As a content strategist for Florida International University, one of my main goals was to create a social media presence for the Chapman Graduate School of Business.
When I started, the graduate school of business and the undergraduate school shared a social space – everything is disseminated as a unit under one entity known as… the College of Business. The challenge with sharing a social space with multiple offices was that we did not have administrative access to the social platforms to share information or content. We had a middleman who had their own content calendar and guidelines they had to follow. On top of that, the information that was being shared didn’t really align with our target audience.
We were missing a huge opportunity to share content and connect with our own audience, who were older students with different priorities. Our students range from 23 years old to 60 and are career-focused, driven, and looking to make big investments in their future. They don’t spend much time on campus; they have full-time jobs and sometimes families to look after. There was a huge gap that needed to be filled.
The easiest solution was to create our own social media presence. We wanted to start with LinkedIn and YouTube. LinkedIn’s professional platform was the ideal place for us to start and engage our target audience, while YouTube allowed us to have a “home” for all of our new video assets.
Planning for a Social Launch
The planning process was the most time-consuming. I’m talking about a year before we ever even opened an account. The very first step was doing a competitive analysis of what other graduate schools were doing online. The schools we looked at were:
- Stanford University Graduate School of Business
- Vanderbilt University – Owen Graduate School of Management
- Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management
- University of California, Davis – Graduate School of Management
- CSULB Graduate Programs in Business
- Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business
What I took note of was:
- What kind of branding were they doing?
- How many followers did they have?
- How many alumni did they have?
- What type of content are they sharing?
- Announcements, articles, events, etc.
Then, I researched the necessary information:
- What were the best days to post?
- What was the best time to post?
- How often should we be posting?
Although this information changes as you develop your strategy, we started with nothing and had to use the best practices suggested online.
On top of everything else, we had other preliminary hurdles:
- All of our graduates were linking the College of Business as their graduate institution. How do we encourage everyone to go to their profiles and update their education history to grab that data for our profile?
- Individual program pages or groups
- Since we were struggling to share information through the College of Business pages, our program managers went rogue and created pages and groups for their individual programs. How do we find a way to connect them?
- Contacting LinkedIn to close down a Chapman Graduate School of Business page that did not belong to us
- In the research stage, I discovered that someone somewhere had created a page for the school that we had no access to and was taking ownership of our company name and URL.
- Link our ads to the new page and give access to staff
- Because we had an ads account manager, I didn’t need to worry much about this.
- Ask staff for their calendars: when do programs start? End? Graduations? Events? We wanted to add all of that to our content calendar and align content accordingly.
- One of our school’s biggest challenges was the lack of communication amongst the programs themselves and us. We needed to figure out a central place to hold this information and use it to help plan a content calendar.
- Create a dashboard or RSS feed for industry articles around the web
- You’ll see soon how I created 30+ articles for the launch of our LinkedIn page to have content to share, but with all my other tasks, maintaining a consistent content-creating schedule when it comes to articles was going to be nearly impossible. I decided I needed to set up a feed to curate outsourced content we could share that would still be relevant to our audience.
Creating a Content Schedule
As I mentioned before, I planned a year in advance for this launch. I was working on writing articles that ranged on a variety of topics, including business healthcare, higher education, IT, international business, online learning, etc. My writing was focused on targeting new prospects for the programs. When it came to our other audiences—alumni and current students—we reached out to program managers and professors. They covered more industry-specific topics, setting themselves up to be thought leaders in our online space.
Before the pandemic hit, we were wrapping up filming videos. We interviewed alumni, students, professors, and staff for each program, and most of these videos were done.
With this, we were able to set a preliminary content schedule. I’d share two articles a week and a video. We also had some major upcoming admissions-related events and graduations that could fill in spots when needed.
This is the new content calendar I use, which is a bit different from the template I’ve provided previously. This can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet, but I love the ease of sharing all my updates with my team instantly, so I use Google Sheets.
We separated the types of posts by color and included a key. Captions and hashtags were pre-written and inserted as a note. I also included important days and events to make sure we were scheduling posts accordingly.
This setup made it very easy to move things around when needed and grab the necessary information to share. Even after getting a Hootsuite plan to use their scheduler, I still used this content calendar. Before Hootsuite, I set a reminder in my Outlook to post every day at a certain time. After Hootsuite, I kept that reminder to log on and make sure everything was posted correctly and like the post from my personal account – duh.
When the month was up, I added an extra section to the content calendar to include some KPIs. I wanted to review for the month which posts got the most interaction. How many likes, comments, click-throughs, etc. What did people prefer? Articles or videos?
It was a great way to evaluate what we were doing and plan for the next month. From this, we were also able to brainstorm ideas for different types of things to post for the next month. For instance, we learned that our audience preferred videos, so we set off to create more.
We began including informational videos for different business topics, like why shopping small businesses was more impactful or the latest cybersecurity stats. These were easy videos to create that required small amounts of research and editing.
On top of videos, we were able to take important quotes from articles and create some graphics that people were more likely to interact with or share. What we were doing was taking one piece of content and replicating it in different forms.
Increasing Our Following
We had big goals set for our page and tight deadlines when it came to followers. We have thousands of students and alumni, but with an existing LinkedIn account, enticing them to follow an additional page would be tough.
Some things we did to get the information out there:
- Email banners
- We added an email banner to the bottom of all of our emails inviting people to connect with us on LinkedIn. I’m talking about our work email signatures, marketing emails, event confirmations, event reminders, etc.
- Invited staff and faculty
- We tried to let everyone in our department know that we launched the page and invited them to follow and support. We were hoping that word of mouth it would get around to the students, as well.
- Email invites
- We created two different emails: one for prospective students and one for current students and alumni. We told them about the benefits of following us, all the content we were sharing, and important announcements that would be distributed there first. These were the biggest boost for our numbers.
- Told faculty to invite students to interact with their articles
- When faculty agreed to write for us and shared their articles, we would share the link to the post through email and encourage them to tell their students to comment on the topic.
- Tagged the appropriate people in posts
- This was the best way to start alerting people of the page’s presence when we first started.
- For every guest writer, we’d make sure to tag them so they’d get alerted, follow the page, and share with their connections.
- When writing about a program, we’d tag all program managers, program directors, recruiters, relevant professors, etc., and encourage them to follow and share.
- For videos, we tagged absolutely everyone in them.
When moving on from my position at FIU, I felt very satisfied with what I had accomplished. In seven months, we had nearly 1.5k followers and a consistent posting schedule. We also had several processes in place amongst the team members to create and share content.
The biggest challenge was not realizing how much time and effort social media management takes – even on just two platforms. Brainstorming and finding ideas for content is one beast. The next beast is creating it and finding the right people or resources. On top of all of that, you have to post on time and engage with your audience.
Having support from your actual thought leaders is also crucial. You can have amazing analysts, strategists, graphic designers, and editors – but without your thought leadership, you’ll struggle.
I encourage managers to make content development a part of every role in a business. A consistent content creation schedule will benefit not just your marketing department but your business overall.
It’s not enough to have a content creator writing your articles, blogs, web, and email copy – if you genuinely are a thought leader or an expert in your industry, you should be able to translate that into writing and help your content creator.
Let me know about any challenges you have faced or are facing when it comes to social media!