Social Media Strategy for FFIS

Social Media Overview

 The Friendship Foundation for International Students was created 60 years ago by a faculty member at the University of Oregon. FFIS is a non-profit organization that exists to bridge cultures and promote world peace and understanding through international friendship, personal diplomacy and the exchange of ideas. The organization currently has 500 active members in the Springfield and Eugene areas. FFIS would like to expand existing relationships with current members and recruit more members not only in the Eugene area, but internationally as well. The implementation of a social media strategy would be beneficial for FFIS for several reasons.

 There are millions of social media users. According to one study, over 60 million Americans have read a blog. That number is closer to 350 million worldwide. According to newly released statistics, Facebook is now growing by about 600,000 users each day. Most of Facebook’s growth is taking place outside the United States. According to Comscore, in 2008, 19 million Facebook users were living in Africa and the Middle East, 26 million users are in Asia, 48 million are in Europe and 16 million are in Latin America. Already much of our target audiences are online and using social media. Social media is a great way for people with shared interests to interact and share information. The utilization of social media is a great opportunity for FFIS to build and strengthen relationships with existing and prospective members. Social media is fast and easy to use and low-cost. Unlike traditional marketing methods, social media provides instant connection between you and your target audience. Much of our target audience lives in a different country, which would make it difficult for them to be reached by newspapers that only circulate in the United States and television that only airs in the United States. It would be beneficial for FFIS to create a social media outlet in order for the organization to reach all of its target audiences quickly and efficiently. The only challenge in doing this would be getting all of our target audiences to our website and other social media outlets that we may choose to use such as a Facebook page or a blog.

 

Target Audiences

Current International Students

One of your target audiences is current international students who are studying abroad at the University of Oregon. These current international students are men and women ages 18-25 years old. Current students are interested in the American culture and interested in learning and improving their English. These students already have a place of residency whether it be in the residence halls on campus or off-campus in an apartment or house. Current students can be freshmen that are still learning about our culture and learning how to get around campus and Eugene. They can also be juniors and seniors who are familiar with the University, city, culture and language.

Prospective International Students

International students, men and women, who are interested in studying abroad in the United States, are another target audience. In general, prospective international students are ages 17 through 20. These potential University of Oregon students, like current international students, are interested in the American culture and interested in learning more about the English language.

 Current and Prospective Volunteers

This is the third target audience. This group really varies in demographics. Anyone who is 18 years old and older can be a volunteer. Volunteers are men, women, college students, college graduates, families, senior citizens. Anyone who is living in Eugene, Springfield or in another city nearby the University can be a volunteer. The volunteers are usually interested in learning about different cultures and teaching international students about the American culture.

 Alumni

The fourth target audience is alumni. Current students (national and international) who graduated from the University of Oregon are included in this target audience. This target audience includes alumni residing in and outside the United States as well as former international students living in and outside the United States as well. We will focus on alumni who are 40 and younger because there is a low percentage of people over 40 years old who are using social media.

 Objective

The objective is to use social media as a means for FFIS to increase volunteer participation and to strengthen existing relationships with international students, alumni and volunteers.

 

 Strategies and Tactics

Organizational Blog Strategy

A Friendship Foundation for International Students Blog is one of the strategies that should be used in the social media strategy. Active listening is an important element in writing your own blog. Active listening is a way to monitor what it being said about your organization so that if someone says something about your organization you can quickly respond. A good way to listen is by reading blogs that either discuss FFIS or discuss topics that are related to FFIS such as blogs that discuss, international students and studying abroad for example. The first step in active listening is you must first find blogs that discuss FFIS or related topics. I have included a list of influentials in Appendices A that would be a good list of blogs and other outlets to start with. To make following various blogs easier, you can add them to a feed reader and have all of your blogs in one place. I would suggest using Google Reader because it simple and organized. Another way to listen and monitor is through Google Alerts and StartPR. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results based on your choice of query or topic. If we type in FFIS in Google Alerts, every time there is mention of our organization we will receive an email alerting us that someone said something about our organization. StartPR is a very similar application. You type in the topic or organization you would like to follow and it will give you every blog, article, video, etc that has mention of your organization.

It is important that FFIS employs an outreach strategy in order to build its reputation and credibility in the blogosphere. FFIS should subscribe to feeds from blogs that contain a similar focus to its own blog. These other blogs should be read frequently to keep well-informed about topics that may be of interest to your organization and your blog. Leaving comments on other blogs makes the blog owner recognize you and your blog. When commenting on multiple blogs, you will be socially recognized in the blogging community. FFIS should also invite comments and suggestions to its blog. Inviting comments shows that you care and are interested in other people’s opinions.

The FFIS blog should be written primarily by an insider from FFIS. A short biography of the main blogger should be included on the sidebar to make the blog more personal. The blog will also incorporate guest posts from current international students, student volunteers, host family volunteers and alumni. By including perspectives from the different target groups you are able to reach three of your audiences with this blog; current international students, prospective international students and prospective volunteers. The audience should be encouraged to participate in the blog and its content. The audience will be strongly encouraged to leave comments and also email the main blogger directly with any questions, concerns or suggestions about the blog or its content.

