Creating a social media presence
How you can use social media in the best way for you
Social media: five things to remember
These are some things to consider, whether you are starting a new social media channel or maintaining an existing one:
Find your voice
Who are you talking to? What’s your voice? What are you trying to accomplish? Think about this before every post. If you have several admins or people working to produce content, make sure they’re writing with a common voice and with the same aims and objectives.
Social media is constantly evolving. Don’t allow your plans to become rigid. Find time to regularly check on the trends on each platform to gain an understanding of what people are talking about, so you can promote your expert research or insights on topics that the public are already engaging with. Joining conversations, when relevant, can be an excellent way of promoting your key messages.
Listen and learn
Some of the best ideas come from listening closely. Keep it ‘social’ by watching, learning from, and amplifying the best finds from your audience and the trends on each platform. Likewise, remember to connect with your colleagues.
Use the relevant tools
Social media tools can help you accomplish your goals. Think of them as a means to an end rather than the most important part: telling a great story at an opportune moment in a way that helps you connect with people is more important than the tools you use to do it.
Remember (and review) your objectives
As with everything we do, remember that our goal is to share things that are innovative and unique about Oxford University. Keep the institutional position in mind – and think about how best to creatively share our most impactful stories in the most concise way. You will have different objectives within your strategies – remember to set SMART objectives so that what you are trying to achieve can be effectively measured.
There are five key things to remember when thinking about your audience and the content they will respond to:
Knowing where your audience are from can enable you to keep up with trends, engage with them topically, and generally tailor your content to their concerns and interests.
Knowing this offers you content tailoring opportunities, trend insights and topical engagement opportunities. It also allows you to align your tone of voice and engagement tactics with what they might find attractive – and in a worst-case scenario, offensive.
Take note of which type of content is most engaging to your audience. You can do this through in-platform reporting, or external tools (more information on this can be found on the social media tools page).
Not everything you produce is going to go viral or do as well as you hoped. Take note of what doesn’t work and consider why. Important institutional messages sometimes fall flat. Look at what works and see if you can tailor your content.
Look at your analytics and assess what content is performing well for you. Are there any common themes? Analysing your data can provide you with key insights in terms of what success and failure looks like on your channels.
Consider the following questions when you are planning social content. Ensure you know the answer to all of them – this will allow you to shape your content plan:
- How easy will this piece of content be to produce?
- What’s the time/effort and outcome balance?
- Is this what your audience might connect with? Is this what they want?
- Is this content for an audience you aim to engage with more in the future?
- Is this topical and relevant?
- Have all angles been covered?
- Can I create engaging copy from what’s provided?
- Is there existing imagery and video? How easy will these be to produce if not?
This is especially important when promoting an event or a call to action. Never rely on users clicking a link you have provided. Include as much relevant information as you can in the limited copy you have available.
If you’re including a link, make sure you shorten it to save characters and also track clicks – if possible. You can personalise links with different tools, so they look neat and short. Links can be temperamental when you schedule in through tools – for example, YouTube links might not display below the copy as a preview, so always check.
The image or video attached to your post will be the thing that sells your content, so think carefully about what is accompanying your copy and why. High quality doesn’t mean professional – clear, well-lit phone photos work well too. Ensure all imagery is in focus, good quality and in the correct format. The more personal the image the better.
Video watch time on social is short, but video production can take a long time. Always consider whether video is the best supporting asset for your post. Consider what form of video will help get your message across. For example, sometimes caption-lead videos are an effective way of telling a story while in other cases, filming an interview to camera can be more impactful.
If your video has audio of someone talking, please ensure the video is captioned or is subtitle enabled. The vast majority of videos are played on social without sound.
