How to use social media successfully

There are various approaches which can be applied to most social media platforms in order to improve the success of your activity there. This page outlines some common ideas that may be of use to you.


The success of social media is down to human communication and interaction. The way to succeed is by discussing and adapting your messages rather than broadcasting and repeating them. Put simply, this means talking with people rather than at them. Don't just push content outwards and hope people find it; use social media to ask and answer questions and encourage discussion.


  • People are much more likely to trust a recommendation from a colleague, friend, or reliable contact than they are an anonymous search engine.
  • Be active, but not hyperactive - although maintaining visibility and communication is important, nobody likes a spammer.


The term 'sneezers' comes from Seth Godin's ebook "Unleashing the Ideavirus" about online marketing techniques. According to Godin, sneezers are people who will willingly and positively pass on your messages to their own contacts. By telling your message to one person who in turn passes it to several more people, you can both save yourself the effort of telling everyone yourself, and also benefit from having been recommended by a trustworthy source. It may be that you know several different sneezers who each communicate with different groups of people. Consider who these people might be, and make sure you benefit from their enthusiasm. You might also consider whose messages you can sneeze onwards to your own contacts.


Social media is a great opportunity for giving away content in order to emphasise your own expertise and reputation. Passing on knowledge, information, informed opinions and best practice can help to consolidate existing relationships and develop new ones. People love being pointed at things they might find interesting or useful, in both their personal and professional lives.

The types of content that are commonly given away via social media include blog posts, videos, lectures, research papers, and links to articles and websites. The difficult part of 'go-giving' is ensuring you have enough content of sufficient quality to give away. It is easier, quicker, and cheaper to find useful content made by other people than it is to create content yourself, but it may not be as benficial in the long term.

The term "go-giving" comes from the book "The Go-Giver" by Bob Burg and John David Mann.


Social media offers many opportunities for finding out what people are saying about you, your institution, your discipline, or your industry, and thus monitor your reputation. Almost every social media platform is searchable, and there are various third-party tools that can be downloaded for free which can make this easier. If you would like to find out more about monitoring, please contact Rob Mitchell or Charlotte Sweet.

Use the right networks

Consider who you want to communicate with via social media, and then find out which networks they are already using. There is little point in trying to cultivate professional relationships via Facebook or in promoting activities for undergraduates via LinkedIn.

Measuring success

Social media activity is no different to any other professional undertaking, and you should consider how to measure the success of your ventures with clear objectives. For instance, do you want to use social media to drive traffic to a website? If so, you can measure your success via analytics to see if page hits have increased and if referrals are directly from your social media activity. Likewise you may want to measure downloads of a specific document, list new contacts made via online networking, or some other definable metric.