FFIS’s blog should encompass a variety of topics:

·      List Posts: One of the easiest ways to write a post is to make a list. List posts are easy and quick to read and get the information to readers quickly. Posts that include topics like, “Top ten reasons why you should study abroad,” or “15 reasons why you should host an international student.” Readers generally find these types of posts helpful and at the same time entertaining.

·      Instructional Posts: Instructional posts tell people how to do something. These posts can be extremely helpful, and often give step-by-step instructions on how to do something. An instructional post could include topics like, “How to find reasonable apartments in Eugene,” or “How to apply for a job on campus.”

·      Informational Posts: These are one of the more common blog types where you simply give information about a topic. An informational post could include a brief explanation about FFIS’s different programs.

·      Guest Posts: There will be guest posts from current international students, student volunteers, host family volunteers and alumni. These guest posts will include things like personal experiences, and advice for prospective international students or prospective volunteers.

Response to negative buzz will be done immediately and professionally. I recommend that you use StartPR, a social media management tool, to monitor what is being said about FFIS in the blogosphere so you can respond to problems or concerns right away. Contact the person or organization directly to address their concern. If they were misinformed about a certain situation, kindly correct them by giving them the proper information. If they are unhappy with a specific situation seek advice from the person for improvement.

Organizational Blog Tactics

We recommend that you create your blog on WordPress because it is free easy to use.

1.     Create a WordPress account at http://wordpress.com. It is recommended that the URL address for your blog is http://ffisoregon.wordpress.com. 

2.     Customize blog template. Choose a two-column theme with widgets. Green Marinée is a recommended theme.

3.     Add a new page for resources. In your resources page you will include:

a.     Friendship Foundation for International Students website

http://www.ffisoregon.org/

b.     The University of Oregon home page

http://uoregon.edu

c.     International Student and Scholar Services http://international.uoregon.edu/index.php/isss

 4.     Add links. In this section you will include the list of influentials offered in Appendices A of this plan.

5.     Create “About FFIS” page. Include a brief history and overview of the organization. Include its mission and the programs it offers. In the last paragraph encourage comments and include contact information (Becky Megerssa, UO International Affairs, becky@uoregon.edu, (541) 346-3206).

6.     Write your initial post. The post should include a brief introduction about FFIS, why the blog is being created, and what topics the blog will cover.

7.     Each blog post should include at least one visual and two to three links to other sites or blogs.

8.     FFIS should post a new blog every Monday and Thursday. It is not necessary that the type of blog posted needs to be in any order, but you should not post two of the same type of posts next to each other. For example, you shouldn’t post two informational posts, one right after the other.

 FFIS Facebook Page

A Friendship Foundation for International Students Facebook page is a second strategy that should be used in the social media strategy. Consistent participation on Facebook will make it possible for FFIS to engage and reach all of its audiences to build new relationships, and strengthen existing relationships. FFIS should monitor the success of the social network Facebook by how many friends the page has. FFIS, in addition to the FFIS Facebook page, should also create a FFIS group on Facebook. Success of the group can be monitored by group membership. This social networking tool will allow FFIS to reach all of its audiences. On Facebook, FFIS can create events such as “meet and greets” that introduce FFIS programs. FFIS can also reach out to other resources and organizations that could contain useful information for international students, alumni and volunteers.

 The FFIS Facebook page should be written by an insider or multiple insiders from FFIS. The Facebook wall will be open for comments and suggestions from members, prospective members and representatives from FFIS. This open connection between the organization and its members will help to build relationships.

FFIS’s Facebook page will include the following topics:

Upcoming Events: All of the events that FFIS has will be posted on the Facebook page, and an event invitation will be created and sent out to all FFIS friends.

Outlet for Addressing Questions/Concerns: FFIS Facebook will also serve as an outlet for dealing with problems or concerns. Members, friends, and spectators of FFIS’s Facebook page can send FFIS messages or wall posts with questions or concerns about the programs or anything else they are unsure of. These concerns will be addressed in either a group message or on a FFIS’s Facebook wall.

Negative buzz will be dealt with immediately and in professional manner. The issue will be addressed, clarified, and necessary changes and/or improvements will be made.

 FFIS Facebook Page Tactics

 1.     Create FFIS Facebook account at http://facebook.com.

2.     Add photos from FFIS to Facebook page.

3.     Create “About FFIS.” Include brief description of what the organization is, its mission and its programs.

4.     Include contact information. Becky Megerssa, UO International Affairs, becky@uoregon.edu, (541) 346-3206.

5.     Use volunteer, international student, and alumni names to invite members to be friends with FFIS. Make sure to include a link to Facebook on FFIS website and blog and any other paperwork given to volunteers, international students and alumni.

