"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
When getting started on social media there are a few questions that you need to ask before delving too far down the social media rabbit hole. Answering these questions will offer guidance as to which social media roads to take, as well as which to avoid.
How much unique content do you have to offer? You need to have a plan for what you want you and your users to get out of the page. In general, fans of social media accounts look to do four main things when following an account:
- find interesting information to share with their networks
- show "brand" loyalty1
- get help with an issue2
- get some sort of reward, like a discount or promotion3
Do you have the resources available to maintain and update the account? Social media is free...like kittens. It may seem like a great idea to start an account, but social media needs attention every day to help it thrive. If you don't devote an appropriate amount of attention to your accounts you'll just be stuck trying to herd cats with not enough time to do it.
What goals do you have for using the page? Social media is a great tool for generating awareness, publicizing events, disseminating important information, humanizing and giving personality to your organization, and engaging with your audience in a new way. Which of these features of social media do you want to utilize? Write out your goals for the account, both general ones as well as SMART ones, so you have direction with using your account as well as a measuring stick to evaluate how you're doing later on. As the Cheshire Cat said, if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
Avoid duplicating efforts
Could your content be funneled up to an umbrella organization's social media page instead of creating your own page? For instance, if you are a subsidary program of an academic department, could you post your update to the department's page? Or a graduate school if you are a supporting office? If so, you should contact the administrators of those pages first to see if they are open to publicizing your organization's information rather than having a duplicate (or very similar) account created that would compete for users' attention.
Once you've established that you should create a new social media account, you've determined you have the time, resources, and energy to put into it, and defined the goals to guide you, it's time to get started and check out your social media options.