What 2020 Taught Us

January 4, 2021

2020 had us rethinking our social media strategy and tactics and responding to a changing climate all year long.

Until last year, we primarily used our flagship social media channels to reaffirm our global reputation and support Institute-level messaging priorities. We also aimed to show more of MIT’s rich, creative culture and the amazing students, faculty, and staff who make MIT the special place we believe it is.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we turned our focus inward. We put more attention on strengthening our relationships with our community. We broke the fourth wall more consistently to speak directly to our audiences — using personal pronouns to emphasize our empathy and engage directly with them.

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For the first time, we used our flagship social media channels for messaging directed at our on-campus audience. Our public health messaging campaign was mostly geared toward those in Cambridge, but we felt it was a good reminder for our global audience as well. We also Retweeted information and announcements from our community meant for specifically for our on-campus population.

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2020 taught us so much.

Here are our main takeaways from managing social media in 2020 that we are bringing with us into 2021.

1. Embrace the pause button.

As social media managers, we are constantly concerned with posting content. I have been known to call Twitter the gremlin in the corner of my office I have to feed every hour. But in 2020, we learned that at times it is more appropriate to clear the queue and not enter the conversation — particularly when there is no expectation for us to be there.

2. Everything is not okay, and that’s okay. Allow your tone to reflect that.

Transparency and authenticity were imperative this year, and appreciated by our audiences. We scrutinized every word, exclamation point, and image. What would have been a “Happy Friday!” post in the past became something different in 2020:

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Our images need to show what life looks like right now.

Life did not feel the same, and it certainly did not look the same on campus. We had to make sure all of the images we shared resembled the experience. We were constantly asking ourselves, Is everyone masked? Are they too close? Are they physically distanced enough? Even Tim the Beaver was always masked in our images.

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3. No two crises are the same.

As the year went along, we were better equipped to respond to each new dilemma — yet there was no creating a template. Every crisis had its own challenges and parameters. Sometimes it would break on a weekend or a holiday. Sometimes it would be cut short by a bigger story. Sometimes it was strictly internal; other times, a global calamity.

And if 2020 taught us anything, it was not to get too comfortable.