New social networks in an enterprise digital strategy, like Pinterest

Pinterest logoThis week several departments around the University of Louisville met on whether we were going to integrate Pinterest into our university-wide social strategy. It was the first time we have met together to discuss a burgeoning social network and whether it should be considered as a broad initiative.

If you are interested in our opinion and the end result for Pinterest, scroll to the bottom. In the end, I found the exercise quite educational, organic and effective. Since it was our first, there was no agenda and anyone in the university who managed social media was invited.

Here is how our meeting went and how we will likely run any of our future meetings when considering new digital media strategies (not just social media).

1. Invite those who do

We did not have a huge turnout for our meeting, but we made sure to invite everyone in the university that we knew was interested in the technology. In addition, we invited everyone that managed social media, web content or other areas of internet communication. Why? Because Pinterest is a new social network, and part of considering anything new includes introducing it to those who know nothing about it and getting honest feedback from those who know and those who do not. It was less important to invite those who were already pinning as it was to invite those who do social media, web and interactive content management because if it truly is a ‘strategic’ initiative it will, at some point, cross all of their paths.

2. Consider critical mass

Before you consider a social network for an enterprise, it should be vetted, watched and tested. In addition to these common-sense considerations, there also needs to be a threshold or point of critical mass for any social network to be considered. The easiest way to determine critical mass is to ask internally, how many are using it or at least talking about it. Your target audience should help define what ‘critical mass’ is for a social network. Just because a network has 200 million users, doesn’t mean they are your target users.

UofLs academic Facebook audience (very different from our athletic audience), is about 56% female, by no means a strong dominance. In 2011, for 52 of the 53 weeks, females between 18-24 did dominate actual visibility of our posts, meaning they or their friends were seeing “likes” or “shares” more than any other group. They were more active or shared more and got engagement from those shares.

The trend in this specific demographic and amount of involvement was heavily considered in our ‘critical mass’ threshold for Pinterest. If females are generating the most eyeballs, on a consistent basis and have a slight advantage in our overall audience, then we must consider networks that skew toward this audience more than male-dominated networks.

3. Let your business define direction, not the internet

One major flaw in social (and digital media) strategy is that you must change your business to be successful. The most effective social and digital strategies figure out how to integrate digital into their existing strategies. This saves money, time and training. For us, Pinterest made sense. It is an image/video-based network and between our several colleges and departments, we generate a lot of both. We have both internal and external audiences that we direct communication to and we already use imagery and video to reach these people. The number of people in our target, and existing, audience on Pinterest is low (even lower than Google Plus) but the people who are on it are extremely active (exponentially more than Google Plus).

4. Does the social network support an enterprise?

In our conversation, it only took about 10 minutes to realize that Pinterest simply could not support a centralized social strategy for an enterprise with 12 colleges and more than 20 departments, who at some point may all want a piece of the action.

The conversation started “centralized” but once we discussed the volume of content, type of content and target audiences for each department, it became very clear that Pinterest simply wouldn’t work centralized. The lack of sub-boards, no auto chronological sorting of boards and lack of mechanism to schedule pins makes it impossible to implement enterprise-wide, without causing serious debate over what board deserves top placement and when.

Why did we even consider centralizing? Because it is a new network, has not been proven and may just be a fad, considering one of the biggest reasons people say they like Pinterest is because of how pretty it is. We wanted to consider making “many hands make work light.” It also would help minimize our exposure, in the event this is an 18-month fad that dies off. We also know we have several departments that will never produce a constant and steady stream of content and we always try to figure out how to help them by leveraging those who do.

5. Policies and procedures

Once we determined that Pinterest was worth investigating, we wanted to make sure that it was also integrated into the rest of UofL’s digital media initiatives. This makes implementation easier, training faster and tracking much more effective. We decided to follow the same structure we were using with Facebook, Twitter and our other social networks. In short, each unit is decentralized but must be centrally approved, monitored/audited for content, tracked (if we can) and must share with the central profile(s), information that is fit for the central audience.

We do quarterly social media training and invite anyone associated with the university to attend. They also are open to the public, students and anyone else who would like to attend. The training is not university-specific but does use the university as one strategic example of how people are using and leveraging social media, online, mobile and other digital media.

6. Ongoing strategy

Before our meeting concluded we all agreed to be diligent about communicating the effectiveness of this network, not only centrally but with each other. To give the network a chance, we have to share what works and spikes engagement, and whether it is growing on a consistent basis.

UofL has seen substantial but not monumental increases in social media without doing contests, promotions or gimmickry (that can garner huge spikes in followers), but our attrition rate is half of what many pages see. We attribute this to consistent and valuable engagement, diligently monitoring our networks and working independently but thinking, learning and moving together, strategically.

Pinterest at UofL

The University of Louisville agreed to give Pinterest a try.

We will use the network independently in our schools and departments but will share pins that are appropriate for the central audience upward. All of us agree that the network is not proven but has reached the point of critical mass, especially among our largest online (specifically social media) viewership.

In our next social media training, we will include Pinterest. It will be integrated as one of our primary social media platforms at some point in the year, likely after a three to six month maturation period.

UofL on Pinterest

About Jeff

Director of Digital Marketing at The University of Louisville
This entry was posted in Digital strategy, Social Media, UofL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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