Video specifications for channels are as follows:
- Length: 2 minutes, 20 seconds max
- Best size: 1080px x 1080px (1:1)
- Other size accepted: 1920px x 1080px (16:9)
- Length: 45 minutes max
- Best size: 1080px x 1080px (1:1)
- Other size accepted: 1920px x 1080px (16:9)
- Length: 10 minutes max
- Best size: 1080px x 1080px (1:1)
- Other size accepted: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
- Length: 10 minutes max (1080px x 1080px or 1080px x 1920px, but note that videos longer than a minute must be 1080px x 1920px)
- Best size: 1080px x 1920px (9:16)
- Length: 15 seconds max (longer uploads will be divided into 15 second clips which will play back to back)
- Best size: 1080px x 1920px (9:16)
Choose your channel
Maybe this is a great story to tell on one channel, but not on another. That’s ok – keep it specific or repurpose the content to fit the environment of the channel.
Think outside the box
Don’t just focus on students; you can focus on staff and researchers as well. If you want to prove your area is a cohesive, supportive one, then show everyone who helps bring it all together.
Choose your tone
Always be friendly, helpful and informative – and don’t worry about cracking the odd joke. People want to know there are real-life humans here. If you encounter problematic comments, address the concern and if required try and move the conversation offline by referring the user to a joint email inbox.
Avoid the terminology trap
Write so anyone can understand your content (unless you run a particularly niche or research-led channel). Oxford is a world-leading research facility and a world-leading acronym generator. For example, JCR and MCR make sense to you, but they won’t to others and can be alienating. If you feel you can’t avoid using them, then explain what they are as simply as possible.
The three key things to remember are community, clarity and creativity:
We want to show that diversity isn’t just about getting people through the door. We also want to show our social media channels are safe places for people to share their thoughts. Try and encourage the creation of content which gives your followers the confidence to interact and comment on your content. This will help make your department more accessible to those who follow you.
Be open minded when producing content, but keep in mind what you want the overarching message to be. Make sure your content has at least one clear message which is easy to identify.
Don’t be afraid to try new things on social media. The key thing is you want your content to resonate and be understood by your intended audience.
Remember, all your content doesn’t need to be the most polished item. Sometimes impromptu content with a clear message or call to action can be hugely effective. Regularly take stock of the content you see shared on your social media timelines as this can help guide you into understanding what type of content is excelling on social media and think about how you could potentially tailor your messages into this format.
Important things to remember and ask yourself
- Who is this for?
- Who does this concern?
- Who do you want to see this content?
- Why are you promoting this?
- Why is it relevant?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Where is this taking place?
- When is it taking place?
- What is it?
- Does it play into your strategy and goals?
Creating content takes a while, so don’t be shy of repurposing content. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Is it still topical?
- Has anything changed?
- Are there new hooks and angles you can use?
- What are your priorities/key messages?
- Did the content perform particularly well in conveying them?
When you want to repurpose content, consider:
- Changing the imagery or video
- Changing the social copy
- Changing the wording of your main asset – for example, do you now need to refer to anything in the past tense?
- Does the look and feel of the content need tweaking to make it more relevant?
- Creating an additional piece (this could be in the form of an article, graphic or video)
- Can you break the content into smaller bits of content?
- Can you contact the people involved easily? Ask them to comment on what they’re up to now
- Can you scatter content throughout the year?
Providing a link is usually not enough to encourage someone within the University to share your content. Try the following to increase the chances of your content being shared:
Prove a connection
Who is this relevant to? Find relevant departments, colleges, academics, students, etc for an affiliation.
Prove a value
Is this interesting for their audiences? Explain why?
Prove a well-presented piece of content
Ensure the imagery is good, copy is clear and the content is packed with the necessary information.
Present a package for sharing
Always make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. Either share suggested social media copy and accompanying assets or send a link to your post for them to share.
Give and take
If you share relevant content from other departments or colleges, they will be more likely to share your content. Build a positive rapport with the people running other Oxford social media accounts where your content could potentially crossover. This can be an effective way to boost the reach of your posts with relevant audiences.
When developing social media channels, it is essential you have social media strategy in place. Your strategy should guide your approach and tone, as well as the content you produce.
Your strategy should have clear objectives of what you aim to achieve with your channels. Always start by identifying the role you want social media to play across your department and ensure your objectives are measurable and attainable.
- What should your profile say?
- What platforms should you use?
- Who’s responsible for posting on the channels?
- Who will be providing you with content?
- How often should you post?
