5 Steps For Leveraging Social Media to Build Relationships

August 24th, 2015

Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting a social media workshop to presidents of public colleges and universities as part of the AASCU Summer Council of Presidents Conference in Denver. Prior to the start of the workshop, my co-presenter, Michelle Maresh-Fuehrer, a professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and I were approached by several presidents. Each had their own unique story and yet all of their concerns shared a similar underlying theme – they lacked a connection with their community, the faculty and staff, and students.

We talked with these presidents about the fact that with the proliferation of social media, the news is now filtered through no one in particular. Everyone is a reporter and, sometimes unfortunately, people can post whatever they want. Because of this, it’s more important than ever before for leaders to leverage the power of social media to build deeper connections so they can orchestrate their own story. During the workshop, we outlined five steps to help them communicate and engage with people on a deeper level using social media.

1) Define Your Strategy and Set Goals

What do you want to accomplish and who are you trying to reach? So often, people just set up a social account and start blasting random content with no clear audience or purpose. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos once said his tweets needed to fit into one of four categories he defined as ICEE: Inspire, Connect, Entertain or Educate. If they didn’t fall within this realm, he didn’t tweet it to his 2.76 million followers.

So define why you are on social, who you are trying to reach and what you hope to accomplish. Get specific. How long will it take you to accomplish your goals and how will you measure results?

2) Identify Your Personality

If you’re on Facebook, then you know what I mean by the “fantasy Facebook family.” Nothing goes wrong in their world – ever. Then you have the crazy soapbox friend who complains about or takes issue with everything, or the person who friends you and shares nothing – ever. So who are you? A key factor in social media is authenticity. Don’t try to be someone you’re not; It’s not sustainable. Define your comfort zone and stay true to it. The goal is to be what has been termed, the “socially active strategist.” This is the person who follows a clear strategy and shares a good mix of personal and work-related content. So determine your parameters around this.

If you aren’t sure what your social personality is, take this 30 second quiz to get started: https://www.qzzr.com/quiz/what-is-your-social-media-personality-type

3) Follow Role Models

Luckily, some leaders have nailed the engagement element of social media. For this group of presidents, Santa Ono (@PrezOno), the president of the University of Cincinnati, was our leading example. He makes me want to be a Bearcat! Find leaders in your field and follow how they use social, and begin to emulate them using a frequency and scale that makes sense for you. If you aren’t sure where to find them, start with a Google search. There’s a list for everything these days. For instance, here’s a top 50 list of the most social CIOs on Twitter: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/cios-on-twitter_b_2474768.html. For other ideas on how to find people of interest, here’s a good article: http://markitty.com/blog/find-people-twitter/.

4) Engage with Followers

So there’s a study (there’s a study for everything) that says people are five times more likely to follow other individuals versus organizations. People trust people. So aside from being a person engaging with other people, what type of content can you provide that will engage your audience? Pictures, your opinions, links to articles, personal recommendations of things you like, news items, video clips, quotes – these types of posts are preferred. Our attention span has sunk to about 8 seconds, so pictures and videos are your best bet whenever possible.

5) Assess and Refine

We’re all data crazed humans, so what does your data tell you at the end of your preset timeline? If you’re using Hootsuite or Sprout Social you can pull reports on demand and compare them to a previous timeframe. Are you looking at the number of followers, link clicks, mentions and retweets, your Klout score? As with anything you measure, figure out what’s working, what’s not and make adjustments. Then keep going. Consistency is key!