Karine Joly 3 Comments

KatePost_150x150Kate Post, Digital Media Specialist at California State University, Chico, is one of the 12 presenters of the 3rd Higher Ed Social Media Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Kate tells us how she manages social media, shares a surprising social media outcome and tackles the tough ROI question.

1) How do you manage your activity on social media?

I am the only staff person at Chico State dedicated to the University’s social channels, and it’s only about 70% of my duties. As a result, time and workload management is crucial, and I rely heavily on both tech tools and human resources. We utilize Sprout Social to aggregate the University’s channels into a unified inbox where I can quickly review and respond to posts, assign tasks for my student intern, and email posts with questions I can’t answer directly to the appropriate stakeholder (Admissions, Academic Advising, etc.). Sprout has been crucial to helping me work more efficiently, and engage directly with our audiences on a regular basis. On the people front, I have a 12hr/wk student intern who helps create content for all of our channels. We meet formally once a week to list upcoming events to promote, discuss blog post progress, etc., then check in daily to make sure we’re on the same page. Typically, my intern will draft Facebook and Twitter posts in Sprout for my review, and then send or schedule them. Additionally, I rely on University resources, like the University Photographer to help supply photos for our Instagram account, our staff in the Public Affairs department for news and content tips, etc. These alliances really help make social media not just my job, but a little piece of everyone’s, and ultimately provides awesome content for our social channels.

2) What’s the most surprising social media outcome you’ve experienced this year? What did you learn?

The most surprising thing this year for me was discovering the value of Snapchat. I wavered on launching an account for most of the spring, but was finally persuaded by my student intern just before the end of the semester that there was no harm in trying it. I was envisioning worst-case scenarios—students sending us snaps of them doing inappropriate activities, or that they didn’t really want “Big Brother” University in this space, for example—but was pleasantly surprised to discover none of those were true.

We launched during spring finals week (a week before graduation) by announcing on Twitter and Instagram that we’d made an account, and started a little campaign asking students to send us their “study snaps.” Over the next five days we gained more than a thousand Snapchat followers, and for the campaign received more than 50 “usable” snaps for our campaign. We repurposed those snaps in a Facebook album for parents, alumni, and friends to see, which was a big hit since it played on their nostalgia and support for students. It was a super simple way to showcase the daily lives of our students with both a hint of academic seriousness (a key area of focus in our communications) and a whole lot of personality.

The main lesson of this Snapchat experiment was not to be afraid to give new media a try, and to trust that the same positive, engaged community you’ve built on other platforms will carryover. We continued our “experiment” by reporting from Commencement a week later using Snapchat Stories, and we’ve now fully integrated it in our regular social media strategy to great success!

3) How do you approach the question of return on investment (ROI) when it comes to social media?

For me, the tricky thing with ROI is that it changes depending on who’s asking. I work for the Director of Public Affairs, so the main focus of our social media channels in his view is communications—are we reaching the right people with the right messages, and how well we’re doing that. However, our department reports to the Vice President for University Advancement, whose ultimate goal is always dollars raised. Is social media valuable for achieving both of those goals? Absolutely, and we’re doing a good job of it. Showing that is a different matter.

Proving the ROI of meeting the communications goals of my supervisor is relatively easy. I can pull the numbers at any time (thanks, Sprout!) showing exactly how many people we’re impacting with content, areas we can improve, and even anecdotes of success. The connection to dollars is much more difficult to report. We operate on the inherent assumption that alums, students, and friends who are actively engaged with the university online have increased affinity and are more likely to give. However, drawing a direct line can be difficult, if not impossible. I have approached the ROI question in two ways. The first is by being more proactive in identifying prospects (people who are super engaged and love the university) via social media and reporting out to our development officers. The second is by explaining my work (the “investment” piece of ROI) as relationship building—in the same way our development officers build relationships with prospects over lunch, I spend four years interacting personally and directly with our students on Twitter or Facebook, etc. cultivating their love for the university and a habit for staying connected with us. This is crucial groundwork for fundraising, and work a dollar-focused VP understands.

Higher Ed Social Media Conference

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