How to run a shared social account

Back in October 2014, my buddy @deborahbrian asked about running a shared Twitter account. I quickly wrote up a post and dropped it into the Banana Lounge (my personal blog). This is an updated, revised version of that post, informed by another couple of years’ experience and more trial and error. 

Photo by | Shared under Creative Commons Licence 2.0
Photo by | Shared under Creative Commons Licence 2.0

Since getting into social media – especially Twitter – in a big way, I’ve had a fair amount of experience in running shared accounts.

  1. My research network’s Twitter (@aasrn) and Facebook group started as a shared account.
  2. Research Whisperer (@researchwhisper) and its Facebook page has always been a joint one with @jod999.
  3. Since the beginning of 2015, I’ve run the La Trobe Researchers accounts (@LTUresearchers | Facebook page) with my colleague Jason Murphy (@murphy_jason).

I should present this post with the caveat that I have no formal communications qualifications or training. All my experience is on the job, and self-taught.

When I run social media and digital research profile workshops, I’m often approached about how to run institution-face accounts: research centres or institutes, specific major projects, social that’s associated with group research blogs, etc.

By institution-face, I mean the specific context of formal university units or academic groups, but this advice would apply across a range of situations.

Who should run your social media account? 

Anyone can log into a social media account and start posting things. This doesn’t mean they’re doing it right, or well.

Often, in large organisations like universities, people get handed the task and they may have limited interest in running social media. Sometimes, social media-savvy staff agitate to get their units into the conversation.

For me, this is a basic threshold list for who would be good to run a social media account. This person is:

  1. Already familiar with (or very willing to learn about) the relevant social media platforms and associated apps. Twitter is not Facebook, and vice versa, but if a person is adept at the nuances of one, they’re more likely to gain expertise in the other.
  2. Has read/understands your organisation’s social media policy.
  3. Can do basic image editing tasks (e.g. cropping, brightening/contrast, resizing, save as other image formats).
  4. Not necessarily a communications professional, but must be interested in, and savvy about, engaging audiences with the interest areas of the accounts.

How should it be run?

  • The accounts must have a clear idea of audience and intent. What is the account for, and who are you trying to talk to? Remember that social media is about joining conversations, not broadcasting. It’s a sharing economy.
  • Knowing the audience and intent should lead relatively easily to the kind of content you would carry. If you’re a university research office, for example, you might focus on the research activities and achievements of your researchers and PhD students, as well as grant opportunities, funding wins, and significant industry partnerships.
  • Create and maintain a social media manual that includes:
    • all account and password details.
    • posting schedule and suggested content blend.
    • suggested time investment for staff to populate the feeds and monitor/respond to feed (engagement).
    • info on the necessary associated apps, and how to learn about them (more on this below).
    • a masterlist of institutional accounts (e.g. library, research centres, schools/faculties) and staff/students who are active in the medium, and partner organisations that are closest to you. To build your account’s community, you need to be able to connect regularly with your people on that platform.

The main applications I use (these choices aren’t based on comprehensive testing, nor being paid to endorse anything – they just work well for what I need to do):

  • Buffer (free – limited features) – excellent for scheduling tweets and Facebook updates (regular slots as well as one-off items), and offers analytics for Buffer-shortened links. Best thing about having a Buffer account for your shared streams is that anyone logging into it can see what’s already queued and when, and can change the line-up or add to it very easily. Great ‘Help’ resource here >> How to use Buffer:
  • Tweetdeck – good for keeping track of accounts and hashtags at-a-glance, can schedule tweets, and make lists easier to monitor. Again, account Tweetdeck is visible to anyone who shares the running of the channel so makes it dead easy to see what needs to be done.
  • pixlr – fabulous, easy-to-use online image editing platform that I use all the time.
  • Tweetbot (on my smartphone) – allows me to run multiple Twitter accounts from one app (I run four at the moment). Just be aware of #multiaccountfail – when you post to the wrong account accidentally!

My favourite resources for Twitter:

I’ve found these helpful for sharing with people who are new-to-social-media in the academic sector, and they’re in my slidedeck for ‘Getting started’ on social media for researchers:


  1. Thanks! Do you have any tips for sharing research-based accounts between institutions, across time zones? I ask because my institution is part of a worldwide research programme consortium ( with partners in Sussex, Bangladesh, South Africa, Ghana, and Singapore, and while some of our social media accounts are segregated, some are combined and appear under the consortium banner. This means that we have hugely disparate audiences, and figuring out ideal times to post particular kinds of content is difficult. I’m personally never quite sure how to pitch the social media content and how to remain consistent in tone and to reflect our followers’ various interests.


    • Hi there! I would love to provide you with some pointers on this one, to see if it helps with sorting out a social media plan that you find fits better with what you want to do and can manage across various sites. Email me at Probably too specific to be of use for others in a comment. 🙂


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