I started in the public relations field on accident. As an academic advisor for Western Washington University, I found that we could do a lot of work (and keep the lines in the office down) if increased our online presence. I suggested to my boss that we create a Twitter and Facebook account to increase our reach.
Being the only person in my office on Twitter, I took on the handle for @WWUAdvising, and soon after became a publicity intern and social media operator for a Bellingham dance company, @KuntzandCompany.
It is easy for me to get sucked in to the Internet now, and with the availability of my smart phone, I am able to check all three accounts from home, on my personal time. As my reach through each of these accounts expanded and my follower base grew, I noticed that I was responding to tweets through my work accounts late into the night. It led me to question, when am I on, and when am I off?
I told my boss about the work I did outside of my office hours, and he gave me the option to add an extra hour to my time sheet every week, but I knew it was not ok for me to constantly be on the clock. This is when I decided that it is important to establish guidelines when you are representing an organization via social media.
Reason? Besides saving what free time I still have as a college student, I realized that if I was always replying to questions via our account, my following base would grow to expect a direct response at all hours of the day. That simply isn’t sustainable when you have only one person to respond.
Another reason is due to a human factor. I am more liable to make mistakes and not be in the right mindset if I am laying in bed, trying to respond to someone who tweets,
“I am so pissed at @WWU, I can’t get into my class!”
This is definitely a sensitive topic and something I would want to address with a good head on my shoulders, preferably fully awake.
Here are some of the guidelines I follow in order to make sure I am on the clock at the right time.
- Do not respond after 9:00 pm. If it were important, it probably would have come up earlier. Most likely it can wait until the morning.
- If it is technical information that you are unsure of, make sure you are somewhere that you can double check with somebody. If you aren’t at work, wait until you are.
- If you have a heavy traffic website or account, delegate another person to help respond. It decreases your work and increases your efficiency as an organization.
- Make sure you are getting credit for what you are doing. If you put in multiple hours outside of work, you should let your supervisor know. Record them if you need to.
Obviously these guidelines will be different for every person depending on your organization. For instance, if you represent a nightclub, you will probably want to be up all night responding to your followers. So far, these have worked for me quite well.
Branden is a junior at Western Washington University studying public relations. He interns for Bellingham nonprofit dance company, Kuntz and Company, is an academic advisor at WWU, and a story editor for Klipsun Magazine. He was recently nominated for student employee of the month at Western. He enjoys cycling, hiking, playing music and being outdoors. You can find him on Twitter @BrandenMG.