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Why We Launched CSU News on Facebook

Colorado State University, like other universities, has news from its public relations office created and distributed every single day. It is truly amazing when you step back and look at the amount of stories generated on a regular basis.

CSU’s PR team is comprised of talented writers and storytellers. They conduct interviews, schedule photo and video shoots, coordinate media coverage opportunities, write compelling stories, and are responsible for populating the university’s news site, Source.

Source is the online hub for all CSU news, announcements and events. A Source email is delivered twice a week to all students, faculty, staff and subscribers (roughly 35,000 people).

The PR team has won many national awards for their work. They are really good at their jobs. This goes back to the point that they produce a ton of stories each and every day.

The Problem

From a social media standpoint, this is a blessing and a curse. Due to the sheer volume of stories and their varying degree of subject matter (from research/discovery, to people spotlights, to events and announcements, and everything in between), sharing them on social has been tricky.

My team manages the university’s institutional branded accounts and while relevant Source stories and news coverage are part of our regular content mix, the main institutional accounts are really not the spot for constant university news. The exception is our main Twitter account due to the fact that Twitter is essentially an on-going news-churning machine. Ashley Manweiler wrote an excellent post, Why It’s Not a Surprise We Made a Video Surprising Students with Puppies, describing the type of content we share on our main accounts and why.

The Solution

As I was thinking about how I, as an individual in the world, consume news, I had a Eureka moment. I personally follow a variety of news outlets on social media. I follow my local newspaper, statewide news and national outlets on Facebook and Twitter. It occurred to me that for people interested in CSU news, they should follow CSU news social media accounts. Genius, right? Not really, but we are going to give it a shot.

We did some research and found that other universities do have Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to news. University of Michigan, Berkeley, Kansas State, University of Colorado and William & Mary all do a nice job.

Here’s how we are rethinking the social strategy for sharing stories from the PR team.

Leverage Twitter

The PR team has had a Twitter account for years. It has nearly 6,000 followers, which is pretty good. This is the account the team uses to tweet out all of its press releases. Rather than using the account solely for press release distribution, we’ll be using it to share Source stories, photos and videos, along with articles written about CSU by the mainstream media. It will be a well-rounded news Twitter hub for all things #ColoradoState.

Launch Colorado State University Facebook page

To some it may sound easy, sure, just go create a Facebook page. It will do great. But the reality is Facebook pages take a lot of effort to nurture and grow a following. I say this because we had thoughtful consideration as to what it would take to launch the page and maintain it. The primary piece we considered was staff time. We need to make sure that we can integrate Facebook and Twitter posts as part of the PR team’s routine distribution of stories.

The other big piece we considered was ensuring that we had enough visual content to support social media posts. We know that compelling photo and video greatly impact the success of your social media strategy. Starting this fall, more of our PR-generated stories are going to have short videos associated with them (CSU’s video team will be assisting with this effort). This is great news since we know that video typically performs well on Facebook and Twitter.

Finally, in studying how other media outlets publish posts on their Facebook pages, we found that they post frequently. In fact, it is not uncommon for news outlets to post several times an hour. Now, I don’t think our CSU news Facebook page could/should be this prolific but when it comes to news, it happens quickly and often. This is different from our main CSU Facebook page where we typically post twice a day (in an effort to not alienate or spam our audience). I think that if people choose to follow a news account, they expect to see a greater volume of posts.

So we did it. We launched the Colorado State University News Facebook page.

Evaluation

We’re in a soft launch phase this summer. The team is publishing content on a regular basis and we’re seeing what works and what doesn’t. We’ll be keeping an eye on the reach/impressions of these posts as they will be a key indicator to knowing if our news is being seen in the social space. From there we’ll work on click-through rates and engagement benchmarks.

#CSUSocial will continue to amplify Source stories on the University’s branded accounts but it feels right that they now have a home on Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond cultivating a CSU News Twitter and Facebook strategy, my team will be exploring if/how we can incorporate and leverage Reddit communities. I’m really interested in learning how other universities work with Reddit (beyond AMAs). Hit me up if you have any insight, Kimberly.Stern@colostate.edu.