Why Social Media?
Social media represents a tremendous opportunity for Virginia Wesleyan University to connect with current students and alumni, faculty and staff, parents, supporters and the broader community in a dynamic way.
Social media is interactive and timely. It can also be a lot of fun. However, effectively utilizing social media as a marketing and communications tool—particularly one that reflects the University’s vision and values in a compelling and consistent way—comes with a unique set of challenges. These guidelines are designed to help the VWU Community navigate those challenges.
Do You Need a Presence?
Perhaps the most important question to think about before establishing (or maintaining) a social media account is whether your office, department, group or program needs a social media presence at all. Keep in mind that frequent, timely content is critical to success on social media.
A Facebook page that hasn’t had a new post in three months is worse than not having one at all. If you don’t have the time or resources to keep an account active, don’t start it to begin with. If you are the administrator of an inactive account, consider closing that account.
Evaluate your goals. Do you need an independent social media outlet or could your goals be met through use of the University’s social media “hubs” (see below) or other existing VWU accounts? You may reach a larger audience having your content published through official channels. The Office of Marketing and Communications is always available to help promote research, programs, publications, and events in a variety of ways including social media. The University’s Sports Information office should also be used as a key resource for social media concerns specific to coaches and athletic teams.
If you decide that a social media presence is the right way to help expand and connect with your audience, create a plan for establishing, updating and maintaining the site and a process for evaluating your success.
What is Social Media?
Social media sites and applications vary in style and audience, but they are all defined by shared, user-driven content. The democracy of the social media space gives it its vitality and distinguishes it from traditional websites and other communication vehicles.
Facebook – Social networking site with profiles for individual users, pages for entities or public figures, and groups for users with a shared interest. Focus is on conversation and sharing through posts, photos and links.
Flickr – An online photo gallery site that allows for storage and sharing of digital images.
Foursquare/Swarm – Location-based social media that allow users to share information about or find nearby attractions or “check in” at particular places.
Google+ – Social networking site with profiles for individual users featuring sharing through posts, photo galleries and video chat.
Instagram – A mobile application that allows users to edit and share photos, often with stylized filters or effects
Linked In – a social platform geared toward professional networking for individuals and businesses
Pinterest – A social medium in which users create virtual pinboards by linking to outside sites via images. Socially, users can comment on, like or “re-pin” other users’ links.
Tumblr – Short form blogging (microblogging) platform that focuses on ease of incorporating mixed media (photos, videos, text). Also has a social networking aspect in that users can follow and reblog each other
Twitter – Social site on which users can send 140 character messages or “tweets” as well as photos and abbreviated links.
YouTube – Video sharing service. Allows for embedding of videos on websites and easily links to videos on social networking sites.
Virginia Wesleyan University has several institutional social media pages. These pages have an established audience that is clearly associated with the VWU brand and should be considered the University’s social media “hubs.” If you have information to share that is appropriate for a broad audience, please consider utilizing one of these outlets by sending your information to the Marketing and Communications team. Limit requests to a maximum of one or two a month to allow others to do the same.
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official Facebook
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official Alumni Facebook
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official Twitter, @vawesleyan
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official LinkedIn
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official YouTube
Virginia Wesleyan University’s Official Instagram
Use hashtags: #VWU, #757, #marlins, #marlinnation
The Virginia Wesleyan Brand
Students choose VWU because of the unique opportunities afforded by an individualized liberal arts education, an inspiring location and a dynamic and supportive academic community. As representatives of the University, we are charged with communicating those unique opportunities to numerous audiences through various outlets, including social media.
It is vital that the University’s social media presence reflects a unified brand and supports the mission and vision of the institution. Representations of the University on social media should be in line with the goals and priorities outlined in Virginia Wesleyan’s Strategic Plan.
Logos, Colors and Verbiage
Follow the University’s Graphic Standards and Editorial Guidelines whenever possible or appropriate. Though the informal nature of social media justifies some flexibility in this regard, it’s always best to opt for consistency in how VWU is presented to the public. The little things matter.
Names, Profile Images, Icons, and Cover Photos
Social media account names associated with the University should contain at least one of the following: “VWU” (all caps), “Virginia Wesleyan,” “Virginia Wesleyan University,” “Marlin,” or “Marlins.” If possible, avoid using “Wesleyan” by itself; there are many Wesleyan colleges and universities.
Profile images, icons, and cover photos should be of good quality. If you are using a logo as a profile image (or anywhere else), make sure it is the correct official logo, that it is cropped evenly and that it fits within the borders of the image that is displayed to other users or viewers. If you need help finding a particular logo or photo or want assistance designing a profile image, contact Marketing and Communications.
Become a Groupie (A Special Note about Groups versus Pages on Facebook)
If you are considering creating a VWU-related Facebook presence, you are strongly urged to create a group rather than a page*. Here’s why:
- Proliferation of VWU pages interferes with search, dilutes the brand and creates confusion for users
- Pages suggest one-to-many institutional conversations, rather than peer-to-peer conversations
- Many users may like a page for the “badge” of joining and never interact
- If people who like your page haven’t interacted with it in six months, they are not seeing your posts
If ANY of the following are true, a group is probably best for your needs:
- You have (or anticipate) approximately 300 active likes/members or less
- You’re communicating with a very specific audience – a single team, a student group, an academic department
- You can’t or won’t necessarily post regularly (several times a week minimum)
- People frequently “time out” of being associated with your group – such as when they graduate
If you already have a page and need to change over to a group, you can do so through a gradual transition. Here’s how:
- Start the group. See Facebook’s guidelines for starting a group.
- Continue to publish on the existing page once a week for two to three weeks about the group (also, message everyone who should be in the group). Consider promoting the post about the page (you can do so for as little as $10)
- “Unpublish" the page first before totally deleting it. That way you can keep the information and transfer it over slowly if needed
- Finally, delete the page.
*If your “page” is actually a personal profile, you need to change it over immediately. It’s against Facebook’s rules: See here.
General Tips and Tricks
If you’ve determined that a social media presence is right for you, here are some helpful hints for success:
Establish Goals: What do you hope to get out of a social media presence? Attendance at events? Student or alumni involvement? More recruits?
Have a Plan and Measure: Create a schedule for posting. Have an idea of the kinds of things you will post and when. Be consistent and current. Virtually all social media sites have built-in tools to help you measure the response you are receiving. You should also measure against your stated goals.
Less Words, More Photos: “Brevity is the soul of wit” and social media. Keep verbiage to a minimum (even if you don’t have to such as on Twitter). Post photos, galleries and links instead. Show, don’t tell.
Interaction Is King: It’s called “social” media for a reason. Get in the habit of liking other people’s posts and comments, re-tweeting and sharing content. The more you do so, the more traction your presence will get.
Tag It and Don’t Forget It: Hashtags are key not only on Twitter but on a growing number of social media sites. Here’s a primer on using hashtags.
Prepare to Evolve. Change is the name of the game on social media and online in general. What’s true today probably won’t be next month or next year. Be a lifelong learner.
Web First, Then Social Media: Social media is not a replacement for a traditional website. Your primary online presence should exist in your section of www.vwu.edu (or vwcathletics.com). If the information there is outdated, contact Marketing and Communications (or Sports Information) to correct it.
Perhaps a Promotion? More and more, social media sites are looking to capitalize on businesses using them as a marketing tool. Translation: they want you to pay to be seen. Paid social media advertising can be a consideration for big events or initiatives. Prices vary widely. Consult Marketing and Communications.
Utilize VWU “Hubs”: Got something to share that’s right for a bigger audience? Consider going through one of the University’s social media hubs. See “VWU HUBS” above.