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Getting Started

1. Secure the approval of your department head or manager.

If you wish to create a social media page or profile for your university department, it is important to talk with your supervisor for their approval and to ensure that a page does not already exist for your department.

2. Set goals in advance.

Before jumping in to social media for your department, program or office, spend time determining what you want to accomplish. Participating in social media for the sake of doing it is not effective and is ultimately counterproductive. Understanding your goals will help you choose the appropriate tool or tools, create relevant content, and understand what is the best way to reach your target audience. You should also determine ways to measure your success in achieving these goals.

3. Choose a leader.

Determine who will be the primary person responsible for updating and monitoring your social media presence. Ensure they have the time to check in on your various accounts at least once a day. This does not need to take up a significant amount of time, but successful social media sites are updated frequently, enable easy engagement with viewers, and adjust in response to timely events and problems.

In addition, it's important to assign and train a backup for this person. Many departments find that it is effective to have a team of people to manage all their social media accounts.

4. Be strategic.

The more work you do before you launch your social media presence, the more likely you are to create a successful social media presence. Define what you hope to accomplish, with whom you wish to engage, and what content you wish to share first, and then begin exploring social media tools. If you need help thinking through a strategy for social media, see the worksheet found in Appendix A. If you need additional help or aren't sure if an idea is the right one, don't hesitate to contact the Office of University Relations for help.

5. Watch, listen, learn.

All social media platforms have their own standards, styles and expectations. Become a consumer of social media before you are a producer. By becoming a consumer of social media well before you become a producer, you will learn how these communities work, what content is of most interest, what other organizations are talking about, etc. Spending a good amount of time on this step will help you better plan what unique contribution your voice can have.

6. Choose your tool, and start small.

After listening, you may find the short, 140-character bursts of tweets on Twitter are a good fit for your goals. Or you may have photos, videos, and a well-developed community that would be best shared via a Facebook fan page. Do not try to do it all at once–choose a tool that best meets your goals and focus on building a strong presence. Once you have one tool in place, it's easier to expand your offerings as needed.

7. Choose a good name.

Create a profile name that clearly and concisely identifies your program and its affiliation with UTC. Avoid identifying yourself simply as "UT," "UTC," or "The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga," as that implies you are speaking for the entire institution.

8. Build a foundation.

Build your blog, Twitter stream, Flickr profile, Facebook page, or whatever you choose and spend time populating it for several weeks, sharing it with a small group who can provide comments. Have the site up and running well before you plan to publicly announce it so you can become comfortable with maintaining it and so that the site has plenty of content for the initial users of the particular resource.

9. Launch.

You're ready to communicate! Use traditional means, such as e-mail lists and notices on your website, to notify your potential audiences that you have a social media presence. Also, notify others with social media presences and similar interests that your site is live. One of the best ways to do this is by linking to these sites from yours and mentioning them in your posts. Include easy-to-find links to your social media presence on your website.

10. Adapt and Adjust.

Once your site is up and running, you will find some content is popular, some is ignored, and some is just plain cumbersome. All social media tools come with easy-to-use tracking tools, so you can see which posts are viewed and shared most, which generate comments, etc. Be prepared to re-align your strategy in response to who is viewing your site and in what ways they are doing so.

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