A strategy is simple and actionable; it tells you what to do, how to do it and when to do it for maximum results, as best fits your purposes. Set aside some time to work through the questions above, and you’ll have the basis of your social media strategy.
1. Identify your target audience
Make a wish list of who you would like to talk to on social media. You don’t need to make your target audience overly specific. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Where are they?
- What are they talking about?
- Who are they talking to and interacting with?
Furthermore, if there are certain individuals who typify your target audience on social media, analyse their social media channels. Look at what they post about and who they interact with. This will give you a great insight into the type of content which appeals to them, and therefore the type of content to create for your intended audience.
2. Define your message
In order to create a message that matters to your audience, you need to talk about what they care about and things they are interested in, as well as the overall objectives of the University.
- What is your audience interested in?
- What is your unique selling point? How can you add value to the conversation?
- How can you communicate your unique selling point and most effectively appeal to your audience?
- How can you approach social media with a solution to your audience’s problems, or to add value to their experience?
3. Determine your goals
Goals can be anything from ‘build an email list’ to ‘get more people to attend events’. They will depend on how you use social media and your website to interact with your audience.
- Why are you using social media?
- What do you hope to gain out of it? (Be specific.)
- What counts as a successful conversion? (Is it clicks onto your website or an increase in followers on social media?)
- How do those conversions achieve your goals?
4. Brainstorm your offerings
Offering value is what will make you stand out on social media. Adding to the noise isn’t a good strategy; adding new insights for your audience is. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
- What can you provide via social media that will help/ interest/ entertain your target audience?
- What kind of content will you produce?
- What content will help you achieve your goals?
5. Set a budget and schedule for needed resources
Define your resources in terms of money, time and personnel, then put those resources to work.
- How much time, talent and energy can you dedicate to social media?
- Do you have a budget for social media?
- Who is in charge?
- Do you have to manage your social media channels as well as carrying out other communications responsibilities?
- What can you outsource or delegate?
6. Set limits and benchmarks
You can’t do it all on social media. It’s better to be measured and focused in a certain area than to try and reach every space. Always refer back to the objectives within your social strategy.
- What social media platforms will be most effective for you?
- What content will you put on social media?
- How often will you post per week?
- When will you produce this content?
- How will you measure its success?
7. Apply, wait and test/tweak
Set a time limit (several months, at least) and stick to your strategy for that amount of time before you start making major tweaks to it.
Keys to success
- Start with a focused approach. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Instead, choose one or two platforms and a primary message.
- Be patient. It takes time to build a social media audience. You have to work to create a rapport with them – it won’t happen overnight.
- Stay consistent. Consistency conveys authority and builds trust.
- Follow the etiquette of social media (be polite; respond to people; don’t spam; and give credit).
- Don’t rely solely on automation. Engage, respond, talk to people, help them, have conversations.
- Be personable. Your audience are more likely to engage with you if your account comes across as approachable.
- Keep an eye out for social media trends and awareness days. This can be a great way of promoting your expertise on topics that your audience are already talking about.
- Don’t let it take over all your time at work. Instead, designate a daily block of time to do your social media work.
- Study your social media analytics when possible. It’s important you know what success looks like on your channels, what content isn’t excelling and where improvements could be made.
Social media takes time, but it’s worth your time – just not all your time. Adopt a simple strategy so that you use social media effectively without it taking time away from the rest of your work.
This social media strategy template should help you to get started.
Social media measurement
If you’re using social media, you should be measuring your performance. But don’t measure just for the sake of having metrics. Instead, measure your social activities so that you can learn what’s successful and what isn’t, as well as how you can improve.
When getting started with social media measurement, you should aim to address these questions:
- How do you know if your social media activities are effective?
- How do you decide what metrics you should be monitoring?
- How do you calculate those metrics?
- How do you interpret the numbers once you have them?
The two main types of social media measurement are:
- Ongoing Analytics – ongoing monitoring that tracks activity over time;
- Campaign-Focused Metrics – campaign or event analytics with a clear beginning and end.
Ongoing analytics are necessary for keeping up with the overall pulse of the performance of your social channels. Here you can see how your channels are growing, where you can improve and any potential trends.
