate fans of your institution! However, it can be challenging when the content posted to these accounts doesn’t follow institutional messaging and brand guidelines. After all, prospective students and their parents, current students, alumni, the media, competitors, and donors can see everything that’s posted publicly about your school. If you’re not sure about the scope of your social media presence—both official and unofficial—you may be opening up your school to unnecessary risk in the form of reputational harm.
For example, a small liberal arts college (approximately 1,300 students) Campus Sonar worked with had nearly 100 accounts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. About 80% of those accounts posted content in the last year, and the rest used the college name and logo but weren’t actively producing content. Easily viewed by prospective students, for example, these accounts diluted the college’s online brand—and sometimes posted content that didn’t represent the college accurately.
What’s a school to do? From our client partners, we know that it’s usually not possible for one department to manage and monitor every campus social media account. However, we’ve discovered a two-step approach that campuses can use to manage their online image and improve brand advocacy.
If your school doesn’t have a social media directory, conduct an audit to help you understand who on campus is using your school name on social media. To conduct the audit, gather a list of the accounts that use your school’s name, nickname, and/or logo. First, create a list of your school’s formal names and informal names or nicknames.
Note: Depending on the size of your school, assessing the number of accounts over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could take from just a handful of hours to a couple of days. If you’re at a larger school and thinking about conducting a social media audit, breaking your audit up into weekly chunks may be more manageable.
Then, use your list to search for those terms on each social platform. When you assess each account you find, look for the following information and save it in a spreadsheet or Word document.
- Name: Include the full name of the account, and link to its page. Include a description of the page as needed.
- Platform: Document the platform where you found the account for easy organization.
- Activity: Has the account posted content in the last year?
- Verification status: Is the account verified by the social media platform as authentic?
Once you’ve searched the big three platforms and documented campus-related social media accounts, you can start analyzing the information you collected and develop a plan for how to move forward. For example:
- If you find accounts that aren’t active, you may want to contact the page administrator to deactivate the account. This way, you won’t dilute your online presence with inactive accounts accessible by your audiences.
- Verifying your campus Facebook pages, for instance, is a great way to demonstrate online credibility if they’re not verified already. Page verification indicates to individuals that the social media accounts you manage are the official accounts, and that followers can expect authentic content from you.
- When undergoing social media audits, schools sometimes discover duplicated efforts—multiple accounts for the same team, department, or school. In this case, knowing areas of overlap can help your campus identify which accounts to keep, deactivate, or merge.
Now that you’re more familiar with the scope of your campus’ online presence, it’s important that the administrators of campus-related social media accounts are all on the same page. We’ve heard from our campus partners a few different ways to do this.
- Create regular meetings for account administrators to align content and messaging strategies.
- Leverage or create brand standards to share with account administrators that include guidelines for creating, sharing, and promoting appropriate content on social channels.
- Allow access to approved stock images across campus for greater brand consistency.
Conducting an audit of campus-related social media accounts, allows your school to better understand the scope of accounts and content that is produced using your school name. Further, connecting social media experts across your campus moves account management from one central department for a stronger online presence.
Don't want to miss a single post from Campus Sonar? Subscribe to our monthly Brain Waves newsletter to get the latest and greatest about social listening in higher education delivered right to your inbox.
The post Online Presence Is Your Brand: What Does Yours Say About You? originally appeared on the Campus Sonar Brain Waves blog.