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Part 3: Build your social media strategy step-by-step

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

This is the third post in a four-part series looking at developing a social media strategy. This post covers selecting the right social media tools (stage 5) and implementing your strategy across multiple platforms (stage 6).

Part 1: the social media planning cycle, listening (stage 1) and setting goals (stage 2).

Part 2: general strategies (stage 3) and identifying target audiences (stage 4)

Part 4: monitoring (stage 7), fine tuning (stage 8) and creating your strategic plan.

Stage 5: Selecting the right social media tools

You're almost at the implementation stage, but giving some thought first to the social media tools you’ll use and the tone of voice you’re aiming for can pay dividends.

Identifying the best social media platforms is important – as I said in a previous post don’t try and do everything. Think carefully about where your target audience hangs out on social media and which platforms best allow you to achieve your goals.

Although each platform has different rules and social conventions, some general guidance applies across all social media. Social media is conversational and involves many participants, so you need to contribute to the conversation not just promote your organisation. Aim to earn your target audience's trust by being personable, honest, authentic and fallible. Trying to control a conversation can put people off online just as it can at a drinks party.

I've frequently seen educational institutions struggle to adapt their quite formal tone of voice to the informality of social media. Here are some tips for educational institutions trying to find their social media tone of voice, drawing on some great blog posts by Kevan Lee, Courtney Seiter and Ben Kalkman:

1. Consider your organisation's culture and what makes it different from similar organisations; e.g. if you want to be known as the friendly school, college or university, then your tone of voice needs to be friendly.

2. Think about what type of relationship you want to develop with your audiences; e.g. if you want to be thought of as a peer and ally by your alumni then avoid sounding authoritative and ask for their views instead.

3. Listen to how your target audience speaks on social media and adapt your organisation's tone of voice to become similar but not identical - you don't want to mimic them but you do want to engage them.

4. Create a social media tone of voice guide, including examples of how you want to sound on each platform in your strategy. Encourage staff to regularly review this to ensure they are writing in the desired tone of voice.

5. Get buy-in from senior management - you don't want them publicly complaining that your institution has abandoned its venerated history and is now imitating a teenager on Twitter! Your internal audience needs to understand how social media can benefit your institution and why it is different from the formal prospectus.

Stage 6: Tips for successful implementation

This is the stage you’ve probably been waiting for: we’re finally talking about implementation! Here are some top tips to make the most impact.

Treating each platform differently

If you've selected multiple social media platforms because they suit different elements of your strategy don't fall into the trap of implementing your social media tactics in the same way on each platform. Do your planning justice and develop unique content for each platform, reflecting all your research.

The biggest mistake people make in this area is cross-posting: posting the same message on multiple social media platforms. As well as failing to make the most of each platform, cross-posting can also show a lack of respect for your audience. I know everyone is busy and cross-posting saves time, but people will spot what you're doing and conclude that you're not committed to interacting with them authentically on social media.

A much better tactic is cross-promotion: if you have content which you feel would genuinely be of interest to both your Twitter and LinkedIn audiences, then do post a link to it on both sites but tailor the message pointing to that content so it is appropriate for each platform and audience.

Content is king

All social media platforms are content hungry. Although the frequency of posting will differ depending on the norms of each platform, you will need to keep posting engaging content regularly to earn the attention of your audience. Having a publishing schedule can help here - both in ensuring you fully understand how much time and resource your social media plan is going to need before you commit and also for staying on track. Your publishing schedule should include what you are planning to publish, when, where and who is responsible for content generation and publishing.

Remember to actively listen

You’ll need to carry on the active listening we looked at back in Part 1. Active listening theory also suggests some tips for constructing messages: (Adapted from this blog post by Adrian Try.)

This will help to ensure that your social media implementation remains conversational - a critical element of successful social media marketing.

Now you're ready to look at how to measure the success of your social media activities in the final post.

Part 1: the social media planning cycle, listening (stage 1) and setting goals (stage 2).

Part 2: general strategies (stage 3) and identifying target audiences (stage 4)

Part 4: monitoring (stage 7), fine tuning (stage 8) and creating your strategic plan.

Juliet Corbett is an experienced education management professional and consultant. If you need any help developing your social media strategy do get in touch.

I always welcome feedback - debate and conversation sparks innovation! Please contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn.


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