Syracuse University’s Kate Brodock on Social Media

“You will get out of social media what you put into it.”

Today in our social media strategies & tactics class, we were given a firsthand look into how Syracuse University manages its social media efforts from Kate Brodock, Executive Director of Digital & Social Media for the university.  Drawing from her experience at Syracuse and elsewhere, Kate provided us with many valuable insights into the world of social media management.  A healthy balance of content creation and curation, providing consistent ‘value’ to your followers and the importance of social media in a crisis were all stressed.
Particularly interesting were her insights into the use of segmentation of social media.  As such a large institution (somewhere in the range of 14,000 undergraduates alone), Syracuse University has found it necessary to segment its social media outreach.  Users who engage with social media accounts are doing so to serve their own needs; in order to meet those needs, SU has split its main social channels into several social channels.  For example, its main Twitter account (@SyracuseU) serves almost 17,000 followers, all with a variety of experiences, locations and desires.  Some may be alumni, some current students, some faculty and some even local community members.  Rather than ‘spamming’ all 17,000 followers with content and information irrelevant to them and their connection to SU, the university has divided into several niche accounts, including @SUCampus and @SUSqueeze.  Across all of its platforms and accounts, SU has found a way to brand itself consistently, something many large organizations struggle to do.

“You want likes that will stay with your brand!” 

 In describing the importance not just of the number of ‘likes’ or followers on a brand’s page, Kate stressed that providing consistent value to your followers is key.  Value can be “warm fuzzies,” meaning some kind of visual or other content that tugs at a user’s heartstrings.  For Syracuse, these warm fuzzies could come in the form of their “Throwback Thursday” photos of SU many decades ago, which engage alumni in a meaningful, even emotional way.  Value can also be humor, however.  Perhaps your organization’s users simply want to “crack up” every day, she said, “and if you keep them laughing, you can keep them coming back.”  Whatever the type of value your users seek, be sure to provide it consistently in order to increase user engagement with your brand or organization.  

“When a crisis hits, it will hit the social media platforms first, and it will hit us in incredibly high volume!”

As the social media director for a major university, Kate has been exposed to several recent crises at SU, including the Bernie Fine scandal that rocked campus last spring.  While these experiences were by no means an easy job for those running the SU social channels, Kate and her team were able to learn quite a bit about social media’s role in a crisis during those times.  Her instructions for crisis response are:

1) When hearing rumblings of a crisis, stop & listen.  Gather as much information as you can.
2) Acknowledge emotions.  People are feeling a certain way, and those emotions are valid.
3) Respond with 1st party content (from your organization) when ready.
Lastly, Kate stressed the importance of coordination and collaboration during a crisis.  “Cross-department coordination can make or break a crisis,” she said.  If social media managers are not allowed a seat at the crisis management and preparedness table, they will be incapable of effectively communicating with an organization’s publics during a tumultuous time.    
Many thanks to Kate Brodock for sharing these insights (and many more below in my Storify) with our class!  

“Social media tools are not free, unless you consider your time valueless!”

    

[View the story “Syracuse University’s #SocialMedia Strategy” on Storify]

Chancellor Cantor will leave Syracuse University

http://www.syr.edu

Last Friday, students and faculty at Syracuse University were made aware that in 2014, at the end of her contract, Nancy Cantor will end her reign as Chancellor of the university.  The university community seems to be split on their reactions to this announcement.  After months of criticism by free-speech advocates (including this article by The Daily Orange in April 2012), who see her management and communications style as detrimental to the University, many cheered this news.  However, many others in the university see this departure as tragically ending what will have been ten years of increased diversity, community outreach and engaged learning.

In terms of the public relations impact of her departure, I see a long road ahead in effectively maintaining relationships with the university’s stakeholders.  The difficulty lies in Chancellor Cantor’s “Scholarship In Action” programs; these new initiatives of engaged learning have created a multitude of new stakeholders who are now strongly tied to the university.  Prior to Chancellor Cantor’s reign, these individuals or groups may not even have existed as stakeholders.  For example, the Imagining Americaprogram at Syracuse did not move to campus until 2007.  Today, there are eleven graduate students whose studies are paid for in part by this program, in addition to three full-time employees running the program and student work studies managing the office.  All of these individuals now have stake in not just the university, but in Chancellor Cantor’s initiatives and her leadership.  This may seem like a small group, but there are countless groups like this across the university, and all will want a voice during this time of transition.
I will let the hallways and classrooms of Syracuse work out whether Cantor’s departure is for the best or the worse, but regardless, from a public relations perspective, the university is in quite a pickle.  Due to the growing criticism of Cantor’s work, should the university start from scratch, and leave behind many of her initiatives? Or, due to the influx of stakeholders who now have brand-new or stronger ties to the university, should it continue Cantor’s initiatives in the interest of maintaining good relations?    Either way, the university will need to proceed with transparency (some would argue a new concept for Cantor’s Syracuse…), two-way dialogue and respect for all stakeholders involved.  If public relations is not at the table during the important decision-making processes of this transition, it is unlikely the university will come out of this time unscathed.