Planning for Social Media Success


Planning for Social Media Success

Jun 18, 2015By Michael Stoner

To say organizations are scrambling to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of social media is an understatement.

Everything continues to change — and quickly — as we adopt newly launched social platforms, which then quickly become new destinations in themselves. This means that marketers and advancement professionals on campus are struggling to figure out which channels among the established ones and new ones are best suited to connecting and engaging with important audiences.

For example, teens once hung out on Facebook. Now, it’s still a part of their daily lives, but they swoop in, check to find out what friends and family are up to, and leave. They spend time on YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, SnapChat and Instagram — where they can express their creativity and get feedback from their friends.

To be successful in this rapidly evolving landscape, marketers need to have a good sense of how their brand is positioned in social media; develop a plan to continue to engage on their primary social channels; identify emerging channels where they can experiment to foster engagement with existing audiences or new ones; and measure the results, modifying their efforts as necessary.

I’m beginning to dig into the data for the 2015 Survey of Social Media in Advancement that we conduct in partnership with CASE and Huron Education. And guess what? It looks as if schools, colleges and universities that are most successful with social media plan more, experiment more, measure more and adapt to a changing social environment.

Steps to success with social media

1. Define success.

Both successful institutions and those that are less successful count friends, fans, followers or comments and use them as a key measure of success for social media activities. This isn’t a surprise: It’s easy to do.

But the most successful go further: 70 percent of them consider anecdotal feedback in measuring success (only 50 percent of those that are less successful do this). And they also track actions:

  • 86 percent of the most successful institutions measure click-throughs to a website or microsite (in contrast to 72 percent of the less successful);
  • 50 percent of the most successful institutions measure conversions, considering completion of a form in their success metrics (in contrast to 40 percent of less successful institutions).

2. Plan.

The most successful institutions match communications channels to target audiences much more often (89 percent of the most successful do, in contrast to 73 percent of less successful ones). They have a “clear and useful statement of the goals we want to accomplish” (68 percent as opposed to 37 percent) and a “clear and useful statement of the voice we are aiming for” in social media (61 percent most successful versus 35 percent less successful).

3. Be aware of the changing social landscape and adapt to it.

For example, online content is migrating from text to visual content (here’s some perspective from Hubspot).

While I can’t say that the most successful institutions are successful because they recalibrate their content mix and are posting more visuals now than three years ago, the fact is that’s just what they are doing. In 2015, images (photos, gifs, etc.) make up 52 percent of what they’re posting, as opposed to three years ago, when images comprised 33 percent of their content. And, in fact, successful institutions are more likely to use YouTube than less successful institutions (87 percent vs. 63 percent) and are more likely to post images on Instagram (83 percent vs. 49 percent).

Planning, measuring, experimenting and adapting appear to be the keys to a successful social presence, on campus and off. 

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?