I moved forward with a classic social media plan: engaging our community online with targeted questions, sharing videos and reflections on past speeches, promoting #UMBCspark and preparing to retweet comments by #TED2013’s live viewers in California. Then, at 5p.m. EST, three hours before the event, TED announced that Dr. Hrabowski’s talk would be available for free via live webcast. Fabulous! Right?
Having recently taken a leading role in UMBC’s social media activities, I was (and still am) in the early stages of forming a support network for social media managers on campus. I had close relationships with a handful of major admins and a shiny, new spreadsheet with the contact information of a few dozen more. What I didn’t have was a close-knit group of social media managers from all corners of campus who could help me share this news—this incredible and incredibly time-sensitive news.
Like many universities, UMBC started down the path of “let's-buckle-down-and-figure-out-this-social-media-business” by taking stock of our existing and vibrant, but disorganized, social media efforts. In 2011, we developed a baseline assessment, outlined our main challenges and proposed solutions. There were a few obvious first steps. We refocused our efforts on our primary Twitter and Facebook accounts, shifting resources over from less visible accounts. We convened a working group to draft tips for faculty and staff getting started on social media and a set of best practices. We started tracking analytics for our major accounts, subscribed to an affordable social media management system and implemented a basic team workflow to post the well-balanced content we were seeking. But something was still missing.
It will probably not come as a shock that the major component our social media reboot lacked was, in fact, actually being social. To develop an effective, long-term social media strategy, to stay current on best practices and to sustain our enthusiasm, we needed to cultivate relationships with social media managers at other institutions and within our own.
We started developing external connections in January 2012 with UMBC’s Social Media Strategy Summit, inspired by Frostburg State University’s 2011 Social Media ReBoot Camp (thanks, @beccaramspott). The unconference drew 51 participants from 30 colleges and universities, and our conversation continues through the Mid-Atlantic Higher Ed Social Media Network.
The next step is our current challenge. How do you create a sense of teamwork among social media managers across campus—from academic departments to club sports to sororities? How do you make social media a more actively social endeavor on the administrator side in order to make engagement successfully on the user side? How do you create a nimble institutional structure?
I’m now working to build the UMBC Social (Media) Network on myUMBC, our internal social platform, but I realize that creating a new online "community" and cultivating a lasting community of friends and colleagues are different things. To grow our group, I look to people like Mark Lee (@therealmarklee), associate director of web communications and new media at Colorado College, for inspiration. He’s developed peer meet-ups and training opportunities for his college’s social media managers and is open to sharing both successes and ongoing challenges. But, instructive examples like his can be tough to find.
In social media shop talk, there’s often too much focus on one-shot, flashy campaigns and too little on the mundane labor of building organizational structures that can produce an effective social media presence. During my next few posts I hope to keep this thread going and I’d love to hear what other institutions are doing. It's messy work, but important work. So, how do you build relationships with other social media admins on campus? How do you generate and sustain that network and a culture of collaboration?
Jennifer Doak is the online communications specialist at CASE.
You probably know this already, but CASE members have some pretty good ideas. I sat in on the Conference for Media Relations Professionals, held in February in Washington, D.C., and learned about how public relations and communications folks are navigating shifts in the news landscape.
Here are some ways two of them—Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations at Michigan Tech, and Liz Amore, executive director for alumni relations at the University of Miami —further the reach of their institution’s research:
Here’s another suggestion not mentioned in the session: Nominate your institution’s professors for awards. Award-winning faculty members are newsworthy and can draw positive attention to institutions. For example, CASE’s 2012 U.S. Professors of the Year award winners received extensive news coverage, even several months after the awards ceremony, and are often invited to speak at conferences and other events. Check out the award’s impact on 2012 national winner Autar Kaw, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida.
Robyn Neeley (@CASEASAP) is the program manager for CASE Affiliated Student Advancement Programs, the student advancement arm of CASE.
Student Engagement and Philanthropy Day is here and hundreds, if not thousands, of students are
participating in events and activities at their institutions today to show their appreciation of donors and awareness of the importance of giving back. Here are a few examples:
This week's #casesmc chat was co-moderated by Jessica Krywosa, director of social media at Hamilton College.
One day…global impact!
On Feb. 28, thousands of college students from around the world will participate in CASE ASAP’s Student Engagement and Philanthropy Day—and shine the spotlight on the important role that students play in providing philanthropy awareness at their institutions.
More than 100 student advancement organizations are currently putting the finishing touches on their activities for Student Engagement and Philanthropy Day. Many, including the examples below, have a social media component to create awareness, connect alumni and students, build school loyalty and educate students on the importance of philanthropy.
Join CASE ASAP on Twitter (#StudentEngageDay) and follow thousands of students around the world as they make an impact on Feb. 28.
