Social Media Strategy
Social media continues to grow and change each day. Tufts University must be able to leverage current outlets while also having a clear vision for continuing to engage new audiences as the landscape changes.
Strategic social media use encourages our audiences to connect and actively participate with the university. Traditional one-way communication channels do not typically reach audiences in ways that elicit a particular response or behavior, whereas social media, by definition, revolves around interactions and conversation. With clearly defined goals and wisely chosen tools, Tufts can enhance its relationships with existing audiences, and truly engage them.
To meet these goals, Tufts’ many separate departments and offices should work together to communicate Tufts’ core values to the university’s various constituencies. This includes, but is not limited to, information about:
- Active citizenship
- Interdisciplinary research
Through collaborative efforts, departments can take advantage of current and new platforms while maintaining the ability to adjust when older platforms fall out of favor. A defined strategy will allow the many units across the university to learn from best practices in the constantly evolving social media landscape and to avoid common pitfalls along the way. As social media usage among our audience grows, this strategy will help us to understand how social media works in tandem or as a complement to traditional media outlets.
This document serves to guide the general use of social media at the university, including the main Tufts University accounts. It includes what one should consider before embarking on a social media effort, as well as throughout the life of that effort. While there is a benefit for almost any Tufts entity that uses social media, working without a strategy and clearly defined goals can be detrimental, leading to issues such as loss of confidence in the information coming from the school, department or program.
With clearly defined goals and wisely chosen tools, Tufts will not only reach new audiences, it can truly engage them.
The purpose of this strategy is to ensure that we:
- Use social media as an integral part of an overall communications strategy at Tufts.
- Leverage current outlets while also maintaining a clear vision for how we can continue to engage new audiences and test new social networks as the landscape changes.
- Tell the Tufts story – stories that reflect the university’s core values – and engage our audiences in new and interesting ways.
- Support our schools, departments and offices at Tufts in their social media endeavors by providing guidance, best practices and a forum for discussion.
OVERALL STRATEGY GOALS
- Convey the key messages of the university to a broad audience.
- Enhance the reputation of the university by promoting appropriate content and protect the reputation in the event of the appearance of misinformation or negative content.
- Use a variety of social-media platforms that reach the university’s various audiences to provide users with a sense of community.
- Ensure consistency in style and approaches to social media across the institution, while recognizing the necessity to tailor tone and platforms to various constituencies.
- Guide and help individuals, as well as academic and administrative units, with their social media strategies and channels.
- Enhance the reputation for Tufts’ social media presence as an important forum for conversations about a range of issues.
- Stay on top of social media trends and new technologies.
- When considering a new platform, perform cost-benefit analyses to determine if what is in the interests of the for-profit companies that host the social media platforms is also in the best interest of Tufts, noting that not every department or communications entity at the university will use every social media platform — nor should it.
While there is no one-size-fits-all model for success, a successful social media strategy keeps in mind the wide range of audiences viewing our messages – students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, donors, mainstream media and more – and has the sophistication of speaking to all of them.
The various elements of the strategy outlined here are supported by our Social Media Policy & Best Practices [link], which looks to promote the most effective uses of the individual platforms.
The strategy consists of employing the following practices that will sustain and enhance the university’s social media presence, despite inevitable technological changes.
- Maintain a position on the front edge of social media growth by prudently joining new platforms that can best benefit the university or a particular department and by transitioning away from platforms as they become less commonly used or outdated. This continual process ensures that we best use our resources and maintain a reputation as being forward-thinking.
- Ask questions that continually define a department’s audiences and goals in order to avoid wasted resources and lost time.
- Not every platform will be beneficial to every entity at the university. Asking questions about the audience and desired behavior will maintain relevance and help practitioners find the most effective ways to engage users.
- Use a defined social media policy [see: “Tufts University Social Media Policies”] and platform-specific best practices documents [see: “Social Media Best Practices”] to help implement social media.
- These documents serve as the definitive guide for university representatives using social media.
- Ensure that these remain living documents that offer best practices, along with required protocols, information on applicable laws and guidelines tailored to specific social media platforms.
- These documents – available online on Web Communication’s website [link] – ensure that the flow of information is constant and allows all units to maintain and grow a social media presence.
- Share best practices among campus partners who are charged with social media responsibilities, and communicate regularly.
- Using the policy documents as guiding tools, ensure that campus partners work in cooperation with Web Communications to possess the most up-to-date information and have the capacity to make the most beneficial decisions for their social media presence.
- Maintain consistent partnerships through the Social Media Working Group and beyond over the life of social media efforts. These partnerships allow us to continually share best practices among users of social media on campus to maintain the most effective application of social media targeted to meet goals.
- Take advantage of the central university social media presence to highlight and bring attention to social media content from all units, to maximize their impact.
- Distribute information through social media that is reflective of the university’s key messages and that helps strengthen Tufts’ reputation.
- Make information distributed through social media engaging and interactive so users feel the need to get involved, thereby creating content of their own and building a self-sustaining flow of information.
- Ensure that social media efforts remain “social” to maintain a strong and interactive relationship with users.
