This blog post is part of a series of posts highlighting social media champions in Switzerland. We’ve previously portrayed Katja Wenk, Web and Social Media Officer at the University of St. Gallen and Yan Luong, Social Media Manager at Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS). This time we have the pleasure to introduce you to Roger Stupf and his team at the University of Zurich (UZH), who manages the university’s social media presence during a one-year pilot project.
Roger Stupf, Head of Web & Information Management, in front of the University of Zurich
Finding the time to talk to Roger Stupf on the phone seemed difficult at first. The nine-hour time difference between San Francisco and Zurich can be a challenge. But Roger’s flexibility and late evening shifts on the campus made it easy and we quickly found a few minutes in our schedules.
This was going to be an interesting talk. The University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland with more than 26,000 students and has just recently launched their official presence on a whole array of social media platforms.
A Much Anticipated Official Presence
We had met several members of UZH’s communications team at our event at Swiss International Airlines in Zurich this May; among them was Roger Stupf, who is at the center of all of the university’s social media activities. As the head of the web and information management team, he is constantly looking for new online communication trends. He was the driving force behind the social media initiative, which was very well received by the faculties and departments. They had wished for an official presence long before the university took the plunge in late 2011.
Please note that faculties in Swiss universities are equivalent to schools in American universities. For example, the faculty of law at a Swiss university is equivalent to the law school at an American university. With departments we mean any other official entity within the university, which is not a faculty. This could be the admissions office, alumni relations, or any other department.
Coherent branding: UZH’s official Facebook page and official Twitter Account in English
Many departments and some few faculties already had an established presence on social media, but wanted an official presence for the university overall to be able to make reference to or to repost or retweet content.
Initially, the idea was to launch just one selected platform and run it for one year as a pilot program. The communications team ran this proposal by the communications teams of the seven faculties, who quickly rooted for launching more than just one platform during this pilot year and instead doing the full monty, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Xing.
Backed by Higher Ups
Compared to other Swiss universities, UZH could be called a late bloomer. But their relatively late start was not the result of a lack of support or awareness, but simply a pipeline full of new projects. In 2008, the communications team was heavily involved in the university’s 175th anniversary and wrapped up in an extensive corporate design relaunch after that. There was no time to launch social media channels on top of those projects.
Doing the full monty: UZH’s website with social media icons linking to the official presence
The communications team had tried several social tools throughout this period though, laying the foundation for future social media efforts. The UZH website has featured an online magazine with a comment function for years. Additionally, the communications team had tinkered with video podcasts during the anniversary year. When preparation for the social media pilot project started in 2011, Roger and his team had the full support of the president to go ahead.
Even if the team had the green light from higher up, for some people in the university social media was and still is a novelty. Roger and his team are working hard to bring everyone on board and dedicate time to explain to other colleagues how the tools are used and why it is important that the university is using them to communicate. But information sessions and professional training in social media are not carried out on a regular schedule and only happen whenever Roger finds the time.
Guidelines Came First
Before launching the platforms at the end of 2011, the communications team equipped the faculties and departments with guidelines about branding, naming, and other useful tips. While the university had always encouraged faculties and departments to use social media, they realized that an official policy should have been in place earlier. Nowadays, official Facebook pages created by anyone within the university of Zurich have to follow certain guidelines, including adding the university abbreviation to the name.
Changing the name of a Facebook page with less than 200 likes is possible by following these steps:
- From the top of your Page, click Edit Page
- Select Update Info
- Change the text in the Name field and save your edits
You can’t currently change the name of a page with 200 or more likes. (Source: Facebook)
The guidelines are very much appreciated by the faculties and departments, and Roger has noticed that they are now consulting them for specific issues with social media: “We never got any requests or questions in regards to social media before. But with the release of the guidelines, we have turned into a contact point for departments and faculties”.
A recent Facebook post about the university’s improved position in the QS World University Ranking
Part of the guidelines is the “netiquette” for Facebook users, a written policy that determines whether a comment or post will be accepted on the page. So far, UZH has not had issues with negative comments or posts and has hardly ever had to delete a contribution.
One of the challenges Roger faced was the existence of UZH accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Xing. They had been created by unknown users and now had to be integrated with the new accounts or deleted. Integrating existing account on Xing or LinkedIn turned out to be a piece of cake, but Facebook makes it a lot harder and Roger is still struggling to clean up the pool of duplicated Facebook pages.
Using Existing Content
Adding social media channels to existing communication channels doesn’t mean inventing the wheel again in terms of content. That’s exactly how UZH approached expanding social media by making use of existing content and feeding the new channels with it. Managing the content and publishing it is not a one-man show, Roger points out. A team of nine staff members ensures that there is always enough content around. The team consists of two web redactors, three news redactors, two media relations officers, an event manager, and of course Roger. They are all part of UZH’s communications team. Each of them decides if their content works for one of the social media channels and posts or tweets on behalf of the university.
The only exception is the English Twitter account. It is solely used for outreach to international press and is currently managed mainly by the two media relations officers.
Tweet by @UZH_news_en from July 11, 2012. The press release was also available on a US news service and led to many media requests, also through Twitter
Having a team of several people who publish content on the same social media channels can quickly become a complicated animal to control. While there is no need to have a publication schedule, it is helpful if the whole team can see what content is planned for the day or week. UZH uses Meltwater Buzz, a service similar to Radian6. The tool includes a social calendar that every team member with access to the tool can view. Everyone can see all the messages (posts, tweets, etc) that they and other users have sent or scheduled for the future.
Roger keeps an overview and steps in if he sees that there is a day without any posts on Facebook or no Twitter updates from anyone in the team. He fills the gaps by retweeting or reposting a department’s or faculty’s content. Additionally, Meltwater Buzz lets users monitor mentions, engage with the community, and send messages directly from the tool.
Meltwater Buzz’ social calendar allows users to instantly view all the messages they have sent and have scheduled for the future on social media
If the pilot project is successful and UZH fully integrates social media into their communications strategy, four employees and Roger Stupf would each be responsible for one day a week. In the meantime, this system is only in place if Roger is out of the office and can’t oversee the daily publication schedule and step in during a slow period.
Roger evaluated Meltwater Buzz before the pilot started, and it was already being used by the media relations team to monitor the online media content. Today they not only use it for scheduling and content distribution on social media, but also for monitoring. Roger spends an estimated 30 minutes every morning to see what has been posted by others on social media and which posts and tweets were most successful. He then spends about an additional 30 minutes to check the schedule for that day and post and tweet if needed. Roger is also responsible for managing comments and questions, but he often consults with other colleagues, such as the admissions office, if he doesn’t know the answer.
Every three months, he creates a report with the most successful posts and tweets and sends it to the head of communications. These reports will also be part of the final evaluation of the pilot program.
What Comes After the Pilot?
Should the pilot year be a success, UZH will go full steam ahead with their social media efforts and make the necessary changes to seamlessly implement the new tools into their communications strategy. Distributing the responsibility among a core group of about five communications managers is one of them, but Roger also has other improvements in mind: “The hub strategy of the University of St. Gallen is a best practice in my opinion, and I would propose something similar for UZH.” Find more about HSG’s hub strategy and their social media launch in a recent blog post of this series.
With only a few months left in 2012, we are excited to see what will come out of this pilot project and will definitely report on any new developments at UZH.