The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Alycia Washington, assistant director of campus recreation for operations and student employment with CENTERS. LLC at the University of New Haven, shares advice on social media. 

Why is it important for recreation departments to have a focus on social media?

AW: It is important for recreation departments to have a focus on social media because that is how we meet students halfway to make sure our programs get the most exposure. A plague among college campuses is that students get bombarded by so many emails they stop reading them. It is obvious that most students engage in a least one form of social media, so it really benefits our department to have targeted efforts in mediums that the students are already interested in.

What social media platforms do you use within your department? How do you use each one?

AW: Here at the University of New Haven, we use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are largely used in the same ways so we can make sure all of our followers are getting the same information. We usually initiate posts through Instagram so we can edit the posts and encourage engagement with a picture or a flyer, then share them through Facebook and Twitter.

What is your overall social media strategy or mission?

AW: Our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to have 100 percent of the university community follow us on social media so our programs’ participation can grow every year.

What are some best practices when it comes to social media and engaging with students via social media?

AW: Some of our best practices are to train our student employees and let them post because they know the most about the culture of the campus. We try to have at least two comical or interesting hashtags on our posts. Timeliness is also important. If we post about an event next week, it is likely that students will forget. So we try to post one or two days prior to the event, and then remind our followers the day of the event as well. We also like to include as many real participants in our photos as possible. We don’t want a feed full of stock photos of strangers, because that won’t engage the university community. We want our members to get an idea of what we are like from our posts, so we like to emphasize fun anyway we can.

What advice would you give to other campus recreation professionals that might want to improve their social media?

AW: I suggest talking to your students and seeing what they already post about. It also helps to pick a few influential students on campus to follow and encourage them to engage with you. One thing that boosted our followers was taking a picture of every RECSports (intramural) championship team and tagging them all. Students really just want to see themselves and their friends, so give them a new way to do just that.