The ubiquitous and rampantly proliferating social media landscape is home to billions of Internet users and facilitates billions of connections each day. Recreation departments wishing to enhance connectivity and visibility among students and members of the campus community are urged to adopt a social media strategy, which is cohesive, comprehensive and collaborative.
It has been said that digital technology has catalyzed the transformation of internet users from bystanders to active participants. Social media in particular has enabled this transformation through reaching and engaging a high volume of Internet users in a rapid fashion and emerged as a vital component of communication, marketing and advertising functions.
As of 2015, the population of social media users numbered 2.206 billion, which was projected to grow another 8.7 percent or 176 million more users. Of the 2.206 billion, 1.925 billion regularly accessed social media networks via mobile platforms, a number expected to swell another 23.3 percent or 365 million users within a year.
Its worth noting that Facebook adds 500,000 new users each day, equating to a rate of six new profiles created per second. Facebook also ranks the highest among all social media networks with 1.49 billion social media accounts used within the past 30 days. Twitter comes in second with 316 million and Instagram and Google+ tied for third with 300 million.
Organizations can accomplish increased brand awareness and customer engagement through the establishment of virtual customer environments. VCEs create demonstrable value as they cover a broad range of activities, notably including advertising, public relations, customer service and support, and remotely avail point of sale transactions.
Before embarking on a strategy, recreation administrators or those within the department who intend to take the lead on social media outreach initiatives (i.e. an intern, graduate assistant, or member services personnel) should first consider Kietzmann’s Seven Functional Blocks of Social Media.
Other important considerations include:
– Identify a target audience or establish a niche. Recreation programs are multidisciplinary and larger institutions have more units and working parts. As such, it would be prudent to maintain a few separate accounts (i.e. structured sport, fitness, experiential learning) to better appeal to specific constituencies. A departmental social media account could disseminate information pertaining to announcements such as closures and emergencies.
– Apply the “elevator pitch” approach. Information conveyed via status updates and posts should be clear, concise, contextually appropriate and include content which is relevant and recent
– Fact check. Information presented should be held to a high standard and accompanied by veracity via credible news reports or scientific evidence.
– Be “customer-centric”. Demonstrate how happenings in the lives of professional staffers and student workers, including career developments and personal accomplishments can help humanize your approach.
– Select appropriate social media platforms. While Facebook and Twitter are universally popular, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google+ are growing in popularity among college students.
Lastly and most importantly, common sense is the common denominator. Do not associate with restive or contentious individuals or groups via social media. Refrain from using obscenities or foul language, and make every attempt to ensure grammar, syntax and spelling are correct. Administrators who are charging subordinates with the responsibility of managing accounts should underscore that the department is liable for posts and other activity and tact and maturity must always be exercised.
Kemp, S. (2015, August 3). Global digital statshot, August 2015. We are Social. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://wearesocial.net/blog/2015/08/global-statshot-august-2015/
Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P., & Silvestre, B.S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54, 241-251.
Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS is the Manager of Health Promotion at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.