What is your institution doing for Student Engagement and Philanthropy Day? Let us know in the comments.
As a retired, unsuccessful stand-up comic, I know when a room has gone cold. And, based on my experience, the era of using social media and tech as a punchline during your institutional functions is over.
This is an unprecedented time of competition for most universities with regard to both admissions and alumni engagement. Talented high school students have many options for their undergraduate years and our alumni have an endless pool of nonprofits soliciting them for financial support. So what kind of message does it send when administrators or ambassadors inadvertently expose their own technological shortcomings by using Twitter as the basis for a joke that questions the legitimacy of the social web?
When I first joined the world of higher education a year and a half ago, it was clear such material would generate a contagious chuckle among audience members. Now, I notice the laughter isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was. Teenagers, who are most commonly associated with being early adopters of new technology, are not typically known for fiscal responsibility. However, even their limited financial knowledge tells them they are staring down a possible price tag of more than $150,000 for an undergraduate education. Are they going to invest that money in an institution that laughs at the technology that has enabled entrepreneurs not much older than themselves to become billionaires?
As the majority of the world velcros their hands to a smart phone, the notion that social media is solely a young person’s pastime is complete bunk. As I continue to learn more about Cornell's online alumni communities, I’m finding they are chock full of high-ranking professionals who could single-handedly write a check that would fund a scholarship for half a dozen under graduates. Nearly 70 percent of our newly identified major gift prospects have accounts on LinkedIn, and they are not there because they are looking for a job. Our alumni are intelligent, accomplished and savvy. They don’t create online profiles because they want to keep up with fads. They are online because they know it is vital to their future success.
“Social media power-user” should not be a prerequisite for individuals working in higher education. But as students and alumni continue to use social tools to enhance their educational and professional development, we have to be mindful that there is great danger in being perceived as archaic. Prospective students have too many choices, and alumni are constantly being approached by nimble nonprofits that not only embrace technology but are also redefining the ways in which it can be used for fundraising.
For years, I endured the EKG that is the comedy audience only to see it flat line on several occasions. The influencers in higher education need to make sure this doesn't happen to them. They need to keep an eye on the monitor because once you’re perceived as obsolete, resuscitation is difficult.
Jen Doak (@jpdoak) is the online communications specialist at CASE.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and there have been some great examples of institutions showing their love for students, alumni and their broader communities this Feb. 14. Here are just a few:
What did your institution plan for Valentine’s Day? Share in the comments.
In many ways, graduations are the ultimate social event. Thousands of people gather on your campus simultaneously to celebrate the achievements of their friends and family members, happily producing and sharing photos, video and other content.
Here are some tried and tested techniques along with some new ideas for extending the reach of your graduation season in 2013.
Pick a hashtag early and thoroughly cross-promote
This is the most powerful decision you will make—the right hashtag will help collate tweets, images and video that you can use in the lead up and beyond. And with some luck, it may even become a trending topic. Keep it simple (and short)—#UWgrads, #HokieGrad and #VU2012 are good examples. Promote the hashtag well in advance on banners via your student portal, graduations website and ideally, your university homepage. Keep banner designs clear, consistent and uncluttered, allowing people to remember the hashtag more easily.
If you use SMS alerts, why not send a reminder to students on the day of their ceremony? Promote the hashtag shortly before the proceedings via projection screens and also in the printed program. Of course, you should also keep an eye on what students are tweeting and add popular hashtags as required. Creating hashtags at a school or date-specific level is probably not a great idea, however, as it splinters the conversation and may detract from your key messages (such hashtags can also be rather long!)
Leverage what you already have
Central, university-wide social media accounts generally have superior follower numbers whereas graduation-specific ones will tend to be activated for limited periods each year (a social media no-no). Work with your colleagues to schedule posts for the largest accounts used for distributing university news releases and other campus information.
Graduations are perfect social media fodder because of the stories that accompany them. Many institutions encourage their grads to bring signs and wear accessories that tell their individual graduation story. (In Australia, this includes special graduation accessories for indigenous students.)
Feature inspiring and humorous images in your posts and photo albums to generate maximum buzz. Have your photographers take names wherever possible (more tags = greater exposure), but if groups are too large, let your students know where to find the images afterwards and allow them to tag themselves.
If you’re not already using platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and Tumblr, graduations can provide a great opportunity to start. Search for graduation-related images that people are posting on their personal accounts and share this content where appropriate.
Live stream it
In 2013, this should be a no brainer. Use a free service like Ustream or Livestream and work with your information technology and media teams to test and promote the feed in advance. Most live-streaming sites include their own comments window and you can also add plugins for Facebook and Twitter. Once the ceremonies are complete, create a new folder on your YouTube page, and promote the page widely. This is particularly important if you have celebrity speakers.
