Whether you’re overseeing a branded account or just reporting, not engaging fully with social media while you’re working at a college news outlet is a mistake. So is sticking to Facebook, Twitter, and pushing out links. Not sure where to get started? Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up along the way.

For Social Managers/Editors:

-Do more than Facebook and Twitter. Make a Spotify playlist of music from an upcoming campus concert. Make a Most Wanted Pinterest board. Do a live chat or a Google hangout with campus celebrities, like the QB or the student body president. Think beyond links.

-Make a Facebook group that helps you source information from your staff. Add everyone on staff, regardless of position, and let them know if they see something newsworthy on campus, they should grab a photo or at least post text to the wall. Then you can pull that information for social media.

-Post stories as multimedia (images, when possible). People will share them more. This isn’t my idea, but it helps even more now that Facebook has changed its algorithm and reach is down.

-Try posting a photo of the day, every day. It’s an easy, structured way to play on the fact that people love (and share) images that draw on their institutional pride.

-If you’re asking students to send in photos of game day or spring break or Halloween for your print edition, don’t give them an email address — tell them to post to your Facebook page. (They have to hit “like” before posting!)

-Make absolutely sure you learn some kind of analytics and measurement. Social media’s a creative pursuit, but there’s some science in it too. You’ll do a better job if you know what’s working and what isn’t.

-Follow tons of students from your branded accounts. They’ll follow you back, which is good. What’s better is that you’ll get a realtime breaking news network. If something big enough is happening, you’ll see tweets about it.

-Give yourself an ombudsman/public editor role. Your student media outlet may not have a built-in mechanism to respond to reader concerns & complaints, but you’re going to hear plenty of them on social media. So interview editors and other staffers. Respond. Make sure people get an answer when they take time to ask you a question (or take you to task).

For Reporters:

-Follow tons of good college newspapers and good college journalists. In journalism, ideas are currency…and following smart people floods your feed with ideas.

-Make a Twitter list of students at your university. You probably don’t want hundreds of students clogging your timeline, but it’s good to have a list to check in a few times a day. Follow enough students, and breaking news will surface…every time.

-Solicit Instagrams and tweets in advance for events you’re covering. Go ahead and let people know a few hours or even days before that you’ll be doing some crowdsourcing.

-Follow a ton of local and national reporters, especially those who cover the same thing you do. Seeing how the pros cover your beat is invaluable inspiration.

Five things you should be doing if you don’t have time for anything else: Digging into Twitter Advanced Search and other tools that go beyond posting, crowdsourcing articles through Facebook and Twitter, taking time to write a professional Twitter bio, experimenting with basic analytics (even just your bit.ly clicks), and making Twitter lists.

Have fun! 

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