- Use social media to answer questions, provoke conversation and have fun, not just to promote content
- Recognizing that responsive information flow in social media platforms does not happen immediately, sustain an approach of continually seeking responses with the understanding that trust takes time to build.
- Monitor mentions of Tufts on social media channels to not only find new followers, engage in conversations and discover content, but to also correct misinformation, track negative content and keep a pulse on sentiment toward the university.
- Track and record metrics that indicate what content is popular on our channels, who our audience is and its growth, as well as how our audience interacts with us.
- Ensure that the overall appearance of the university’s social media presence is enticing and dynamic in order to maintain a strong user base.
- Build a reputation as a thought-leader in the social media world.
- Share information beyond news related to the university to show users that we are aware of their broader information needs.
- Use social media platforms as “convening” spaces to demonstrate to users, other media outlets and peer institutions that Tufts has a role in influencing appropriate public discussion on events and issues of relevance to the university and its constituents.
PUTTING THE STRATEGY TO WORK
Tufts’ social media presence is substantial, and it is growing. With the coordinated strategy outlined here, a set of platform-specific policies and an evolving set of tips and best practices, the university and the individual departments and administrative units within the campus community can continue to build a robust social media identity for Tufts.
We can’t necessarily predict what will happen or what people will like years or even months from now, so our goal is to always be thinking ahead and to be nimble enough to adapt to the changes as they come.
Tufts University Social Media Policies [Link]
Facebook Strategy [Link]
As a brand on Facebook, we realize that we are competing with an individual’s friends for time and attention in their news feeds. In addition to this, the content that is showcased in an individual’s feed is based on an algorithm that we cannot control, making it less of a guarantee that all of our intended audiences will see our message.
Currently our most active audiences on Facebook include:
- Current students
- Prospective students
- Prospective parents
From experience, our most popular posts include:
- People often tag themselves in photos we post (e.g. If we take a photo of the quad, even with no one on it, people will tag themselves)
- Tufts paraphernalia
- Photos of Tufts apparel
- Mascot mentions
- “Feel Good” stories/Tufts Pride
With all this in mind, our main goals and strategies with Facebook are to:
- Build community and goodwill
- Post photos, questions, stories that make one proud to be a member of the Tufts community and compel users to respond. The more people interact with our content (e.g. liking a post, commenting or sharing), the more visibility for the university.
- When someone interacts with a post, it then shows up in their friends’ feeds, opening us up to a broader group of people who would not have seen our post previously.
- Strengthen Tufts’ reputation
- Share stories and information that focus on key messages and core values for Tufts.
- Share research from Tufts faculty that positions Tufts as an influential leader in various industries.
- Stay up-to-date on Facebook trends and changes
- Different kinds of posts and updates go in and out of style on Facebook. It’s important that we stay on top of these trends to ensure our audience does not lose interest in our page.
- Facebook changes their design, algorithm, rules and format regularly and it’s important to know how these changes impact our page and our audience.
Since Facebook is used more for interacting with people than brands, we want to avoid overloading users’ timelines. We aim to post only once per day, four to five times a week. Since Facebook is a very different channel than Twitter, we do not cross post between the two platforms.
Please refer to Tufts University Social Media Policies [Link] for a closer look at the best practices we adhere to while maintaining our Facebook presence.
Twitter, by design, is made to accommodate short and frequent updates. Here you are competing with the dozens of other friends and brands that an individual user may follow, and with every new tweet your last tweet is bumped down and out of sight.
Because of the more anonymous nature of Twitter (your handle does not have to be your real name), it can often be hard to determine our audience. Judging by the interactions we have had, we know a good portion of our audience consists of:
- Prospective students
- Current students
- Student groups
From experience, our most popular tweets include:
- Replies and retweets
- Simply acknowledging someone who mentioned Tufts goes a long way.
- It builds goodwill with those who are already organically telling your story for you, which helps toward authenticity.
- Many will also favorite/save these tweets which ensures that they often see the tweet and Tufts is kept top of mind.
- Simply acknowledging someone who mentioned Tufts goes a long way.
- “Feel good”/Tufts Pride
- Interesting articles (e.g. Tufts research)
- Random facts, both general and Tufts related.
With this in mind, our main goals and strategies with Twitter are to:
- Build community
- Monitor conversations and mentions for the purpose of interacting with and engaging our community.
- Offer interactive tweets that encourage responding and retweeting.
- Promote student groups and events to show support from the university.
- Be a resource to our audience
- Keep our audience up-to-date on what is happening on campus with faculty and students, upcoming events, current university news, etc.
- Show a lighthearted and fun side of Tufts University
- Fun photos, facts, and responses to followers keep Tufts’ Twitter feed lighthearted and conversational, which encourages conversation and sharing.
- Strengthen Tufts’ reputation
- Tweet faculty research, student achievements, university awards and articles that position Tufts as a thought-leader.
Since Twitter changes by the minute, we aim to post a variety of content, multiple times throughout the day, offering diverse tweets and encouraging interaction from our followers. Twitter requires timely, frequent updates, so we do not cross-post between Twitter and Facebook.
Please refer to Tufts University Social Media Policies [Link] for a closer look at the best practices we adhere to while maintaining our Twitter presence.