Last fall, Auburn University, Georgia Tech, Florida State and the University of Georgia leveraged their rivalries to attract more followers to their emergency management and mass notification social media pages.
In about a month, UGA increased its Facebook “likes” by more than 478 percent with 1,671 new users, while Georgia Tech increased its Facebook tally by more than 190 percent with 1,342 users. FSU increased its Facebook “likes” from 5,659 to 5,941, and its Twitter followers from 8,620 to more than 9,100. Auburn went from zero to more than 2,000 Facebook “likes,” and three to more than 500 Twitter followers.
Want to create your own social media competition with a rival institution? Here are the lessons these four Southeast universities learned.
1. Pictures, especially funny/clever ones, get the most shares and interaction.
2. You can only see the last approximately 300 people to like your page if it is set up as a business or agency profile.
3. Utilize free software to track “likes” on Facebook.
4. Giveaways/prizes generate lots of activity; be sure not to violate institutional or Facebook policies.
5. Use social media for more than just emergency notifications and warnings.
6. Develop a brand (name, logo, hashtag, etc.) that people can identify with. The #KeepFSUSafe slogan gives something for the campus to rally around. Other examples are BeHokieReady at Virginia Tech, VCU RamReady at Virginia Commonwealth.
7. Social media is by nature social. It cannot be used effectively as a one-way message delivery platform. You need to solicit engagement and interaction with your followers. Develop a personality for your brand that your followers can associate with. Develop a sense of trust in the personality and the brand.
8. Provide regular useful but pertinent content. Don’t post just anything for the sake of filling dead air.
9. Link to trusted third-party content providers (National Weather Service, local media and community partners). Show that you are a team.
10. Images, informative graphics and videos capture people’s attention and generate more engagement than a plain text post.
11. Realize that each social media platform operates differently. You can post a lot more text on Facebook than you can on Twitter.
12. While directly linking your social media accounts to automatically cross-post makes things easier, make sure the subsequent posts look right and make sense.
13. Plan out your sites ahead of time and create guidelines for use. How often will you post information? What type of information will be posted? Who has authority and ability to post info? It’s best to give several people the ability to post, but strong communication is important to make sure information isn’t duplicated and you have a consistent presence.
14. Create short and easy-to-remember profile names, if possible.
15. Keep messages brief.
16. Avoid competitions that focus simply on grubbing for more followers. Social media users tend to look at begging for followers with disdain. Find creative ways to solicit more followers without resorting to direct begging.
17. Rather than focusing on just user populations, make sure you include metrics that measure their levels of engagement (likes, comments, shares, favorites, mentions, retweets, etc.)
19. Confining the competition to a short period of time reduces the risk of alienating your users with the potential of perceived excessive spam.
20. Find an event or cause to rally around, such as a major sports rivalry or post-season games, Campus Safety Week, Severe Weather Awareness Week or National Preparedness month.
21. Coordinate with other offices on and off campus that have a strong social media presence to help promote your sites and the competition.
22. Consider assembling a working group of social media managers to provide advice and guidance. Be sure to include student advisers.
23. Make sure that the data providers for your metrics support the granularity of your competition. For example, if it finishes at 8:00p.m., but the data is aggregated daily, you may get inaccurate numbers. Some data providers are not “real-time” and report delayed data. Furthermore, if the statistics are dependent on human capture (e.g. screen capture), it opens the door to errors. Begin and end your competition using milestones clearly substantiated by your data providers. This may mean waiting up to 24 hours to declare a winner.
Andrew Altizer is Georgia Tech’s director of emergency preparedness; Dave Bujak is FSU’s director of emergency management; Steve Harris is the director of homeland security and emergency management at the University of Georgia; Jennifer Mattingly is an emergency preparedness coordinator for Georgia Tech; and Susan McCallister is Auburn’s associate director of public safety information and education.