Last week I had the great opportunity to participate in a social media panel at the 2013 meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers®. My fellow panelists — Dr. Melissa Maderia from the National Cancer Institute, Montserrat Capdevila from The Johns Hopkins University, and Morgan Estabrook of the University of Virginia (who also organized the panel) — and I were thrilled to have a large audience with very engaged participants.
I’d like to share a few of the themes that I found to resonate most strongly with our audience, based on both their questions and their facial expressions!
The Social Media Continuum
Early in the session, Melissa discussed the varying levels of interaction possible via social media, as illustrated below. (Click on the image for a larger view.)
This continuum provides an excellent map of the steps that beginners can take as they endeavor to leverage the power of social media. Melissa also mapped out four key steps for getting started with using social media:
1. Determine which platforms to incorporate into your strategy: This involves asking yourself several questions:
- How much time do you have to devote to posting?
- Which platforms are most suitable to your audience?
- Which platform will provide more bang for your buck?
2. Determine what regulations/guidelines you need to follow for your organization: It is always good to check the policies of your organization before you begin posting. Also, if you are wondering whether something is appropriate to publish, it is better to ask for guidance first or perhaps develop content that is less controversial.
3. Learn the lingo/jargon: The best way to do this is to set up an account (which several audience members did, including one during the “intermission”!) and then spend some time lurking to see how colleagues are using the sites. And don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Speaking of which…
Focusing on Fundamentals
After Melissa’s highlights of the various tools, I covered the fundamentals of social media. These apply regardless of which tool(s) you use.
My biggest recommendation is to start small. Start by picking a single tool and focusing there. For example, LinkedIn is a good one for when you’re just starting out. Then, as your comfort increases, you can start to use multiple tools to increase your impact.
When you’re ready to stop lurking and move into the realm of creating content, be sure you use the tools that hit your target audience. Go where they “live” (not just your own sites/platforms) and “speak” about what’s important to them. Use their vernacular, keywords, and hashtags. (Don’t know what a hashtag is? Check out this post on the basics of tweeting.)
Most importantly, make sure your Web site is ready for visitors. Nearly all of your social media interactions will be driving traffic to your Web site, so you’ll want to make a good first impression. (Check out these insights on creating an effective Web site.)
Looking at LinkedIn
Montse gave a great overview of how to unleash the power of LinkedIn, including this nice list of why/how she uses it:
- To market technologies and faculty
- To increase exposure as an individual professional as well as for the tech transfer office
- To find the right contacts in target organizations
- To find background information about these contacts, which is especially useful in negotiations and in breaking the ice at a first meeting
- To see what other people are doing and who they are doing it with
Metrics: How can we tell if we’re being successful in social media?
Toward the end of the session, Morgan focused on the all-important topic of metrics. She provided specific how-to instructions for finding social media metrics using tools such as bitly, Facebook’s Weekly Page Update, LinkedIn’s stats, and Klout. These metrics indicate how people are responding to your social media efforts — an important measurement of your impact.
But for those who wanted to know how to calculate social media’s return on investment (ROI), it wasn’t that simple. Morgan pointed out that the metrics tools listed above focus on outputs — that is, the specific results of efforts to drive traffic to your Web site, Facebook page, etc. These are different from outcomes — that is, achieving the ultimate goal of, say, getting a licensing deal.
The fact is, whether you’re marketing a technology or building your brand or some other goal, social media is just one of the tools for achieving your goal. Marketing campaigns these days take a multi-pronged approach, and success often is tied to more than one single tool. There are plenty of examples where social media contributed to signed deals, but it is not a direct relationship that could be translated into a “spending X dollars and Y hours on social media = Z deals” equation.
Nevertheless, the panelists were definitely in agreement that social media is worth the hype, even if that worth is difficult to measure.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with details about the results of our survey of social media usage by technology transfer professionals, including plenty of examples of value derived from social media.