Liam Ross, winner of the CASE Europe ‘Emerging MarComms Professional’ Award 2018/19 and Digital Engagement Officer, Loughborough University

MANAGING social media can be tricky enough – it takes time, coordination and resource to research, write, schedule, manage and engage. But there’s another layer to the social cake. Nevermind having a presence on social media – is it the right presence? Are you engaging with your audience in a language they understand? Finding the correct voice and building a brand on social media is no simple task. Sure, there are accounts out there who make it look easy – look at the soft, relatable humour of innocent drinks, or the quick-fire wit of American fast food chain Wendys. In reality, hours of strategic thinking, meetings, experimenting and testing have gone into these accounts to produce content which their audiences want. This can be precious time and expertise which not all of us have access to.

 

Where do you stand?

In the role of a social media manager, whether that’s wholly or partly your job, you’re required to represent your organisation in a digital space, to your core audiences, but also potentially, to anyone in the world with an internet connection. It’s vital that you understand how your business wants to position itself as an organisation, ethically, politically, morally, both in the real world and on social. Equally important is understanding what your following expect from you in these areas too. Nailing this early in the process is key to establishing a voice which will underpin your future activity on social.

Get vocal

Once you’ve established your position and voice, great! Time to start acting on it. Day to day content aside, there are plenty of opportunities to weigh in on national or global discussions, issues and events which give you the potential to leverage your accounts as thought-leaders. Whatever your niche, I guarantee there will be recognition, remembrance, or celebrations on social media to mark the occasion. In July, #NationalAvocadoDay presented an opportunity to share some of Loughborough University’s nutritional research on foods to help combat dementia.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games; whether it’s pride, women in STEM, gender equality or politics (good luck) social media gives you an opportunity to make your business’s voice heard and build your brand, whether that’s a logo change, blog, press release or product launch. Be mindful that making any sort of statement always comes with an inherent risk, so having a sense-check procedure including a senior management sign-off is a solid idea. Be able to evidence statements you make with clear calls to action and real authenticity, and remember, actions speak louder than words; users are looking at you to be actively tackling issues that you might be talking about on social media.

That’s why I enjoyed the University of Hull’s recent campaign, #MyPlasticPledge, which coincided with #WorldOceansDay. It’s a great example of a CSR event which ticked all the right boxes, resulting in over 7,300 pledges to reduce plastic usage. It ties in with their sustainability efforts, marine science research, public education in the form of recyclable items and plastic-fighting tips, plus some good old shareable social fun; I believe Hull may hold the record for the UK’s first Higher Education custom Snapchat Lens.

People power

As an organisation, your greatest asset will always be the individuals behind your business. Whether you’re a team of one, or a huge, sprawling enterprise of thousands, it’s vital you empower and educate your colleagues to uphold and champion your brand in a digital space. At Loughborough University, we’re proud to have what we call the #LboroFamily. What started out as a student recruitment campaign evolved to become an institution-wide badge of honour which our staff (and our students and alumni, it must be said!) truly buy into.

Whether it’s a retirement, an awards ceremony, or a competition halfway across the globe, our staff know they can tap into the #LboroFamily and all the values that come with it; a sense of belonging, pride and success, our University’s ethos that we want to share far and wide.

Leading from the top

Of course, on social, anyone can be a spokesperson for your brand – you can write ‘these views do not reflect those of my employer’ all you like (these are pointless by the way), but in particular, it’s worth catching up with your senior management team about their use of social. These individuals will often be a port of call for those looking to get a sense of the driving force behind the business. If your CEO spends their time on social media complaining about Brexit, what impression does that give about the company they represent? Spend time weighing up the possible implications this could have on your brand and advise your leadership team that how they portray their personal views versus their professional persona needs thought.

What about you?

My peers are often expected to go the extra mile outside of work to build a following, have an impact and be a thought-leader in their space on social media. Here are just a few thoughts for individuals looking to build their ‘brand’.

Put some legwork in to identify your industry’s leaders who are already on social. Check out their connections; both followers, and followings. It’s an easy way to identify peers and colleagues you might want to connect with. But don’t track them down on their personal Facebook page. It’s weird. Just saying.

Find the conversations that are already out there and join the dialogue. It could be the comment sections of blogs or YouTube videos, a weekly Twitter chat or LinkedIn articles. Can’t find anything? Gather some peers and organise your own, or create your own content, sharing your opinions on your preferred medium.

Finally, you really have to want it. You need serious willpower and drive to get home from a full day’s work and turn to social media to tweet/blog/post more about – you guessed it – work. Be sensible and keep a good work-life balance. Working all day and night will drive you into the ground – physically and mentally.

If photos of dogs, food and the occasional chat about higher education social media are your kinds of hot topics, why not follow me on Twitter, or, for a more professional experience, connect with me on LinkedIn.