6.     Create first “meet and greet” event and send to out to FFIS Facebook friends. Also post event on Facebook profile page either in what are you doing section or on FFIS wall.

7.     The Facebook page should be updated weekly either introducing an event, or addressing an important concern. Other types of content could include quick advice or tips from previous international students or volunteers.

8.     To continue to build friends and members we will encourage all existing members to bring friends and family or anyone interested in our organization to our events. We will browse people’s Facebook pages looking for interests that relate to our organization such as “international travel” or “studying abroad.” We can then invite people that we think would be interested in joining our Facebook page.

Blogger Relations Strategy

Find blogs that have a similar focus and similar topics to FFIS. The list of influentials in Appendices A is a great resource to use. Read at least 20 recent posts and leave valuable comments on the blog. Reading comments is important because it provides a sense of readership as well as the blogger’s engagement with readers.  Become part of the blogger’s community by participating in the comments section. When you are ready to pitch a blog to one of the bloggers be transparent. Tell them who you are, who you work for and the organization you are representing. You should only approach a blogger when you feel that you have something of value that is relevant to their blog and newsworthy. Bloggers are not required by any means to post your blog and if they don’t feel that they were approached professionally and with a blog of substance that will not hesitate to let everyone in the blogosphere know it. Again, offer the blogger something of interest and make sure the content of the blog you are pitching matches the content of the blogger’s blog. If the blogger does decide to use your post, you need to work on building a long-term relationship with them. Continue to read and comment on their blog if you have something that adds to the conversation. 

 

 Evaluation

One way that the results of the plan can be measured is by an increase in volunteers. We could evaluate whether or not we were able to strengthen relationships by the participation on our Facebook page and blog. For example, if the same FFIS members are consistently reading our blog and leaving insightful comments, that shows that we were successful in strengthening relationships with at least some existing members. 

 There are a couple different ways that FFIS should monitor the success of its blog. Google analytics is a great way to monitor the success of your blog. Google analytics is a program that allows you to learn where your readers come from and how they interact with your blog. This program gives you the insight on how to improve your blog to better reach your target audience. A second way to monitor success of your blog is using plug-ins on WordPress and Blogger, such as GenStats and Count Comments. GenStats counts the number of users, comments, links, and tags to your blog and Count Comments counts the number of comments by user IDs or author names. WordPress also supports the Trackback and Pingback standards for displaying links to other sites that have linked to a particular post or article from your blog. Comments left on your blog from readers can also provide suggestions for improvement. Understand that quantity isn’t everything; quality is just as important, if not more important than quantity. There are several ways that you can gauge quality. Do comments add to the conversation and are they insightful? You can gauge quality by the feedback received on both the Facebook page, and the blog. You can also measure quality by the number of people who come to the events and whether or no other people are talking about FFIS on their blogs well.

 For FFIS Facebook, you should measure the results by the number of friends and group members the Facebook page and group have. Also you could ask a question on Facebook and see how many responses you get.

 

 

Appendices A  

List of Influentials:

 A Moment of Wonderful: A blog by Jessica Lomelin, a former UO student involved in international communication.

http://jessicalomelin.wordpress.com/

Beijing Duck: A blog by Beth Evans, a former UO student involved in international communication.

http://elizabethlloydevans.blogspot.com/

Live Journal: A forum people of the Eugene community post to and respond to one another’s posts.

http://community.livejournal.com/friendlyeugene/
 
Eugene Oregon’s Community Blog: A new blog that caters to going-ons in the Eugene area.

http://eugeneor.wordpress.com/

Study Abroad Blog: A blog about studying abroad.

http://www.studyabroad-blog.com/

Qaaqani’s Blog: Has blogged before recommending University of Oregon as a great school for international students.

http://qaqani.wordpress.com/

International Student: Provides students with information about different study abroad programs.

http://www.internationalstudent.com/blogs-forums/

University of Oregon International Affairs: The website has information for alumni concerning how to stay in contact with the University of Oregon as well as other alumni.

http://international.uoregon.edu/index.php/alumni

Facebook-International Student Exchange Program: This page facilitates discussion threads, comments and photo sharing for international students all around the world.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?sid=fb7e18ab960b15607b1bfd010924cd9f&gid=2200533651

YouTube- University of Oregon: Videos include promotional videos about the University of Oregon, a mock news show series, tips from students, and other topics.

http://www.youtube.com/user/UOregon

 

 Appendices B

Code of Ethics for Blog

 We will always post accurate information and whenever possible we will provide links and sources.

 We will not plagiarize, nor quote without attribution. We will provide links to sources and other blogs when necessary.

 We will only delete comments that are inappropriate and disrespectful to both readers and our organization.

 We will ensure that posts are edited for spelling, grammar and clarity, and be sure that all sites linked to in our posts are functioning.

 We will respect readers, critics, and the subjects of blog post  

 

 

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