In August of 2009, I was very fortunate to meet Laura Huff, the PR eMarketing specialist at Western Carolina University, who was taking on work-study students for the first time at WCU. This is when my interest in social media was definitely growing as I had taken my first ever social media position earlier that year in January as a multimedia coordinator with Last Minute Productions [on campus events company]. I will be the first to say that managing an entire university's social media is not the easiest thing, but it has been one of the top three learning experiences I have had and I've had a great time! I've been working in our eMarketing department since August of 2009 and even turned it into an eMarketing internship. It has been a VERY beneficial experience for me.
As one of the original team members, my responsibility from the beginning has been to post content that will attract the attention of a wide variety of audience members including WCU students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, family members, etc. It is definitely an interesting thing to do. We've now grown to FIVE team members! Besides Laura and I, we have three freshmen who are also learning with us through these experiences.
One of the best things about working with social media is learning as you go along, in my opinion. There isn't an exact rule book out there. You make it your OWN experience. My boss, Laura Huff, did a great job guiding and transitioning me into university social media. I look up to her so much and am so grateful we have such a great, close relationship. We add upcoming events, post links to news stories, promote events, send out alerts and more. It is actually pretty fun!
Creating conversation and getting student and other WCU community member input is also very rewarding as we get to talk to a lot of different people with very different mindsets and opinions. I love that we get to talk to people every single day and we get to send out messages every single day to our audience. Managing a page with over 13,000+ people is no easy task, but it is so much fun with such a great group of people! I really do love my job.
Helping to manage a university's social media also has a little downside - people see you as the face of the university and the social media channels as places and spaces to voice some concerns, post some not so flattering content and more. Things can go downhill and spiral a little out of control very quickly.
It's definitely not easy being the target of what seems to be a social media "war" if you're accused of deleting posts, censoring, removing bad content or anything else. It's not easy and it's not fun during this times. However, going through these situations taught me A LOT about people, how they react and how people do love a good fight - especially when they know it can get others really riled up too. It actually turns YOU into a better and more rounded person.
Tips for the not so good times:
- Do not engage - this really will just make it worse.
- Do not take it personally - they are [usually] not actually after you, but what/who you represent.
- Remove content *you* think is damaging to the community as people will see it and it may cause damage to them in other ways.
- Post "community guidelines" or a "code of conduct" to your page or site if you are concerned about comments or posts.
- Remember people do have a right to free speech, but should also abide by your rules as well.
- It is okay to delete content [in my opinion] when an original post is turned into something nasty or something it was not meant to be.
- Monitor the situation closely and let other sections of the company know what it going on immediately.
Aftermath of the "not so good" situations:
It can get even uglier. It really can get worse. If something else comes out of what seems to be a social media attack, monitor that situation as well. Honestly, when these things happen they have an expiration. What seems to be a seriously bad situation WILL run its course. People will move on to the "latest crisis" or "next newest thing." They just will; we lose interest as humans.
What will also happen is that people will respond ON your behalf. You don't even have to comment or respond. People who are loyal to you or your company will respond to protect you and the situation. You have built up a following and a loyalty - they will be there to defend you!
It's all a part of the process! We chose this profession and, although it may not seem like the easiest situation when you're dealing with issues and such, public relations and social media are awesome things to be a part of. We are witnessing a HUGE change in the way the world works.
We love public relations and we learn SO much every day. It is so worth it in the end!
Thank you for reading about my experience as an eMarketing Intern at WCU! Please feel free to ask any questions or let me know if you need help with any issues or anything!