Best Practices and Helpful Resources

Miami has been an early and enthusiastic adopter of social media. Used effectively, social media sites build reputation and are excellent tools for engaging audiences and enhancing a brand’s image and awareness. These tools enable us to share what is happening on campus with the world, let us hear directly and immediately from the Miami community about what is important to them, and allows us to respond. This two-way “conversation” is what differentiates social media from traditional forms of communication. There is less “control” of message with social media, but more opportunity to interact with our constituents. Miami University’s primary official social media presences are:

Have a plan!

  1. Define your goals
    Before jumping into social media for a department, program or office, determine what the goals are for the site. Understanding the will help with choosing the best type of site and create relevant content to interact with an audience. For example: is the goal to engage a specific audience, or multiple audiences? Does the department want to seek input about programs or promote events? In some cases, determining goals can help discover whether a social media site is needed at all
  2. Create a strategy by defining:
    • With whom the department wishes to engage
    • What content the department wishes to share and which mediums will serve it best
    • How the department will measure success
  3. Listen & Observe
    All social media platforms have their own styles and expectations. The best way to establish an effective site is to try out social media firsthand; visit other sites; maintain a personal account unaffiliated with the university; and in general become familiar with how social media is used before creating an official one at Miami
  4. Choose a (social media) platform and start small!
    The short, 140-character “tweets” of Twitter may or may not work for a department. Rich content such as photos, videos and other well-developed assets might be best shared via a Facebook fan page. First, choose a single platform that best meets goals and focus on building a strong presence on one of them before offering more. Social media requires time and resources – don’t try to do it all at once!

    Build out a blog, Twitter stream, Flickr profile, LinkedIn, Facebook page or whichever social media site is chosen and spend time populating it for several weeks and sharing it with a small group that can provide comments. Ideally, you will want to have members of your primary intended audience test it
  5. Launch and Promote
    You’re ready for interactive communication! Use traditional means, such as email lists and notices on the department website to notify potential audiences that you have a social media presence. Also, notify others with similar social media presences that the site is live; one of the best ways to do this is to link to appropriate or relevant sites and mention them in posts. For example, the Miami Art Museum, in establishing a new Facebook page, might want to post on Miami’s Facebook site and perhaps the Miami LinkedIn page, where alumni can discover it. Include easy-tofind links/icons to your social media presence on the area’s website.
  6. Stick to your strategy and look
    There will be temptation, especially early on, to make changes to a social media presence. Resist the temptation, at least initially, and stay with the plan until the department can effectively determine whether the site is working well. Only once you have enough time, posts, data and metrics should adjustments be made.
  7. Make adjustments as needed
    Many social media sites come with easy-to-use tracking tools, so areas can see which posts are viewed and shared most, which generate comments, which are irritating, popular, or ignored. Be prepared to re-align strategy in response to who is viewing the site, using data and metrics to help drive decisions.

Be respectful

Employees should strive for accuracy, professionalism and respectfulness at all times on social media sites. Employees must not engage in arguments on sites; employees must share accurate information to avoid misinformation and rumors.

Be transparent

Employees should make it clear that they are blogging/tweeting/posting, etc. in their official role as an employee of Miami. One of the great benefits of social media is that the individuals maintaining social media sites personalize large and complex organizations. Employees should use their own “voice.” It is also best not to ghostwrite posts for supervisors. Users are savvy and can recognize an inauthentic response or message. However, employees should check with supervisors regarding messages and responses to be sure they are conveying appropriate and accurate information.

Remember: The Audience is Bigger Than You Think!

Although Miami’s primary audiences may be prospective students, parents, current students, colleagues, peers, donors, state legislators and alumni, social media content can instantly reach a national audience. Employees should remember that anything shared within social media, even within a closed network, is not private. It can be shared, stored and spread globally. Employees should not post anything online that they would not post on behalf of the university on the front page of a newspaper or broadcasted on television news.

Listen to community

Being a consumer of social media is essential to the ability to be a successful producer of social media content. Employees should “listen” to online conversations on preferred tools – be they blogs, Twitter, Facebook or anything else – to maintain a clear and current understanding of what is relevant and of interest to their community. Sharing relevant information in response to what is trending enhances the site’s credibility by informing community members.

