For universities not yet embracing social media – six best practices for using Social Media

Taking up the thread from last weeks post about providing training in Wikipedia at the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University I came across this post on 6 Best Practices for Universities embracing Social Media.

Here  from the New York based Syracuse University lists six best practices, Universities should learn from when embracing social media, in order to avoid failed strategies, dormant pages and less-than-thriving online communities.

The headlines for the six best practices are:

  1. Develop strategy and goals
  2. Choosing platforms
  3. Empower and support departments
  4. Provide guidelines
  5. Develop a consistent voice across platforms
  6. Communicate across departments

For universities whom have already developed and successfully implemented a social media strategy this list of headlines is perhaps not very useful. However, for universities or individual academic departments not yet in the social media era it might be useful.

Based on my informal talk with researchers at The Faculty of Health at University of Copenhagen about their communication practices, the university is very much at a starting point and this list could be useful in pointing to some of the challenges an introduction of social media would bring with it. This includes dealing with what one could describe as prejudice towards social media, worries of time restraints, lack of skills and support in how to use it and perhaps most importantly lack of knowledge of what it can be used for.

Especially the empowerment and support dimension seems essential and the importance of not creating just one system to cover the whole university, but instead acknowledge that departments and academic units all have unique messages and distinct audiences. This implies that departments should be able to establish their own accounts and take into account the characteristics of their particular audience etc. This strategy demands, however, for providing staff with the knowledge necessary and general support – not just on paper, but also in practice. Perhaps especially for the more senior staff who are in many cases not as familiar with social media.

The Wikipedia trainings at McMaster University is a good example of providing and familiarizing staff and students with knowledge about a technology/platform and empowering them to use it themselves.

The last of the six best practice focused on ensuring communication across departments and campuses is also important. Silo communication rarely brings good with it, and I do not believe that this will be the exception. Keeping lines open for communication across departments will provide important opportunities for collaboration, for sharing best practices and to learn from people in other departments. Perhaps especially in the field of public health, which in is definition reaches across so many disciplines, departments, faculties etc.

There are surely lots of other “best practices” out there and lots of lessons to learn from, so this list I refer to here is just one of many. I would be happy to receive tips on who and where to look for more!


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