After listening to your audience and the campus community, the next step is composing content of your own. What interesting, unique, useful and relevant information do you have to share?
Shareable content starts on your website
When it all comes down to it, your audience is following you on social media because they are interested in what you have to say, and a lot of that great information starts on your website. When updating or creating new content for your website, keep "shareability" in mind:
- Is this something you could share on social media? If you find it interesting, chances are your fans will too.
- Make the headlines of your pages and stories catchy and memorable. An interesting headline is a great way to get folks to pay attention to your content amidst all the other social media content they see.
- A photo or video is a great way to increase the shareability of your content. A visual element is bound to catch the eye of your audience and make your content stand out. Plus, most social media sites are designed to highlight photos and videos more than plain text updates, so capitalize on that by having visual elements on your pages.
For more great social content ideas, check out "Make Content More Social" by Ma'ayan Plaut.
Posts with Benefits
Be sure to provide some benefit in exchange for your audience's attention. You can offer an interesting tidbit of news from your organization, a shareable "behind-the-scenes" photo, or perhaps the benefit can be more concrete like early access to tickets for an event.
Questions, questions, questions
Ask questions with the intent of soliciting meaningful responses, simply asking folks to "like" or "share" or "retweet" a post is not engaging content (even if it is being interacted with). Ask your fans to share what they think on a particular topic related to your field, or leave a comment on their memory of an event you're hosting. In addition, if you ask a question, make sure you're willing (and have the time to) interact with the replies.
For example, rather than simply asking "What's your favorite ice cream flavor?" say "We're planning our colloquium reception and want to hear from you: What flavor of ice cream should we serve tomorrow evening?" Both questions are seeking information about ice cream flavors, but the second provides context for why you are asking, along with a benefit for the user if they engage with you (if they reply, their favorite flavor may be served at the reception). Questions should also have some reference back to your organization (or in this case, your event), this further enforces ties to your brand as well as makes your content unique. In other words, your audience chose to follow you because they wanted to hear about your organization and find out information they had not already heard elsewhere. By asking generic or irrelevant questions, sharing popular memes (without some tie to your organization) or similar activities, you merely enable your posts to blend in with the crowd.
Keep personal views separate from university posts. The W&M name and any official social media channels of the university (a school, office, program or department) may not be used to promote or endorse a product, cause, political party or political candidate.
More information about political campaign-related activities of and at colleges and universities is available from the American Council on Education (pdf). This guidance does not, strictly speaking, apply to W&M, but is nonetheless instructive. Additional DHRM policies on the use of electronic communications and social media for state employees is available from the Compliance & Equity Office.
Read twice (or three times), post once
Before pressing "Send" on a post be sure to:
- Use correct spelling and grammar (the internet loves a mistake). Abbreviations are acceptable on Twitter but don't go overboard, no one wants to have to try and decode what you're saying amongst the abbreviations and acronyms.
- Utilize a conversational tone. Avoid jargon, industry-specific acronyms and "marketing" lingo. You want to engage your followers in a conversation, not bore them with a dry 500-word copy-and-pasted press release.
- Be respectful. Keep in mind that you are representing your organization and W&M whenever you post on social media. If you would not say it in person, do not say it online.
- Be accurate. Double check any facts you've included in your post and have a reference readily available in case someone asks for more information.
- Ensure no confidential or private information is included in the post. Always consider content posted on social media as public information, even if it is in a closed or private group. A screenshot could be taken of your post at any time and made public.
- If you're unsure about something in your post, read it out loud or have someone else read it to make sure it's not saying something you didn't intend.
Tailor your content for each channel
After spending the time to come up with great content to post on your channel it's very tempting to just "write once, post everywhere" and, in general, this can be true if you're running more than one social media channel. However, you must tailor your content to the channel you're posting on: use more precise and brief language when posting on Twitter to ensure your message fits and makes sense in 280 characters; include a photo on a Facebook post to attract more attention and tag the Page that's related to the post.
Do not link your social media accounts directly, posting directly from Instagram to Twitter or Twitter to Facebook (or vice versa) does a disservice to both sets of users, particularly if they are following both accounts. No one wants to see duplicate content, let alone for every single post. You can certainly share the same content on multiple channels (posting the same photo to both Twitter and Facebook for example) but be aware of the different audiences they are going to and how things are treated (for instance, mentions of a Twitter handle make no sense in a Facebook post and a long caption on an Instagram or Facebook photo will be truncated on Twitter).