Monitor Sites

Social media presence requires diligent “care and feeding.” If a department does not have the time or resources to check in on these sites at least a few minutes each day, and to post fresh content several times a week, it should NOT develop a site, as its image will suffer more harm from a neglected site than not having a site at all. Without regular monitoring, information that might be protected or even illegal might be missed. Miami is ultimately responsible for information that is posted, and in some cases may need to take action. If the department cannot make the time commitment, it should use already established Miami University social media sites for key messages and information, instead. UCM can help share information. Imagewise, a site is only as interesting as its last post – if that post is several months old, it will reflect poorly on the department.

Be Timely in Urgent Situations, Track Miami’s Central Site

One of the great benefits of social media is the ability to share information almost instantly with a global audience. This timeliness is also one of the expectations of that audience. Be prepared to move quickly in response to emergencies or new developments by linking to any official information provided by central administration. However, as outlined in the policies section, never post any unapproved, non-central information in a crisis or urgent situation affecting the university as a whole – link only to centrally approved announcements to protect individuals, ensure accuracy, limit liability, and quell rumors.

Comment and Engage

As consumers and producers of social media, employees can offer comments on interesting posts relating to the topics relevant to their area – for example, The College of Creative Arts might share an article about careers available for music majors – and share the good work of students or professors. However, an employee must have any required permission before sharing, as privacy laws must be followed, and others may not want their photo or name used on the site. Personal information about others is not permitted. If employees see a post that they think requires or would benefit from an official Miami response, they should contact University News and Communications at newsinfo@MiamiOH.edu or 513-529-7592.

Monitor Comments, But Do Not Remove Posts

A social media site without comments isn’t very social. An employee should be prepared to accept and respond to comments. As a public university, Miami must respect freedom of speech and not violate First Amendment laws, so posts should not be removed unless they betray protected information or are otherwise illegal. Even posts that appear to be offensive or threatening should not be removed, as they may, in fact, need to be investigated. Such posts should be reported as quickly as possible to UCM for review. Respond to negative posts or misinformation respectfully, with correct information, or take a conversation “offline” by responding directly to the poster’s account, rather than using the open forum. Often, these actions will result in the poster voluntarily removing the post. If you have concerns or questions about comments, notify University Communications and Marketing. If you see what appears to be a threat and have any concern about safety, contact Miami University Police.

Separate Personal from Professional

Balancing a professional and personal social media presences can be tricky, particularly if a person is active in both arenas. Content that might be of interest to personal friends is not always appropriate or relevant to the audience(s) of a Miami site. If employees maintain personal and work social media accounts, they should take care to verify which account they are logged into before posting. Many high-profile social media blunders have come from an individual making a post from what they thought was a personal account only to later discover it was posted to an official work account.

Be a Valued Source and Community Member

If a site is only used to promote, it will quickly lose credibility. Sites should share the helpful or interesting information from trusted sources outside of Miami.

Vary Posts

Keep sites exciting by using various forms of media including links, photos, and videos. Almost every post should include a visual of some kind. Posts result in much more engagement if there is something to catch the audience’s eye.

Expand the Impact: Tell UCM About Exciting New Content!

Miami has a broad audience of students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, sports fans and others keeping connected with the university via social media. Expand impact and reach of content by sharing it through other Miami sites and mediums. When a site is applied for/registered, it will then be added to the Miami University Social Media Directory and site administrators will be invited to join the Miami Social Media Council.

Utilize social media site-specific terms of service

All social media sites have policies about how they will or will not use content, what is and is not allowed, etc. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these policies before a site is launched. If you have any questions about social media best practices, or need guidance when problems or issues of concern arise, reach out to Kelly Bennett (Kelly.Bennett@miamioh.edu) in UCM.

Take Advantage of Social Media Branding Resources

Using the Facebook Timeline for Brand Pages:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/29/how-to-use-timeline-for-pages/

Other Resources for Universities Using Social Media:

http://mashable.com/2011/10/10/universities-socialmedia/

http://mashable.com/2011/10/10/universities-social-media/