Each Office of Research Administration (or however you are aptly named) is merely a part of a greater University or institution. In our case, we are a (relatively) small office of a school within a greater University, but to prevent an identity crisis we claim JHSPH as our home base. In large part, this is due to us wanting to attach ourselves to an entity that is internationally known, as it affords us visibility that wouldn’t ordinarily be available.
Clearly, universities and colleges alike strive to successfully brand themselves, using mascots, emblems, buildings and apparel to promote their name, recruit new students, and raise money. As has become quite clear, these institutions as a whole are joining the social media craze with determination, recognizing it as a strong recruiting source that offers large amounts of free publicity. Facebook and Twitter are regularly used to promote campus events, new awards, sports titles and news, with the hope that these activities will to attract new enthusiasts and retain regular followers.
However, with universities launching entire media campaigns based solely on social media, it is a surprise that so few research administration offices are taking advantage of their benefits. Even though an ORA doesn’t necessarily need to promote itself to maintain its standing, attaching your office with the institution under which you operate can provide substantial benefits. Given that Facebook is the easiest social media platform with which to begin, here are a few helpful pointers for you to consider when setting up your page.
Take advantage of your cover photo and profile picture. Both are easily the first chance you have to communicate your connection to your university. For your profile picture, mascots or emblems are the strongest way to create a connection between your office and the university, as they are visual representations of your university and easily identifiable by others with whom you are connected. Using a known quantity such as the school logo will make your page more reputable and more inviting for potential followers. Your cover photo is another place for you to help someone to make the connection. For us, JHSPH is a long acronym for someone new to Hopkins to grasp, so we chose an easily identifiable exterior photograph of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Alternatively, while we chose not to do so, matching your cover photo to that of your institution provides another visual connection for those who stumble upon your page and reinforce the link between both entities.
Connect with your University on Facebook. Although this is the most straight forward and common sense action, it is often the most easily forgotten. Simply following or ‘Like’-ing your University’s page is not enough. Obtaining the social media endorsement of your University (through them following your own page) is a step forward to ensuring that your information is getting to the largest group of people possible. Although this may require some leg work to contact those in charge of social media in your school, the payoff is greatly worth it.
Provide sufficient contact information. Providing followers additional means with which to reach your office is equally as important on Facebook as it is on your regular school website. We have updated our ‘About’ section on Facebook with our office contact phone number and general email box to encourage people to contact us outside of Facebook and to provide another avenue to connect with our readers.
Provide links to your events or important information. Posting bland, static updates is rarely enough to obtain and hold the interest of your readership, so providing links and related information is important for both advertising reasons and information dissemination purposes. Your goal is make sure that people are getting something out of their participation in your page and have reason to stick around and check back regularly. Additionally, you want to show up on your followers’ newsfeeds regularly with new information and reminders. Even something as innocuous as a link to an NIH-hosted reminder will help positively reinforce your readers’ decision to keep tabs on your site. Universities seldom let their social media go quiet for more than 24 hours, so your ORA should follow suit.