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Higher Ed Marketing Memos by Dr. Liz Gross

Defining social media strategy

Just for kicks, I recently googled “social media strategy.” There were 146 million results. People sure seem to have a lot to say about this! The first page was mostly “how-to” articles that never bothered to define the phrase. Then, there’s this gem (warning: strong language), which clearly illustrates that people are fed up with trying to articulate their strategy.

I think social media professionals are overthinking the idea of strategy. This is unfortunate, since strategy can be a key guide for how you do your work and how you represent it to stakeholders. At its core, strategy connects the dots between what you do and why you do it. Let’s quickly break this statement down.

  • Why: Your goal, objective, or mission statement. In higher ed, it might be related to admissions, graduation, fund-raising, or engagement.
  • What: The tactics you use in pursuit of your goal. Maybe you have a student blog, snap on game day, or do an alumni day of giving.
  • Strategy: A plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal or objective.

Social media strategic plan: connecting the dots

Your social media strategy connects your goals to your tactics at a high level. It lays out a clear action plan for your social media program. You should be able to articulate this action plan in 1-2 pages. Some questions that may get you closer to articulating a strategy include:
Pebbles are formed as an curve of the arc against the sky

  • How will you use social media? Hint: It might be more than just distributing content to engage people.
  • How will you determine what platforms are used? Hint: Who is your target market and where are they?
  • What type of content will you be posting on those platforms?
  • How will you allocate resources to enable effective strategy execution?
  • What tools will you need to execute the strategy?
  • What does success look like?

Earlier this year, I took a course at UW-Madison on Business Strategy and Acumen. Our instructor stressed that planning is the consequence of strategy, not the reverse. You don’t need to plan for weeks and weeks and weeks to come up with a strategy. Rather, identify your goals, articulate the strategy you will use to meet your goals, and then you can figure out all the things you will do to meet them (your tactics). You shouldn’t feel a ton of pressure to get it absolutely right the first time, because the best strategies are able to evolve over time. A new platform might cause you to rethink your strategy, as could a mass migration away from a particular app. It’s ok—a nimble strategy is a good strategy.

Social media strategy for higher ed in 140 characters?

For fun, I asked the higher ed Twitterverse to define social media in one tweet. I only received a handful of responses, which leads me to believe this is a concept that is still not well-articulated for many of us. Some replies were examples of a specific strategy; two hit the mark quite well. Unsurprisingly, one response was from an alumna of my Higher Ed Experts course on social media measurement for higher ed.

This is a tiny preview of week one of the Social Media Measurement for Higher Ed course, where the foundation for a deep dive into social media measurement and reporting is set by helping you reflect on and refine your goals, strategy, and tactics.

Meet the Author: Dr. Liz Gross

Dr. Liz Gross is a graduate of the Higher Ed Experts Web Analytics certificate program. Higher Ed Experts is a professional online school for digital professionals working in universities and colleges.

When you take a professional certificate course with us, you get a chance to upgrade your skills by working on your projects, interacting with classmates just like you and getting detailed personalized feedback from your instructor.

Dr. Liz Gross is now the director of Campus Sonar, a social media listening consultancy.

Liz received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. Her dissertation research examined the relationship between communication methods and the frequency and content of college student interactions with faculty.

She also taught for 2 years and half Higher Ed Expert’s 4-week online course on Social Media Measurement for Higher Education.

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