The Social Campus, Part 1: Communications

Blog   /   Social
April 15, 2014

This is the first installment of a five-part series for post-secondary institutions that want to integrate their social media across departments and expand their reach. To learn more, download the HootSuite white paper, The Social Campus: How Social Media is Transforming Higher Education.

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Social media pervades the modern college and university campus. In fact, its reach extends beyond the school’s boundaries, pulling admissions candidates into the university community and keeping alumni engaged long after graduation. With social media becoming ubiquitous in higher education, institutions must implement a campus-wide strategy that covers the whole student experience.

Most colleges and universities have seen social media emerge organically in various administrative, academic, and athletic departments. These departments have developed social media programs largely in isolation from one another, sometimes sharing best practices but rarely coordinating their efforts under a joint strategy. A more comprehensive, long-term vision is that of the social campus, where social media is an organizational priority and a shared responsibility. By embracing this vision, every department works under an overarching social media governance structure, yet is empowered to leverage social media in creative ways to meet its own objectives.

Regardless of the organizational philosophy of the institution, university Communications departments have a vital role to play in coordinating and supporting social media programs across the institution. Here are a few of the ways Communications can benefit from an integrated social media plan. Find more benefits and tips on implementation in the Social Campus white paper.

Audit the Institution’s Social Presence

To align every department’s social media strategy, the university Communications department needs to conduct a comprehensive audit of the organization’s social media footprint. It’s an involved process, but well worth the effort, ultimately giving Communications better control over the brand and preventing redundant or ill-advised profiles.

Support Efficient Workflows Across the Institution

As a university expands its social media footprint, it must have processes in place for handing off incoming messages between teams, and Communications is uniquely positioned to facilitate such cooperation. The need for effective coordination applies to outbound messaging as well, as institutions must ensure that messages are on-brand and approved before being published. In addition to providing more consistent messaging, supporting workflows across departments broadens awareness of school programs by encouraging cross-promotion of social content. It also provides a reliable, holistic view of social media data, as all teams are using common metrics and technologies.

Prepare for Crisis Communications

During an emergency, students, staff, and media outlets inevitably turn to social media to share and seek out information. There is no way to improvise a proactive social media response during a crisis. Having an actionable plan for monitoring and communicating through social channels will help provide safety and security to students and staff during tense times.

Social Media in the President’s Office

University presidents are responsible for nurturing lasting relationships between the institution and the community at large. Not surprisingly, most presidents are embracing social media, which enables them to use their own authentic voice to engage with audiences. The result is a closer connection with the community and the ability to contribute meaningfully to the daily dialogue around current events, an essential component of the mission of most academic institutions.

A 2013 report from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) showed that 83% of departments handle their own social media activities. With a campus-wide strategy and platform driven by the Communications department, teams and departments can work together to curate, schedule, and cross-promote social content. For more on how institutions can implement a common measurement framework for social media, download the white paper.

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Look for the next post in this series, which addresses how the Admissions department can tap into the school’s integrated social strategy to make the right first impression with prospective students.