UM-Flint Social Media Update: Evaluation and Adaptation

Once upon a time, monthly Social Media Updates were produced for UM-Flint. These updates evolved a bit over time, but then the process halted in late 2011. I promise you there is a thoughtful reason. Allow me to explain.

As is the case with many institutions, UM-Flint jumped into the social media game without really considering things like strategy, goals, or measurables. This isn’t to say we entered into these endeavors blindly. We knew that social media were becoming invaluable communication channels. Over time, we have focused and evaluated our efforts. Today, UM-Flint’s social media presence is more intentional and constructive than ever before.

The inescapable truth, however, is that we’ve done things a little out of order. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’re probably familiar with the idea of “Strategy First.” When I’m approached by departments on campus looking to get started with social media, I always advise that any social media effort start with a clear strategy. “Define your goals,” I’ll say. “Identify your target audience and find out where they’re living in social media.” After all, how can we know what content to share or engagement opportunities to offer if we’re not sure who we’re talking to? Or if the people we’re talking to aren’t there to listen? Further, how can we hope to measure our success if we don’t know what our goals are?

Ideally, I believe a social media strategy should be an ongoing process that includes the following steps.

  • Goal-setting
  • Choosing social media channels
  • Messaging and communication
  • Evaluation
  • Adaptation

If I had to identify where UM-Flint lies in this cycle, I’d place us in the Evaluation stage. We have our social media channels, we communicate our message, and now we’re taking a good, hard look at how well we’re doing. One problem: What was our goal again? How do we know when we’re closer to reaching it? We talk about engagement and reach, but I’d like to know how much of our “engagement” is positive. I’d like to see what percentage of our community is being engaged, and what measures garner the most interaction.

There are so many things to think about and explore. It’s exciting! But the first step is to get back to basics. Even if UM-Flint had set out into the social abyss with very clear-cut, concrete, measurable goals, I’d argue that every goal should be evaluated on some regular basis. By their very nature, our online communities are going to change and evolve–chances are we aren’t interacting with the same audience for very long. And so we’re going to start at the beginning to find out where we are.

My intention is to move through the steps I’ve outlined above, and create new metrics and reporting structures. In the mean time, I won’t be compiling the old-format updates that include numbers of clicks or follower counts, but I will be posting about my progress and findings along the way. Stay tuned!

Alaina Wiens
New Media Communication Specialist