Campaign-focused metrics help you understand the impact of targeted marketing initiatives and will vary from campaign to campaign, depending on their goals.
An effective social media measurement programme will likely include both ongoing and campaign-specific measurement.
Step 1: Determine your social goals
Before you jump into measuring every single tweet, photo and Facebook comment posted about your brand, first think about your goals for social media. What are you trying to accomplish or gain through these social channels? And which channels are most relevant to those goals?
The first step in your measurement plan should be to generate a list of what you’re trying to achieve from your social media efforts. Social media can serve a variety of purposes, from broadcasting news and information to answering questions and engaging with a community.
What do you want your audience to do with your content? Are you trying to get them to read, share, reply or click on a link? List all your business goals for social media (refer back to your strategy).
Step 2: Create metrics to measure these goals
The next step is to match your goals to actual metrics and behaviours you can measure. For example, if you’re trying to measure engagement, then what is the practical form of engagement you want to track? Is it retweets or reposts? Replies or comments? Clicks? Here are a few suggestions of behaviours to measure, based on a common social media goals:
- If you want to measure awareness, then use metrics such as volume, reach, exposure and amplification. How far is your message spreading?
- If you want to measure engagement, then look for metrics around retweets, comments and replies.
- If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then track URL shares, clicks and conversions. Are people moving through social media to your website and what do they do once they’re there?
- If your goal is to find advocates and fans, then track contributors and influence. Who is participating and what kind of impact do they have?
- If your goal is to increase your brand’s share of voice, then track your volume relative to your closest competitors. How much of the overall conversation around your industry or product category is about your brand?
Step 3: Measure
After you’ve listed the metrics you want to focus on, you need to find tools that actually capture these metrics, and then start measuring. In some cases, social media channels themselves provide some form of analytics; for others you will need to use third party tools; or you can build your own using APIs.
If you’re not sure which tools to use for which channels, we recommend starting with the analytics tools already on the platform. However, be aware that some platforms have a certain shelf life for some data. For example, there are platforms that will not be able to analyse data from a year ago today. We recommend storing data on your key metrics so you can successfully compare and contrast your performance.
You should make time to gather data from social media platforms as well as to analyse it. The process can be time consuming depending on your objectives, but if your objectives are clear it is worth measuring the success of your performance.
Step 4: Monitor and report
The fourth step is to report your results. Use your initial findings to set a baseline or benchmark for future measurement and share these early figures with your important stakeholders. Three important questions are:
- How do your numbers compare with what you expected?
- Why are the numbers up or down?
- How do they compare to your competitors’ or related products and campaigns?
A common question we are asked is how regularly you should report on your social media data. It depends on what you are using the data for. If it’s a routine performance review, checking every month is sufficient. For campaigns, it is dependent on when your stakeholders want the data and when you feel it is suitable. Some may want weekly stats, or monthly, while others are happy to see the reporting insights once the campaign has finished.
We recommend suggesting a reporting schedule that works for you as well, especially as collating daily or weekly reports can be time consuming. Depending on your schedule, monthly or quarterly reporting may work best. No matter the schedule, make sure you’re checking in regularly on your metrics. Don’t let your effort up to this point go to waste! Let your metrics accumulate over time; you’ll see how valuable this data will become after a few months have passed and you have older data to compare to your new data.
In your reports:
- Provide an overview section with contextual information so that your stakeholders can quickly understand what all the figures mean.
- Consider including visualisations of your data; graphs can help communicate your results quickly and clearly to your audience.
- Keep your graphs simple and clean.
Step 5: Adjust and repeat
The final step is to carefully review your measurement programme. How are these metrics doing? Are you missing anything? Are any of your data points providing information which isn’t relevant? Figure out what you can improve, make your changes and then measure some more. Check back in with the goals you set initially and make sure your new metrics help you address those goals.
If you’re contributing to or responsible for social media channels, you really need to understand how you’re doing. Is your content having the impact you want? Are you meeting your company’s goals with social media? This is why monitoring and measuring your social media activities is crucial – you need reliable and consistent analytics that help you track your success on channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.