4 Mistakes Higher-Ed Execs Make on Social Media and How They Can Stop Making Them

If a university executive comes off well on social media, Josie Ahlquist, a research associate and leadership instructor at Florida State University, says that they can make some great connections with students, alumni and outsiders.

But not every higher-education executive knows how to use social media well. Ahlquist, speaking at the AMA’s 2018 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, says that there are four mistakes executive make.

1) Social silence: “I find so many accounts that have been created and then somehow forgotten about,” she says.

2) Bulletin board method: There are also many accounts that post but aren’t active in engaging with followers. She calls this a one-directional approach.

3) Hands-off approach: Students know when someone else is controlling a university executives account and they will ignore it. There needs to be some kind of involvement from the executives themselves, she says.

4) Misdirected ROI: Some executives shoot for a viral post every week, ignoring the connections they should be creating on social media.

There are ways that executives can combat these four mistakes. Ahlquist says that there are six types of content that can be used in a balance way to create connections on social media. These include:

1) Community posts: shout-outs to staffs, student and faculty across the school — not just athletics, but honors and residents’ halls too.

2) Educational posts: These posts can meet students where executives need them the most.

3) Inspirational posts: Giving quotes or encouragement during times when students may need it.

4) Posts with the executive’s story: Posts about why they went into higher education and what gets them excited.

5) Promotional: These posts tend to be one-directional posts, but they can be used once in a while, she says.

6) Behind the scenes posts: Students want to see what it’s really like to be an executive. Perhaps these posts could be an executive with their family, in their car, giving a speech or even hanging out with their pets. This gives students a peak behind the scenes and is also a method of posting they’re familiar with through following other influencers.

Ahlquist says that all of these steps form what she calls purpose-driven digital leadership, where personalization and a plan ignite a leadership purpose online.

Quick Stats

Liz Gross, founding director of Campus Sonar, says that she’s in the middle of a six-month study of social media use by campus executives. So far, she’s three months in and ha has found:

  • Presidents tweet 2.5 times per day, VPs tweet 2.3 times per day
  • Public university executives post more than private university executives
  • Students are, by far, the top topic they post about.
  • 21.4% of executive posts are positive, especially high compared with 12% of positive posts by alumni Gross studied.
  • 45.4% of posts from executives are text and 40.2% feature images — barely any are video.

Gross’ full report will cover July through December 2018 and be released sometime in 2019.