SIU has had steady social media leadership in their communication department for some time now. Tamarah Cook, an employee with the university since 2006, has taken on increased responsibility overseeing SIU’s social media since 2010. With so many social media accounts associated with SIU it’s not possible for Cook to have a direct hand in everything. That’s why crafting a policy, having the right people in place, and using good practices is important for social media accounts to be effective.

“We looked at other universities and other organizations,” Cook said of the 12-person committee who worked to craft SIU’s social media policy over the course of about six months.

In addition to the policy, Cook says it’s important to have the right people in place.

“From a business perspective, people need to care about who they let run their social media. You can’t say, ‘Oh, well, just because you’re young. Just because you’re a millennial, you can run my social media.’ People tend to do that, whether it’s on campus, or a business. It matters who is running your social media because they are speaking for your company and your brand,” said Cook.

Policy and people are important to your organization, but good practices help tie it all together. Visit socialmedia.siu.edu for a tuition-free look at SIU’s best social media practices. I selected three of SIU’s 13 listed practices to expand on for this piece.

Ask questions to engage your audience. It bears repeating: Social media is a two-way street. You want to do more than inspire questions in your audience with a catchy ad. You want to connect with your audience’s consciousness. Asking and answering questions opens up the door to a world of possibilities with your audience. You may build better relationships. You may identify and isolate problems within your organization. You may inspire new users to participate with your organization because they feel comfortable knowing that, if they have questions, you’ll be there to answer them.

Share useful content. It doesn’t have to be useful to everyone, always, but there should be some sort of usefulness in what you share with your audience. Usefulness takes many forms. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of making your audience smile. Additionally, make sure the information you’re sharing can be used by your audience. Sharing an in-depth, technical piece regarding the latest changes in your industry may be less useful to your audience than sharing a shorter news piece that highlights the main points of the in-depth technical piece.

Monitor activity related to your organization. Monitoring your organization may allow you to amplify the good things people have to say about you, acknowledge the negative experiences users may have, and shut down those who may attempt to delegitimize your organization with baseless claims. Monitoring may not always make you happy but it will make sure that you’re aware of how your organization is being portrayed online.

Nathan Colombo is a Carbondale native, stand-up comedian, and marketing professional. His small business, Brand Advocacy Group, Inc, provides digital media services for other small, local businesses in and around Southern Illinois.

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