February 27, 2014
Communicating with Students using Social Media
The first post in this series talked about how to use social media to build a news stream that gives you the mix of news, information and research that keeps you up-to-date at work. This post looks at how to provide that kind of information for students.
The first thing to remember is that social media is only one channel. Academic Skills provides training and support to all students of the university, that’s about 46,000 people. Just over 800 of them like our Facebook page and just over 450 follow our Twitter feed. In comparison, somewhat over 4,000 check our website in a month.
Students tell us that they dip into the portal (even if they don’t read everything); they look at the media screens around campus; they check out posters sometimes; and they skim through their emails.
Social media is not a silver bullet, but it is part of a multi-channel program to let students know what’s going on.
The second thing to remember is that students keep telling us, ‘send us better emails’. Our research suggests that students would actually prefer to be contacted by targeted newsletters that are regular, weekly rather than daily, not repetitive, and easy to unsubscribe from.
For most communication plans, the answer I find is not ‘get a Twitter account’, but ‘improve your emails’.
The third thing to remember is that social media is also social. The most successful social media accounts at the university - @unimelb, @unilibrary, @carte_crepes, First Year at Melbourne, BCom at UniMelb, Science at Melbourne have a definite voice or personality, and a mix of social / fun / engagement and serious information.
You also need to be socialized in the cultural ‘rules’ about the different platforms. Facebook is visual. Twitter is a link-o-lator. LinkedIn is about jobs. Blogs have to make you want to come back.
Finally: update optimally. Post on Facebook daily Monday-Friday, preferably with a picture, between 12 and 3pm. Check if you are reaching your students using the Facebook analytics every week. Post on Twitter, 1-3 times a day, between 12 and 3pm, with a link to your website. Check if you are reaching your students using Google Analytics every week. Finally, create your posts using ‘personas’ to target your typical audience.
Use Facebook ‘Scheduled Posts’ and Hootsuite so you can put up all your posts on Monday morning. Set up email alerts (with a Rule in Outlook so they don’t clog up your inbox) so you can keep an eye on if people are responding during the week.