Social Media A to Z: O is for Oversight

I’ve been blogging recently about strategy for social media. As you write your own communication plan that includes social, consider elements like techniques, policy, editorial, and oversight. Although I can’t promise a post related to all 26 letters, O is for oversight.

So, what philosophy does your campus embrace? Do you let a thousand flowers bloom? Or are all Tweets pre-authorized? Maybe you hope to enforce a one-institutional-channel-only approach and departments aren’t permitted to have their own separate social media channels.

What’s recommended?
In my view, the range of activities, interests and audiences in a college, university or independent school requires multiple channels. Even if I follow the main university Twitter feed, I might also enjoy a more singularly focused feed from the Theatre Department. So I am not a proponent of the only one Facebook page, only one Twitter feed approach. Really that was probably only possible in a very limited set of circumstances anyway.

Yet, I understand it’s really not that simple. A top-level put your school name here channel speaks to all constituents but a more focused channel like put your school name here and add the word alumni channel is also speaking to that same audience. Are you representing your institution well on the the many channels followed by the same constituency groups?

  • Oversight = Coordination
  • I think audiences following our social channels expect that we’re coordinating. Keep in mind, that our external audiences often think of campus units as all in the same building or at least in regular contact with one another. Audiences following some subset of our many social media channels assume that we’re keeping in touch and that the right hand knows what the…well, you finish that thought.

    I once coined a set of labels called Official, Officialish, and Unofficial as a way to categorize hundreds of social channels within a higher education institution. Presented in a social media aggregator, these three categories of channels sent some clues to those who followed them.

  • The Goldilocks Approach
  • IMHO, you want just enough oversight to stay out of trouble but not so much that you can’t do social media communication as it is intended. So, no, people creating content for your channels should not need to get approval prior to posting. After all, it’s supposed to be an informal conversation. But, yes, people should be aware of your policies about things like the use of social media for official crisis communication. So, for example, the lab tech managing the psychology department Twitter feed should tweet about research projects and internships but not about official announcements related to a fire in a residence hall. That’s a “just right” approach!

  • Visual Design
  • It might make sense to offer just a small amount of design support to offices and units for their social media channels. I know you’ve seen it: the stretched image, the blurry photo, or the partial logo for a channel that represents your fine school. Perhaps your oversight should include design assistance for avatars, profile pics, and backgrounds to present a polished, professional impression. Oversight about consistent visual identity on social channels is a-okay.

  • Campus Evangelism
  • Despite multiple Facebook pages, is there one campus office that has overall responsibility for social media? There should be. This unit can provide expert leadership and guidance to others. Social media is new enough that centralized evangelism—in the form of a person or an office—means shared expertise and help for others as they navigate the set up and potential land mines of social channels.

  • Support groups help, right?
  • Many campuses have a social media user group with a goal of putting a bunch of social media lovers in a room on a monthly basis; how bad could that be? After all, it sets aside time for sharing tips, tricks and ideas about social media. Some such groups have listservs, websites, and the occasional Tweet Up. Actually, involving the campus evangelist (office or person) in the support group is ideal.

    What say you? Do you think a smidge of oversight helps to formalize social as a communication channel? Does the need for oversight imply a new level of acceptance?


    Author: susantevans

    Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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