Yesterday Molly Livingstone of Hebrew University and myself presented at the 140 Conference in Tel Aviv. (Disclaimer: Hebrew University is a client of mine.) Currently, the university maintains two Twitter accounts, @HebrewU (English) and @HebrewU_heb (Hebrew) with over 2,000 followers. Additionally, they have a Facebook Page with over 7,500 fans, and an educational YouTube channel with 740 subscribers. We’ve all learned a lot in a year. At the conference, Molly and I discussed lessons learned, the challenges of working within an established institution, the importance of social media cheerleaders, and what has succeeded. I thought I’d share some of them with you:
1. Cross-departmental teams more than double the assets
Hebrew University put together a cross-departmental team to implement its social media that is able to access language, culture, and departments throughout the University. The team itself consists of two staff from the Media Relations and two from the Development department. Between them, there are two native English speakers, two native Hebrew speakers, two native-born Israelis, one native-born American, and one is a native-born British citizen.The team represents the largest majority of the university’s target audiences, as well as language and cultural diversity.
Most importantly, the their combined reach includes the Spokesperson’s office (and therefore the Office of the President), the alumni department, multimedia (who controls the YouTube channel), the development department, the Friends of Hebrew University associations (over a dozen worldwide), and media relations. Over the past year, the social media team has needed all of these resources at some point to support, amplify and assist in the social media efforts.
2. Social Media Cheerleaders are vital to success
When working with a large institution, it is fair to say that not everyone thought social media was a worthwhile effort in the beginning. Largely in part to a small group of social media cheerleaders within one of the departments, social media came into being. An initial “social media trial run” of three months expanded into six, then a year. Now social media is regarded as a worthwhile financial and resource investment. It would not have been possible without a few people within the institution pitching it and believing that social media is important to the university’s success.
3. Determine the communications theme and stay on message, on every platform
We determined early on that these are the primary messaging themes: put a personal face on the university, promote it as a world-class institution, and emphasize its strength in research and innovation breakthroughs. The team ran monthly twitter chats about an interesting facet of the campus to put that personal face on the institution. They still use Twitter to respond personally to people talking online about the university, engage, and talk about the scientific breakthroughs and research that come out of the university.
On Facebook, the university hosts a monthly “Expert on the Spot” video Q&A with a researcher or scientist. The Expert on the Spot features an expert talking about his/her research and inviting questions about it. This accomplishes two things: it is a means for the university to engage personally, and it highlights the innovation happening on campus.
4. Know your audience.
Hebrew University’s social media audience is worldwide, and not just the students. There are over a dozen Friends of Hebrew University associations, and its alumni span the globe. However, it is located in Israel and is, after all, the Hebrew University. What language should it communicate in on social media?
We opened up two twitter accounts: @HebrewU (tweeting in English) and @HebrewU_heb (tweeting in Hebrew). The Hebrew tweets are relevant to students and Israelis and the Israeli press. The English tweets focus on items of worldwide interest happening at the university and engaging with the public.
The Facebook Page does not focus primarily on student activities. . It would be so easy to ask for funny student videos, or to focus only on campus activities, but the social media team keeps in mind its Facebook Page audience when it updates the Page. Keeping the audience in mind, the content is 75% English and 25% Hebrew.
5. Start small and try it in bite-sized pieces
Though there are four members of the team, they all have full-time jobs working on things that are NOT related to social media. We began with Twitter, and after a few months, expanded to YouTube and Facebook, which has been all very doable with a time-limited team.
6. Don’t be afraid to fail and experiment
After all, social media is still a grand experiment! The monthly Twitter chats were not successful, by any measure. There were time zone issues that spanned the globe, the chats weren’t focused enough on one area of interest, and the primary audience wasn’t on Twitter, among other issues. After five months, we all decided that they were too time-intensive for the return. Hebrew University used the concept of an online chat, moved it over to Facebook, and launched the Expert on the Spot monthly Q&A. What failed on Twitter, has become very successful on Facebook for the university.
What have you learned after a year?