7 steps to manage a college’s social media presence

Linnie S. Carter and Jennifer Boyd

This article is part of a bimonthly series provided by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges.​

Social media in the modern world: It’s an ever-changing landscape. Moving too quickly – without the proper policies, processes, procedures and research – can open the door to a world of chaos.

To avoid the most common issues, there are seven key pieces to managing a college’s social media puzzle.

1. Social media policy

This is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. Crafting an effective social media policy or updating a current one means working with the human resources department and attorneys. The social media policy should include:

  • How to request the creation of a social media account.
  • The importance of student, staff, alumni and college confidentiality.
  • Links to other applicable college policies, including individual rights, unacceptable conduct, bullying, Americans with Disabilities Act, FERPA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, corrective and disciplinary action and academic freedom.
  • Responsibilities for monitoring and maintaining accurate information on the social media accounts.
  • Clear guidelines on when disciplinary action will occur.
  • Instruction regarding discriminatory, defamatory or harassing comments that may get posted.
  • Guidelines on endorsing a political party, product, cause or religious belief.
  • How unregistered social media accounts claiming to be affiliated with the college will be addressed.

2. Best practices

Review each social media platform and research to determine if it will best serve the institution and students. Don’t jump on the newest-trend bandwagon if the platform will not be an effective means of communication or managed properly. When in doubt about a new platform, set up a six-month pilot program and include colleagues and students from different areas of the college in the assessment process. For all effective platforms, develop clear best practices that outline:

  • Guidelines
  • Post frequency
  • How to report an inappropriate post
  • When it is appropriate to delete a post
  • Username and password requirements

3. Social media contract

No one is permitted to manage a social media account at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, without a signed social media contract and training. 

To ensure that the college is legally covered and that all social media managers are held accountable, it is best to work with human resources and attorneys to develop a solid social media contract. Contracts should be signed by the person managing a college social media account, their supervisors and the vice president or marketing director. Contracts should include:

  • Links to best-practices documents for each social media account
  • The differentiation of how social media accounts are accessed. For example, Facebook connects individual Facebook profiles to each page, and each page manager uses their personal Facebook login information to access the page. Twitter, on the other hand, has one username and password that all account managers must share.
  • A link to the college’s social media policy
  • Clear guidelines on disciplinary action

4. Social media training

It’s important to train employees and students on how to effectively communicate on social media. Training is not one-size-fits-all, which is why the team at HACC developed separate 30-minute training sessions for each platform. These trainings also provide the new managers an opportunity to ask questions and gain clarification on their roles.

5. Content manager matrices

It’s important to keep a running file of all social media managers, their names, which platforms they manage and confirmation that they’ve signed a contract and received training. If an employee leaves the college, simply search the matrix for their name to determine which platforms will require new access restrictions or updated passwords.

6. Auditing process 

HACC has monthly and annual auditing processes for all social media accounts. Monthly, the integrated marketing communications (IMC) team audits all college-wide social media pages and has developed a system to prompt account managers to audit all other Facebook accounts. 

HACC audits for the following:

  • Facebook: Likes, 28-day reach, 28-day engagement
  • Twitter: Followers, impressions and top three hashtags
  • Instagram: Followers, engagement and top three most-engaged hashtags

Annually, the team prompts college leadership to review the audits and determine which accounts should be kept, merged or deleted.

7. Monitoring process 

It’s important to keep a pulse on what students are experiencing and what’s being said about the institution among the broader community. For this, HACC purchased Sprout Social, a social media monitoring software. The IMC team checks social media accounts and groups daily for common themes and to ensure there are no red flags. The primary goal is to ensure students have the best experience possible in their educational journey.  

Getting these seven puzzle pieces in place will help establish a firm foundation on which to pivot in the quickly changing world of social media.

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Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR, joined the HACC team in 2012. She oversees many functions, including alumni affairs, fundraising, grants and integrated marketing communications. 

Jennifer Boyd joined the HACC team in 2010. Part of her role includes overseeing the maintenance of the college’s social media accounts and the training of colleagues who manage them.