Anyone interested in representing the institution or an entity within it should know and commit to five behaviors in social media.
- Be present. Acquaint yourself with any social media outlets before trying to use them professionally. If you're not familiar with Facebook, creating a group or fan page 15 minutes after you sign up could be an uphill climb. Learning as much as you can about a particular platform or community will increase your chances of success.
- Be prepared. Have a plan for who will post and/or respond in social media, how often you may post content and what goals you want to accomplish. You may want to prepare a content calendar based on major activities in your area and what audiences should know, but be flexible to accommodate great news items or suggestions whenever possible.
- Be responsive. The biggest problems with social media efforts involve lack of responsiveness and abandonment. If someone asks a question via a Facebook page or Twitter account, they do not expect to wait days for a response. If you don't know the answer to a posted question, don't be afraid to say you're looking into the response and will get back to the person later. And realize if you start something in social media, it may take a while to get traction, so don't just give up if you don't see immediate results.
- Be friendly. Social media is conversational. Don't talk down to your audience. Don't bury readers in jargon. Don't get angry and defensive. Do start conversations. Do what you can to help others. Do what you can to represent a friendly face on behalf of your area and the institution.
- Be human. Some people try to use a tool that simultaneously spits out their posts to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and the posts come out cut off or otherwise off in other channels. Different social media channels have different strengths, specialties and best uses; posting separately shows that you care about your audience more than saving a few seconds via automation.
- Put goals before tools. New outlets and applications come out all the time, but before you commit to jumping in somewhere, ask three questions:
- Does this help us meet a specific goal or goals?
- What's in it for us?
- What's in it for our users?
Before diving into social medial, determine if you have time and resources to respond in a quick and friendly manner. While OSS ("Ooooh! Shiny!" Syndrome) can be hard to resist, success in social media involves focusing on communities and outlets where you can consistently do a good job, both for the institution and for your users.