Don’t Panic!

When to act, and when to do nothing?

Community and social media managers deal with this conundrum on a regular basis. When managing a social media presence, what constitutes “action-worthy” audience behavior, and when should you just stand by?

The chart below was inspired by Charlene Li’s “social media triage” as blogged here by Andrew Careaga. The idea is to use the chart as a way to determine the “threat level” – from low to high – and assess the amount of action required to manage it.

Social Media Threat Level Graphic

Most of the issues we deal with on a regular basis fall into the “low” category: combative comments, unofficial groups, spam, etc. These require little to no action to manage, other than consistent monitoring. In fact, reacting too quickly or being defensive could do more harm than good.

“Medium” level issues not only need more attention, but also may require the involvement and input of higher levels of management and other members of your team, including alumni volunteers and other campus departments.

Finally, “high” issues require coordinated action and involve the highest levels of management. While situations that fall into the “high” category are relatively rare, it pays to have a strategy in place for managing these types of situations, similar to a crisis communications plan. Be sure to include strategies for coordinating efforts across campus departments. Also think about how and when to involve Provosts, Vice Presidents, and general counsel. These high-level administrators should know about the situation, and your strategy for managing it.

This chart is meant to help guide your thinking about social media issues, and does not cover every single situation that might come across your desk. It should, however, help you prepare for what lies ahead.


Student Generated Content: Part One

This is the first post in a series on integrating student-generated content into communications, particularly in social platforms.

What is Student Generated Content?

Student Generated Content is photos, videos, podcasts, tweets, blog posts and more supplied by current students that are intended to enhance and augment your communications. You can implement student content in a variety of ways. The key is to integrate student-generated content into your overall communications strategy – not tack it on to a pre-existing approach.

In the coming weeks in this space, you’ll see a series of blog posts on working with students. I’ll cover topics including identifying, training, compensating and managing student content creators, examples of projects you should and should not assign to students, and provide some examples of institutions and organizations with great student content.

To kick things off, here’s a brief look at some of the pros and cons of working with students to create content for your social platforms.


  • Students are a low cost workforce. You can employ a team of student content creators for less money than professionals.
  • Students can speak first hand about life on campus – they know your culture and community better than anyone.
  • Alumni, prospectives and parents love to hear from students; give your audiences a window into the student experience.


  • Students are students first! They have midterms, labs, projects, papers and more at any given time. Your content deadline may not be the highest thing on their priority list.
  • Students are on an academic calendar. Summer, spring break and winter break mean time off for them and a content drought for you.
  • They require a significant amount of up-front direction and management. Ultimately, though, this leads to a working relationship built on trust and a strong fundamental understanding of your institutional voice, strategy and goals.

Ready to take the plunge? Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Social Media Staffing

Where do social media staff belong on the org chart?

Social media is still relatively new, and many organizations are trying to manage the inherent tasks and responsibilities. Job titles like “Community Manager” and “Social Media Strategist” are popping up all over the place, but there doesn’t seem to be consensus on where these roles fit in preexisting org charts and structures.

Some schools consider social media and communications to be a “tech” job – it involves computers, and therefore goes under Information Technology. However, with the rise of social technologies, any average non-IT person with an Internet connection can create a blog in seconds (grab your mobile device right now and try it for yourself). Social tech has also given the masses an opportunity to engage with brands, celebrities, alma mater and more by simply posting a comment or writing a tweet.

What does that mean for the “social media experts” on your staff? They may not be programmers or hardware experts. But they do know a lot about building relationships and engaging in conversations – those conversations just happen to take place online. They have strong, high-level understanding of your organization’s mission, values and goals. They are trusted and valued members of your team.

So, where do social media staff belong on the org chart? Short answer: everywhere.

In a large, university setting, content managers should be peppered throughout your organization, communicating and collaborating amongst one another across departments and silos. Working laterally across campus means that the community managers in admissions, public relations, athletics, alumni relations and more work together to promote cohesive branding and messaging. Community managers wear many hats; give them the tools and resources they need to fulfill all of their roles. By working together, community managers across campus can form an effective, collaborative team ready to engage audiences on a variety of topics.

Managers and executives higher up in your organization need fewer details. Knowing how social tools fit in with their overall mission and goals (e.g. increasing event attendance, receiving more applications for admissions, etc) is vital. They don’t need to know how many times you tweet in a week, but they do need to know the impact and outcomes of those tweets.

Embed social media staff throughout your organization, and encourage them to collaborate across departments. Community managers are in place to build relationships and engage your constituents. Collaboration and communication are significant aspects of their skill sets. Use them!

This post is also featured on the CASE Social Media blog.