First Steps to Justify using Social Media at your University
The controversy came from how to start using social media, whether you should get approval first, what kind of strategy to use, do you even need a strategy?
What it comes down to in my opinion is support. No matter the size or your position at the university you must be able to justify spending your time in a medium that is right now is a mystery to most administrators.
# Step 1: Become an observer
The first step to get this support and justify using your time in the social space is to listen to everything you can. Become a "Social Media Observer", listen to all the positive and negative. One tool to do this is the Social Media Firehose, it finds almost too many references to your university by name/url. Seriously the "Wayne State" pipe finds on average 320 references per day. Seems like a lot but not everything is someone commenting positively/negatively about your university.
# Step 2: Pass that information along
You will come across prospective/current students with comments or question about your university. If you cannot answer the question directly send an email to someone you know who can and ask them to help. Cross your fingers you will get an appropriate response, often if the student is not asking the question directly to the institution it is not looked at as important.
Once you get a response sign up for that web site with either your name or your university's name and post the response. Be completely truthful and transparent, if you are signed up as yourself explain who you are or if signed up as the university let them know you are here to help.
# Step 3: Social media is about customer service
In addition to the response always give the user a way to reply back or reference existing web pages, phone numbers/email. Let them know you are here to help and they can contact you any time. I am big about being that single point of contact, taking in the request doing all the research and running around then getting back to the student.
Being consistently present and helpful builds on the relationship. It shows your university cares and a great place to come and study.
# Putting together justification
After a few successful or unsuccessful questions/answers write it up, put something together that doesn't have to be huge just a one page summary of how you did it, what you found, who you sent it to, their responses and if the student replied back. Shoot it off to your boss or who ever you think will find this information helpful and explain to them how much time it actually took out of your day (hopefullly not a lot), and how much it helped not only the student but also the university to recieve feedback.
At the very least it will get social media on the radar of the administration.