When a business school uses social media correctly, it can deliver value to stakeholders, says Stephen, whose research focuses on how complex social interactions can affect the market. But without a defined social media strategy, schools can end up simply generating content that stakeholders don’t really need.
In March, Stephen gave a presentation titled “S.O.C.I.A.L.” at AACSB International’s B-School Communications and Development Symposium. In his presentation, he offered eight suggestions to business schools that want to use social media more effectively:
Emphasize interaction. “When we talk about engagement, we really mean interaction,” he says. Schools need to define their goals for social media, and then identify which audiences to target. Then, they must decide what type of social interactions to encourage to reach those goals.
For example, says Stephen, when Delta Airlines wanted to reduce costs and gain efficiency in its call center operations, it created @DeltaAssist on Twitter. An @DeltaAssist agent can do in 14 minutes what it would take a call center agent 90 minutes to accomplish.
Use social media to support FAQs. “Many schools just push information out through social, like advertising,” he says. “It should be a two-way street. Schools could use social media to answer admissions questions or engage with students and alumni.”
Share responsibility. A small staff doesn’t have to take full responsibility for finding content. Ask the community to share its news. If someone has appeared in an article, published new research, written a blog, or won an award, ask them to circulate that news to those responsible for social media feeds.
Look beyond Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. “Companies are using other ‘consumer-facing’ networks like Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest,” says Stephen. “Why not business schools?”
Share content that’s relevant—to stakeholders. Content that’s important to the school isn’t necessarily important to its audiences. “Content that’s irrelevant doesn’t work,” Stephen says. Schools should discover what information their audiences would find most valuable, and then provide it.
Make connections. Schools can use social media to keep their communities connected to their brands, link alumni with current students, or even remind alumni of fond memories of years past.
For instance, the Ritz-Carlton monitors Twitter for tweets that mention an experience at one of their hotels. It then responds with a “thank you” and retweets those messages with the #RCMemories hashtag.
Think about next steps. Schools already active on social media should define their next goals. Perhaps they now share posts but lack two-way conversation with their audiences. They could brainstorm about ways to develop more interactive content, whether it’s starting up a real-time Q&A for admissions on Twitter or networking more actively with alumni on LinkedIn.
Borrow from business. Just like companies, “schools are marketing a brand. They’re in the education service business,” says Stephen. “When we start thinking b-schools are different from other service providers, we get less creative about how we use social media.”