How ONA Mizzou does social media

By Andrew Gibson
There's a good chance you're reading this post because you clicked one of our Twitter links. We tweet quite a bit -- sometimes more than 10 times a day -- but the timing and content of each 140-character message is far from random. The same goes for Facebook posts. If you've wondered why you're seeing a certain tweet at a certain time, keep reading, because this is a brief look at the ONA Mizzou social media strategy.


Our tweets usually contain links to digital-journalism stories, promotions for our events or opportunities for our followers (like writing for this blog). Before I tweet, I check the Missouri School of JournalismReynolds Journalism Institute and Columbia Missourian websites to make sure I'm aware of any local news related to Mizzou or the journalism school. Next, I search for interesting links by reading tweets from the people ONA Mizzou follows. Lists like Top Journalism Linkers, compiled by Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor, are good places to look. I also have 45 websites and blogs -- including Mashable, GigaOM and NewsFuturist -- bookmarked for this purpose. ONA Mizzou tries to appeal to people of varying journalism sequences and majors, meaning that, while many of our links relate to topics like social media and digital engagement, some will relate to photojournalism, advertising and ethics.

I start tweeting around 10:30 a.m. on weekdays. This gives college students time to coffee up to the point where they'll actually want to learn about digital journalism or write our next event in their planners. When noon comes, I pick up the pace and try to tweet at least twice and post on Facebook at least once before 1 p.m. This is a good time to promote club events and opportunities because many Mizzou students browse social media while eating lunch. Tweets continue about once hourly through around 4 p.m. Then I stop for a few hours because, well, I have to eat dinner, and so do our followers. Many students have Facebook or Twitter open while studying or watching TV later in the night, so 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. is another high-exposure period for spreading word about events and tweeting links.

Weekend timing is much more casual. Tweets start around noon (I like to sleep), and you won't see much social media activity on Friday and Saturday nights.

If you follow ONA Mizzou, there's a good chance we've followed you back. There's no hard rule for this, but I usually refollow anyone related to Mizzou, Columbia or digital journalism. The ONA Mizzou founding student leaders developed this guideline last spring. If your Twitter biography fits one of these categories, but I don't follow you back, it might be because I can't tell if you're a real person. I also make judgment calls about whether it would benefit ONA Mizzou to follow you back. We get a lot of new followers in the form of social media consultants and technology startups, but many of them have no relevance to digital journalism. If I have doubts about the credibility or intentions of people when they follow ONA Mizzou, I'll research them, see how often they tweet, check the content of their tweets and find out their Klout scores. The Mizzou email address book is a good way to verify whether one of our followers is a student.


Twitter is our way of interacting with the digital-journalism community at large, largely because we have more than 400 followers all over the country. Dale Cressman, an esteemed Brigham Young University professor, retweeted us Oct. 1. We get less interaction on Facebook, so I don't post as often -- usually just at the high-exposure times I mentioned. Most of our "likes" come from people affiliated with Mizzou, so my posts are usually about our events or the journalism school. There are a few exceptions: When Steve Jobs died Wednesday, I felt it was important to spread the news in every way possible, so I posted some links on Facebook. Also, journalism students are always hunting for internships, so I sometimes share information about that on our Wall.


HootSuite, the third-party service I use for ONA Mizzou tweets, sends me weekly reports showing how many times people click each of our links. I note which topics are popular, and, if certain links attracted huge amounts of clicks, I check what time of day I tweeted them. All of the ONA Mizzou student leaders receive weekly Facebook Page updates, and the service's Insights feature shows us statistics about post views, page views, active users, post interactions and visitor demographics. When I compile monthly statistics, I'm mostly concerned with which posts attract the most views and how activity spikes during our events.

ONA Mizzou has only been on Blogger for about a month, meaning I've only analyzed metrics once. But as you might expect, page views and post views are especially important.

Do you still have a question about our strategy? Tweet me! (@AndrewGibson27)

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