Sustaining social media strategies

Twitter birds by Chris Wallace

I was checking out the Twittersphere the other day via TweetDeck when I noticed a rather edgy tweet by Brad J Ward:

How sustainable is your social web strategy? 4 tweets since June from @elginspartans. Just some food for thought. via @bradjward

Brad’s tweet got me thinking about how I approach the Twitter accounts that I manage for OSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. We have two accounts: HHS Advising and OSU HHS. My personal Twitter account, @ericstoller, is not affiliated with the HHS accounts. I keep everything separate during the work day with the help of CoTweet. If I am on vacation, out sick, etc., our web team can access CoTweet and post on the HHS Twitter accounts. Our social media strategy in HHS is not predicated upon the social media following of any one individual. It’s a team effort. It’s an organizational strategy that will (hopefully) continue regardless of individual personnel ebb and flow.

In the case of Elgin Community College’s Twitter account, it appears that the departure of a single individual torpedoed the school’s social media initiatives (at least on Twitter). Elgin’s previous Director of Communications, Sarah Evans, built up a mega-following on her personal Twitter account and was apparently the catalyst for Twitter activity from Elgin.

More from Brad J Ward:

The true test of a marketing strategy is if it lives on past the original champion.


Schools need a long term strategy that extends beyond one person.

Sarah Evans appears to have been the social media “champion” for Elgin Community College. Without her presence, their tweet frequency is almost nil. Sarah was featured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education last April — “10 High Fliers on Twitter.” Sarah may be a high flying higher education Twitterer, but without her, Elgin Community College’s Twitter strategy seems to be sinking fast.

6 thoughts on “Sustaining social media strategies”

  1. A team strategy is a must. What has worked great for us is to loosely involve multiple groups monitoring for mentions and writing responses.

    The web groups controls the actual accounts but we would not be able to handle all the traffic if it wasn’t for PR feeding us news stories, photography taking and feeding us appropriate photos, Alumni tracking and helping with LinkedIn and others.

    Since we don’t have a dedicated position for social media the time has to be split up between the university community, otherwise like you said there is no way to sustain it and the sparsity would turn people.

    Luckily the extra work load has been well received by most departments, unfortunately some of the older school departments though have opted out.

  2. It’s sad to see the community and connections Sarah worked so hard for go to waste. At the same time, you can’t help but wonder if the campaign would have died regardless simply because it was her everyone followed rather than the actual institution. They would have had to rebuild their following regardless. It’s definitely one of the dangers of having one person so closely associated with your business.

    Perhaps the most damaging is not the leaving of Sarah, but the abandonment of their followers. I’m highly active on social media and have build a bond of trust of sorts with my followers. To have that suddenly disappear has to do more damage to brand and company image than just PR I think.

    Angie Haggstrom
    Senior Copywriter, Angie’s Copywriting

  3. Eric – Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Quality beats quantity every time, but unfortunately Twitter has become a numbers game.

    One blog post that’s been on my mind but never gotten published: Twitter without numbers. If you found someone and didn’t know they had tens of thousands of followers, what credibility would you give them based on their content? Would their tweets still make you think “Wow, they have interesting content and good thoughts. I want to follow them.” Or do we follow people based on how many followers they have been able to accumulate?

    I’ve also seen some institution social web presences where the content is largely driven by the interests of the person running the account. Links and news stories that are shared have no relevance to the larger community. We sometimes forget the world isn’t full of web geeks like us. :)

    I’d rather provide every client a sustainable strategy that extends to the future than a one hit wonder that gives them some publicity for now but leaves them high and dry 6 months from now. Build your strategy on a brand, not a personality.

  4. I find that here. It’s been a struggle getting people to realize the usefulness of Twitter in the Higher Ed environment and the first question from some Administrators was “Will we be able to market to more potential freshmen? How will this help us get more students?” They are less concerned with the conversation and the benefits of connecting through social media than monetization.

    Additionally, I couldn’t agree more about following and followers. With the Huge influx of trash/spam/porn followers, I find the Number of followers means very little to me any more. Out of 10, 20, 50 followers in a day… 1/2 or More are junk. So the number of followers doesn’t necessarily Prove anything about you and the depth of your Tweets.

  5. It’s sad to see things like this happen. Longevity and sustainability are definitely two aspects that are not taken into consideration long enough. This concept goes well beyond Twitter and into all other aspects of social media marketing. Definitely worth a read and some deep consideration.

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