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Secrets to University of Florida's Social Media Success

Dean Tsouvalas, Editor-in-Chief of StudentAdvisor.com, interviewed Bruce Floyd, Social Media Specialist at the University of Florida. The University of Florida was ranked #14 on the just released Top 100 Social Media Colleges rankings Spring 2012.

The University of Florida is a major public land-grant research university. The state’s oldest and most comprehensive university, UF offers more than 100 undergraduate degrees and more than 200 graduate degrees.

Dedicated to its mission to teach, research and provide service, UF is one of only six universities in the country with colleges of law, medicine, engineering, agriculture and veterinary medicine on one central campus. UF is also one of only 17 public, land-grant universities that belong to the Association of American Universities.

@UFlorida TwitterDT: The University of Florida has over 200 social media accounts between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin – how do you manage them?

BF: Our office is only responsible for management of the top-level accounts. As far as the other accounts representing the University of Florida, we require those accounts to register with us so we know the managers and can advise them as needed. We also keep the managers updated and informed using listserv emails and a UF social media managers Facebook group.

DT: With so many Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, how do you grow your fans and followers?

BF: Our growth on Facebook and Twitter is pretty organic. I just try to provide compelling content that is of interest to our current fans and that tends to encourage sharing and an increase in new fans.

DT: What tips do you have for schools looking to get more fans or followers?

BF: Don’t just post press releases - think about content that is more interesting to your audience. Also, be available to engage with fans / followers - don’t just post and leave. Even if you say “thanks”, it’ll pay off. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your fans what they’d like you see. It’s free market research!

DT: Why did you choose to have many accounts rather than one, centralized, account?

BF: With an organization as large as ours, it is difficult to stop colleges and units from creating their own accounts. Not that we’d necessarily want to. A large account can never post all of the great things that are happening in our different colleges and programs and it makes sense for them to promote to a more specific audience that is more interested in their particular fields of study.

DT: How many people are involved with UF’s official social media accounts and which department is responsible for them?

BF: There is a separate manager for each account listed - each representing that unit/program specifically. I manage the primary top-level accounts, with help from a couple of interns.

DT: Are students involved in helping the official social media efforts at UF? If yes, how do students get involved with the official social media program?

BF: I cannot speak to the amount of student involvement in other unit’s accounts, but I have used interns since starting last year. I typically have at least two interns assisting in creating original content for our channels.

DT: What is UF’s primary purpose for social media? Do you use it as a news source, to actively engage with students, both or additional purposes?

BF: We use social media to promote the great things that are happening at the University of Florida, to engage with our fans/friends/followers, and to listen and learn what people are saying about us.

DT: Do you monitor the Facebook or Twitter profiles of students that have applied to UF? How do you engage them?

BF: Currently, I only engage with students that respond to us directly, use a familiar hashtag or mention the “University of Florida” in their tweet. Our admissions office has their own social media accounts and may look up students online, but to my knowledge they do not use those

DT: We love your videos where you have reporters talk to students about their summer plans or profiling graduating seniors, as well as the noted animal behaviorist Temple Grandin. Who produces these videos and how do you use them to engage your community?

BF: Some of our videos are actually produced by my social media interns, such as the summer plans video. I let them come up with the ideas for the videos, as they are more in tune with what their peers would be interested in. Other videos, like the video we produced for our graduates , are developed by the WUFT Creative Services team at our College of Journalism. It’s a partnership we recently developed with them and so far it has worked out very well. Our community has responded well to videos in general but we try to promote ones that I feel will encourage a response. It also helps to ask a question when posting, which helps motivate others to comment.

DT:  Do you have any suggestions for applicants who have social media accounts?

BF: I would suggest that they take a good, hard look at the content they are posting online and understand that they are creating an initial impression that could be difficult to take back.

DT:  Does UF have a social media policy or guidelines for staff, students, and/or student groups?

BF: We do. It basically references policies that are already in place, including UF’s human resource policies, use of computer resources, student conduct code and others.

DT:  Do you have a favorite social media platform, video or blog?

BF: My favorite platform is Twitter, mainly because it’s a more immediate and public platform. It’s quite easy (and fun) to search for people that talk about us and respond.

DT: Can you share about UF’s next step for your social media strategy?

BF: We are working on doing a better job at listening, measuring and fine tuning our content so that more people are encouraged to like, comment and share.

DT: Recently, UF decided to eliminate its computer science department. Students and alumni are using social media to spread awareness and protest the university’s decision. Does your department work with students who are running social media campaigns, if so, how?

BF: Wow, where to begin. UF did not decide to eliminate the computer science department. This was a proposal that was reported inaccurately by a blogger. This proposal has since been tabled. I have not done extensive work with any students doing campaigns but am certainly willing to do so.

DT: Is there anything we missed that you think is important to UF’s social media community?

BF: I love engaging with our passionate Gators and am always appreciative when they share and comment on our content.

Bruce Floyd, Social Media Specialist at the University of FloridaAbout Bruce Floyd:
Bruce Floyd is the University of Florida's social media specialist with over 15 years of experience working with web technology. He previously worked for the UF Web Administration office as a web manager and usability researcher. Bruce's two degrees - B.S. in Psychology and Master's in Entrepreneurship from the University of Florida - have prepared him well for leveraging social and new media platforms for use by marketing and communications in the University Relations office. His ultimate goal is to show the University of Florida as an accessible, friendly and helpful organization. Bruce currently manages the top level social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and acts as a consultant to other campus units interested in maximizing their online presence. When he's not at work tweeting, you'll find Bruce at home, likely tweeting.

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