“Starting social media accounts is the puppy adoption of higher ed” is a Darron Bunt quote that we repeat often. Does your campus have hundreds of campus accounts creating confusion for your audience? Research shows that your prospective and admitted students often turn to Instagram to get an insider’s view on campus life. If their search terms return a handful of inactive accounts before the official, well-managed accounts, it impacts their perception of your campus.
There’s no magic number of accounts your campus should have, but it’s a good goal to ensure the existing accounts actively post content relevant to their target audience. If the administrators don’t know what to post or aren’t sure who their audience should be, it’s a sign they may need to close the account.
If you want to minimize audience confusion and establish a cohesive presence on social media, we have a process for winding down social media accounts. The first two steps are to conduct a social media audit and establish (or update) a campus social media directory.
Conduct a Social Media Audit
More than ever, your audience's first impression of your campus is your digital presence. A social media audit helps you manage online conversation, ensuring your first impression is your owned, or self-published, content. There are a few key benefits to an audit.
A better understanding of how your campus is represented on social media—the scope of your social media presence and awareness of institutional conversation that does or doesn’t align with your strategy.
Reduces your risk of reputational harm when you know what other accounts say about your campus. Monitor unofficial accounts and collect examples if they're violating any trademarks.
Manage your brand and online image. Know the platforms your community actively talks about you on and evaluate if online account profiles and content adhere to brand standards.
Improves your brand advocacy. Our brands are our foundations and we base everything we do on them. Make sure what you find in your audit is the reflection you want of your brand.
Identify brand evangelists and content creators you can reach out to and amplify through your core accounts. Your campus is filled with people and departments who want to tell their part of your story—adapt your social strategy to include them.
Perform a Social Media Audit
- Create a list of your campus's formal and informal names or nicknames and hashtags. Do you know every variation your staff, students, and communities use to refer to you? Do you have them documented anywhere? Find them and write them down. Consider:
- Nicknames you created and others gave you
- Abbreviations (all of them)
- Previous names if your campus has ever rebranded
- Hashtags you use for campaigns and comms and that your staff, students, and community use
- Search for the terms on each social platform. You should have a good idea of your campus official accounts, student accounts, unofficial accounts, and affiliated accounts, but there may be others you're unaware of.
- When you assess each account you find, save important information (name, platform, activity, verification status) in a spreadsheet or document.
- Keep in mind you also need to know where you're not. Just because you're not posting somewhere doesn't mean there isn't conversation about you. If there are social media platforms you're not active on but you know your target audiences are, you should be listening on them (e.g., Reddit: your campus may not have a subreddit, but your students and prospective students may very well be talking about you there).
- Review the account's content and why it's posted—what are the goals of each account? Then develop a plan for moving forward.
- Prioritize your more visible accounts and determine what to do with inactive accounts. If you have unverified accounts, take steps to verify them so users know the content is authentic.
- Make a plan for merging or eliminating duplicate accounts. Keep track of rogue accounts and check in on them regularly.
- Review accounts for accessibility best practices to make sure they adhere to general guidelines.
Maintain a Campus Social Media Directory
It's become common practice for campuses to publish a social media directory that provides links to accounts across campus. A campus social media directory serves two functions.
- Acknowledge approved campus accounts. Not all accounts will qualify to receive verification from the social network, so inclusion on this list can provide some legitimacy for both the account manager and potential followers.
- Functional directory. A one-stop shop for students or community members who want to explore different ways to learn about and connect with campus.
Decide what networks to include in your directory (e.g., some still have Pinterest but most don't), criteria for inclusion (which may overlap with your account creation procedures—see next section), and the procedure to add or remove an account. Texas State University published the criteria for inclusion in their directory along with a form for campus social media managers to submit their account for consideration.
Learn more about unifying social on campus in our training series—register for episode 15 now and we'll let you know when it's available.