Engaging Your Community Part Three: Evaluating Emerging Platforms (like Google+)

Once you’ve landed on a starting approach for your organization’s social media efforts, it might seem like a hassle to continually evaluate new social platforms as they emerge. But continuous evaluation means the opportunity to say yes or no as each new opportunity arises. And even if a particular platform doesn’t fit well with your organizational communications or social media strategy, you’ll still need to know about most of the latest social media options. After all, you want to be prepared in case your colleagues come to you for guidance as they consider trying new platforms for their own projects or for professional development purposes.

As a case study, let’s consider Google+. The platform became available to individual users in June. Then, in November, Google opened it up to brands and organizations. If the recent announcement of new facial recognition functionality is any indication of Google’s plans to continue developing the product, then Google+ is worth evaluating. Even if you decide not to incorporate Google+ into your social media plan today,  you’ll still want to keep an eye on if and how they continue to tie Google+ content into Google searches. For now, the main way is through Direct Connect . But in the future, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they were to give Google+ content higher search rankings than other social media content.

Have you evaluated Google+ or other emerging social platforms? Which ones made the cut?

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Engaging Your Community Part Two: Getting Started

Now that you’ve chosen which social platforms will fit your community well, it’s time to get going! Sign up for accounts on each of the platforms you’ll be using, and make sure you take a look at the Terms of Service for each one as you begin. If possible, use a general institutional email account to sign up and don’t use a personal password — take the time to create a new one. Make sure to document your account information so your colleagues can access the new accounts if need be. Also, try to keep the handles for your accounts consistent across platforms. Don’t call yourself ABC University on one and ABCU on another. Your organization’s communications style guide should help guide how you name the accounts.

During the first week:

  • Check your account at least once each day. Assign a student or colleague to help you if appropriate.
  • Post something (tweet, post a photo to your Facebook page, save a social bookmark, post a video, put a blog post up … you get the idea).
  • Respond to anyone who interacts with you. Answer questions, congratulate people on news they share with you, suggest resources that might interest them, etc.
  • Match your profile to your existing organizational identity. Refer to that handy style guide and use it to customize your profile colors, profile photo and description. This is a priority because it helps your community intuit that the account is an official part of your organization.

During the first month:

  • Be consistent. Help people know what to expect from you. For example, you could commit to tweeting three times each day, posting something new on your Facebook page three times each week or publishing a new blog post each day.
  • Tell your community you’re trying something new. Add links to your new social presences or channels on your institutional website. Use one social presence to point to another presence (e.g., tweet about your latest YouTube video). Include a blurb in your alumni magazine or admissions email newsletter. Reach out to colleagues who are already on those platforms and help them understand how they can support your efforts.
  • Reach out to any unofficial accounts that relate to your organization. If you aren’t on a popular platform yet, then some enthusiastic student has likely taken it upon herself to represent you. Instead of griping about it in team meetings, reach out to the person who runs the account and help her understand how she can help you.
  • Report back to your team. Share some early stories about how it’s going, and help them understand how they can become involved. At the very least, reporting back might help your colleagues think about content to share with you or other people who might be interested in what you’re doing.

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Engaging Your Community Part One: Choosing Social Plaforms

I’ve been working in the social media space, building communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms, since 2007. The tools and platforms have changed quite a bit during this time. When I first began wading into social media community management, I still had to consider whether Facebook or MySpace would be the better fit for our community of graduate students, faculty, alumni and friends of the institution. (Facebook was the obvious winner, by the way.)

Today, I’m thankful that the conversation has evolved from Facebook vs. MySpace to asking which platforms fit well with an organization’s audiences and strategic goals. For most organizations, the answer is an ever-evolving, carefully crafted network of social platforms. The obvious players today are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs. For some organizations, other platforms also fill specific needs — Foursquare, Quora, Ning (or other social forum platforms), Delicious (or other social bookmarking platforms) and Flickr (or other social photo platforms) are definitely worthy of consideration. And don’t forget to consider emerging social platforms like Google Plus. You never know which platform will take off and which ones will go the way of MySpace.

After you consider which platforms fit well with your target audience(s), don’t forget another important step: a reality check. Be honest with yourself. Can you really commit the time to manage each presence well? Have you planned to spend a portion of your time each day engaging with your community on each platform? If you’re not able to muster an enthusiastic “Yes!” in response to each of these questions, then consider building your social media efforts over time. Remaining absent from a social platform reflects better upon your organization than a forgotten social media account. Consider starting with one platform and waiting until you’re able to adjust to the time commitment involved before adding other platforms.

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