By Christopher Brenton (NC State)
It is commonly known that social media has become a powerful tool, not only for individuals, but for organizations as well. Go to Facebook or Twitter and search for “Sigma Nu” and you will see a number of chapter pages, profiles and handles. Make your search a little broader by typing in “Fraternity” and you will discover hundreds of different accounts, each one fighting for the attention of their own target audience. One thing that has become increasingly clear for many chapters is to be successful they too have to enter the social media arena.
In this sea of digital noise, it’s easy to be overwhelmed or to not know how your chapter can stand out among the crowd. Below are 5 tips worth considering that can help you and your chapter make more effective use of social media
Know Your Audience
The first tip for effective social media strategy is to know your audience. Sigma Nu has high expectations for members and naturally our chapters are involved in a significant number of activities. Through these operations we often engage with diverse groups of people; potential new members, parents, faculty, alumni, and friends. These groups, while not exclusive in their use of social media platforms, do tend to differ in frequency of use and preference. Chapters – – specifically those in charge of the chapter’s accounts – – should be conscious of how they plan to engage with individuals outside the organization.
Generation Y and Z students (our target market for recruitment) are often characterized by their disinterest for older forms of communication such as voicemail and email. This has driven some universities to stop using email accounts during recruitment and the admissions process. While Facebook is often strongly associated with younger generations, 46% of all Facebook users are over the age of 35, a demographic that largely encompasses the parents of our members and alumni. Thinking about how our audience uses social media can not only tell us how to engage with individuals but also about the type of content that should be created. Does your chapter’s Facebook page include content that parents would be interested in reading?
Know What You Can Manage
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Vine, Instagram … The list of social media platforms, many of which are still in their infancy, continues to grow. The popularity and prominence of these social media platforms seems to dictate that success for an organization hinges on early adoption of the newest trends and a presence across all platforms. This is simply not true.
The most effective users of social media are those that strategically select the right platforms for their brand, not simply adopting platforms because they are there. Nothing can sink a brand faster than an organization that chooses to open an account without considering 1. Who will manage the account? 2. Who is our target audience and do they use this platform? And 3. What content will we publish on this account?
If your chapter does not have the manpower or interest in maintaining a specific account, either don’t open the account or delete it. This is a regular problem with chapter websites. To a new member or parent who has never had a personal interaction with any of your members, a website that is not up-to-date or maintained creates a poor first impression and generally highlights the disorganization of your chapter. The same is true for social media. Accounts with no posts, tweets, or photos can damage the reputation of your chapter.
Develop Relationships by Participating in Conversation with Your Followers
Social media is not advertising. Facebook pages are not billboards. Twitter is not a space for radio spots. Social media is unique from these other media because of the relationship that exists between users within the platform space. Social media is all about conversations; it operates in two directions.
The 40Answers campaign is the perfect example of this tip. The success of the campaign did not come from Sigma Nu’s brilliant responses to hazing on Twitter. Rather, success came from Sigma Nu’s interaction with followers and its relationship creation; it gave followers the opportunity to respond and interact with Sigma Nu.
Social media has become such a powerful modern force because it draws the human desire to be made important. Users want to interact with other users. They want to be heard. They want to be spoken to. If your chapter is looking to increase the effectiveness of its social media accounts, try reaching out to others. Use @ mentions on Twitter, ask for comment responses on Facebook, or use tip number 4.
Make Your Content Shareable, Actionable…or At Least More Interesting to Look At
Contrary to popular belief, effectiveness is not measured in the likes or page views. Effectiveness or “virality” is defined as the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one internet user to another. Likes do little for an organizations message on Facebook.
Think about it this way: if you operate a page with 50 followers on Facebook, there is potential for those 50 followers to view and like your posts. However, if you have 50 shares on Facebook and each individual who shared the post has 100 friends, the number of potential views of the post is over 5,000.
This is the power of viral content on the web. The key is creating content worth sharing. One simple trick is to always include photos in your posts. Statistically, posts including photos generate 53% more Likes and 104% more comments than posts that are text only. Also include actionable content. Create your own campaign and ask followers to answer a question or do something. This will increase the amount of participation you see and possible the frequency in which you message is shared with others.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Followers What Type of Content They Want to See from You
The final tip is to turn to your followers for advice on generating content. Not only is this a great way of creating content, it is also the perfect way to understand and know your audience. As social media use continues to grow, and platform use becomes varied, it’s important that we curate our accounts to meet the needs our audience. If a chapter has created a page for alumni on Facebook it would be a good idea to ask what type of content the alumni are interested in receiving from the page. If the chapter is only using the page to update the alumni on chapter news but the alumni are more interested in old photos and reconnecting with older members, the chapter could be missing out on a great opportunity to engage the audience.