Communication Connection

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The Do’s and Dont’s of Social Media: Tips from an Expert

Monday, December 21, 2015

By Morgan Huffman

Social media is sweeping the globe daily. Fortunately, a UNCW Communication Studies alumnus has provided a few tips. Sean McBride, class of 2009, used the skills he learned in school to land a job after graduation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Charleston. For the past six years he has been their public affairs and social media specialist. He offered some enlightening tips for other alumni on how to improve social media use in current careers or how to launch a social media operation if one is non-existent.

Tip #1: For every business that already maintains social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another outlet), assortment is key. McBride proposes varying types of posts. Retweeting or sharing links on Facebook about things going on in the world in one post, then promoting an event or project the organization is working on in the next. “You want to keep your followers entertained and show that you are involved in the surrounding community,” he says. Posting a picture here, a video there, and sharing links civically related or humorous keep pages exciting. Trial and error reveals what gets the most attraction from audiences, showing what to keep posting and what to avoid. In regards to social media, McBride also lives by the “quality over quantity” ideology. Keeping a humble page is not all about self-promotion with a “look at me” connotation; it is about posting quality pieces that viewers enjoy seeing. Sometimes less is more, hitting the highlights instead of broadcasting the whole journey.

Tip #2: For companies that may not have started a social media feature yet, McBride suggested that Twitter may be the easiest launch into the online world. With it, activity in relation to others can be searched using hashtags and followers are gained more easily. Facebook, however, is the most valuable in the business world because it allows more information about who you are as a company on the site. “Some small businesses do not have enough funds to launch a website so they use a Facebook page for their information instead,” McBride adds. When getting started, just take it slow, establishing a presence online is the main goal.

Tip #3: Find new angles on similar topics. Creative new captions or angles on the same story keeps audiences up to date as well as entertained. Posting a picture with a small caption on Instagram, a tweet with a few hashtags on Twitter, and a photo with a longer explanation on Facebook gets a message to a variety of audiences without repetition. Taking photographs or videos from different angles maintains audience attention on a story they have viewed before.

Tip #4: Know your target audience. Begin, or continue to build, a presence virtually by examining the outlets available and focus on those in which the target market seems to be most prevalent. For example, Pinterest may be an excellent utility for some businesses, but not so much for the Army Corps of Engineers, so McBride avoids wasted effort in that outlet. Branch out and try new things until finding something that works, that is the best way to run any part of a company.

Part of McBride’s main objective at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is showing positivity. He hopes to change the public’s view of them as a “stuffy government organization that wastes time and money,” into one that makes the community a better place. Showing transparency as a government organization gains trust and respect from tax-payers. McBride utilizes social media as a way to do this. As a communication studies graduate, he learned how to be adaptive. Pairing that with a background in public relations, McBride combines his skills to promote the Engineers in a creative, genuine method.

Staying social and building a social media presence is not easy, but it should not be overwhelming. With these tips you can be online and dynamic without stressing the details. When all else fails, McBride’s number one goal for every time he posts is wrapped up into six short words: “Just trying to show we’re cool.”