Tips and Tools You can Use: Social Media and Other Digital Tools

December 14, 2015

Social Media Tree resized

Note: This blog post is based on materials prepared for MNCC’s ‘Tips and Tools You Can Use” video conference on November 17, 2015. Please contact Megan Voorhees if you would like to talk about the ideas listed here and/or have topics you would like discussed on future statewide network calls.

Are you interested in using social media to recruit and inspire more students, or to tell your campus’ stories of community engagement to the public? Have you been meaning to research productivity tools that might make your work easier? I am not an expert in this area, but here is what I learned from people who use social media and/or digital tools regularly in their work.

Social Media

Whether you use social media all the time at work or not, it is highly recommended that you develop a plan and policies for how you will use social media before you use it. As you develop your plan (which should be revised at least twice a year), consider the following tips:

  • If you are trying to reach people that are already connected with you, it is best to use e-mail to contact them. Be sure e-mail is mobile optimized, and that everything you really need to say is in the subject line and first sentence of the body of the e-mail so that people get your primary message on their cell phone screens without having to scroll down.
  • At least 90% of your social media content should be information that you have planned ahead to deliver. For many of your programs, plan a calendar of posts before each academic term and even develop the content ahead of time. If you are going to use social media a lot and you will be posting on multiple sites, you might want to consider HootSuite or Buffer to manage all of your content.
  • If do have social media sites for your program, be sure to keep them updated enough that somebody new to your organization will understand what you do.

For most of you, you will probably want to consider using Facebook, Twitter and Linked In to connect with your stakeholders. If you do use these sites, consider the following suggestions:

  • Facebook: Posts on Facebook organization pages are generally seen by 7 to 20 people, even if you have thousands of friends. If you want your Facebook posts to reach people, you need to pay a nominal fee for each post based on how many people you want to reach. Note that you can also pay for Facebook ads that will reach anyone you have an e-mail address for-even if those people have not “liked” your page.
  • Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets.” Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. I know many faculty who use Twitter as a way to build community in the class and connect students to course-related news and content. If you are using Twitter, 4 out 5 tweets should be information-based and 1 out of 5 should be a call to action or an “ask”; tweets that use complete sentences without abbreviations and an image get re-tweeted 2-3x more often. You can put a Twitter feed on your website which can help you keep your website up to date.
  • Linked In is a networking site that is geared towards developing business networks. Consider using LinkedIn to connect with your students and then develop alumni groups when they graduate. You can also use LinkedIn Pulse which is a blog and “best of” outlet where you can learn from thought leaders in your field(s).

It might also be helpful to know about these popular sites:

  • Instagram helps you take photos on your phone and share them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
  • SnapChat allows you to take a picture, add art and the text the photo. You can send it to recipients for a set amount of time and then it is deleted from the company’s servers.
  • What’s App allows you to send text messages without paying data charges and Remind is a text messaging service that you can use to remind groups of people about events or deadlines.

Other Digital Tools

Of course, there are new digital tools designed daily to make your work more productive or efficient. Here are some suggestions for tools that are currently popular in the United States:

  • E-mail Management: Consider using Constant Contact or MailChimp to send out mass e-mails. You might want to use them for e-newsletters and/or reminder e-mails (i.e. monthly timesheet reminders). Boomerang for Gmail allows you to schedule e-mails to be sent at a later time. If you find that your e-mail inbox is overflowing, you may want to consider using Slack for all communication with people in your office as it combines team communication and file archives.
  • Project and Task Management Tools: There are many different tools that help you to manage your to do list, consider Asana which allows for easy management of tasks within a group or organization or Trello which allows you to visually organize of projects.
  • Presentations: When you are developing visual presentations, Pictochart can help you to visually represent information and Pixlr is a a free photo editing tool. If you are doing oral presentations for a large group, you can use do to conduct surveys with your audience and make it easy for them to ask questions.
  • Tools for the Classroom: FlipGrid was developed for use in the classroom and allows individuals to respond to a question or prompt with a short video-this is a great way to have students introduce themselves to each other without taking up class time. If you have students watching videos for a course, you can create a YouTube Playlist of all the video clips.

These are just a few of the many digital tools that can make your work easier. If you use other tools that you think your colleagues should know about, please let me know and I’ll update this list.

By Megan Voorhees, MNCC consultant