Last year, I had a revelation – if we really wanted to be effective at social media on a university level, we needed to talk to each other. Not just a quick “hey” in the hallway or passing “how are you,” but real, honest discussions about the big stuff – strategy, goals, and challenges.
This wasn’t my idea. In fact, social media user’s groups have been cropping up at campuses all over the country in recent years. We needed a forum where staff from across campus could come together to brainstorm ideas, learn best practices, and serve as a support network to each other. The solution for us was Social@UMW.
Here are our takeaways from the process:
- Make sure you can articulate the reason(s) and purpose for the group. For us, it was providing a space for brainstorming, sharing best practices, and providing support.
- Do your homework – I talked with colleagues at other institutions in Virginia and D.C. (thanks, Georgetown and William & Mary) to learn about how they structured their groups, and how we could translate such a group to the unique culture of UMW.
- Ask for internal support – having buy-in from leadership is key. Make the case for why this is important for your institution
- Decide what form the group will take, recognizing that it will evolve over time. Ask questions like:
Who needs to be at the table?
How many people should be invited?
How often do you need to meet?
What kinds of topics does the group need to address?
How will we develop a sense of community?
- Know your audience: I sent out a survey to the prospective members prior to the first meeting, to get a feel for their skill level, which tools they used, what challenges they were facing, and what they hoped the group would provide
- Evaluate on an ongoing basis and be flexible!
At UMW, our group took the form of monthly lunch meetings with about 10 people from various offices and departments across campus. Not everyone came to every meeting, and that’s ok! We intentionally wanted the meetings to feel less like meetings, and more like casual get-togethers. We also held a mini-workshop about content strategy (thanks, Ma’ayan Plaut), an end-of-the-year happy hour, and several one-on-one meetings.
Based on user feedback, we added an email list that I sent out every other week or as needed. The emails included updates from University Relations, news about social media, relevant articles, and information about campus-wide projects that we could all promote.
In the future, I’m sure the group will continue to evolve, and users will cycle in and out as they change job descriptions/duties. What is important is that now more than ever, social media is part of the conversation here at UMW.