Not everyone can persuade Neil Gaiman or Barack Obama to do the honors, but the words of particularly prominent guests will resonate around the world. Try and be the first to get the full recording of big speeches online and then push it to your social networks so that followers can share with their contacts. Wherever possible, encourage interactions with your content—ask people what their favorite part of the guest address was or whether they know someone who walked across the stage.
While staff members from your alumni and advancement teams will be leading the way on graduation day, it’s also important to reach out to others. Many faculty members have powerful virtual networks that you should leverage. Does your university have a weekly, staff e-newsletter? Ensure faculty members know the official hashtag in advance and encourage them to get involved during the ceremonies. It’s also an opportunity to recruit your existing alumni as school ambassadors—let them know the schedule of ceremonies and guest speakers beforehand to encourage timely displays of school pride.
Devise a LinkedIn graduations campaign
This could be the most important call-to-action you make during graduations. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and a good way to stay in touch with those who won’t follow your other social media accounts or open their university emails following graduation. Remind graduates to create (or update) their LinkedIn profiles with their new qualifications and invite them to join your official LinkedIn groups. (If active groups exist at discipline level, provide a simple list so graduates can self-select which ones to join.)
Wrap it up
Work quickly to capture and curate content across platforms and then share it with your graduates in one convenient package.
Send an email to all recent grads within a week of their ceremony with links to photo albums, LinkedIn groups, and video content. Remind them of the benefits of staying in touch and joining alumni organizations and include links to your alumni magazine website and social media accounts. And for good measure, plug the official graduations hashtag one more time to see what extra activity you can generate.
You could also use Storify (as Harvard did for its 2012 graduations), but you'd need to promote this to your newest alumni if they're not following you already.
Some other ideas
Which social media strategies have worked for your graduations and which new ones would you like to try in the coming year?
Aaron W. Jaco (@aaron_jaco) is the digital media specialist at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
This is the second post of a two-part series on Tumblr. Read Tumblr: Why You Might Fall In Love (Part 1).
No discussion of Tumblr in higher education would be complete without hearing from Grace Chapin, admissions counselor at the University of Chicago and overseer of its Tumblr blog.
If you missed it, UChicago’s admissions office posted in December about a mysterious package that landed in its mailbox. It was addressed to Henry Walton Jones (a.k.a. Indiana Jones) and contained no return address. The Huffington Post and The New York Times ran articles. The post drew more than 10,000 interactions from Tumblr users. The college received so many email inquiries that the admissions staff created a new email address just to field them all.
I caught up with Grace via email, following the media frenzy, and asked her several questions about the success of UChicago's Tumblr.
When did UChicago admissions launch its Tumblr? What were your goals?
We launched it in the summer of 2011. Generally, we were just looking to try it out—we hadn’t seen that any other schools were on Tumblr at the time. A number of student tour guides who worked in our office used the service, so we thought it might be interesting to try. Starting up was originally the idea of one of our interns, who was spot on: If the students who already go to the University of Chicago like Tumblr, prospective students are probably on it too!
Has your approach to Tumblr changed since you launched the blog?
We’ve started incorporating a lot more “re-blogs” (with credit, of course) now that more university students and offices have their own Tumblr pages—but overall, we still try to focus on highlighting campus photos, cool news stories, quotes and facts. We have added the option of answering student questions as well; originally, we didn’t enable a question inbox, but found that students felt comfortable asking admissions-related questions through Tumblr.
Your Tumblr takes a light and playful tone, for example, with Grumpy Cat in Space. Humor can be very engaging, but how do you know you're hitting the right note with prospective students?
We try to balance useful information alongside amusing content. Most of the information we highlight is factual or academic since most students are looking at UChicago for its academic rigor. But we wouldn’t want to make it seem like UChicago is all work and no play—because it isn't!
have two student interns who help us keep a students' perspective when we’re
sharing information or photographs. We give them license to find
stories, photos or information that they think others would enjoy seeing.
You draw content from a wealth of sources. How did you build that massive content network?
We have tag alerts set up for several college, university and city-related
keywords. Whenever someone tags a post as “UChicago,” we’re able to
easily see it. We don’t follow blogs of current students or
applicants or keep track of who is posting for privacy reasons, but we do follow blogs that are of
campus or local interest. For example, our sustainability office has a Tumblr and often posts cool facts about green efforts on campus. We follow some
Chicago-area news agencies to keep up with city events and happenings.
Your post about the Indiana Jones mystery box was a major hit. What were the results of that?
We set up an firstname.lastname@example.org email address. It was
really amazing to see the ideas for its source and enthusiasm surrounding the
document pouring in from around the country and the world. We did see an
increase in our readership and followers as a result.
Have you had other successes with the Tumblr blog?
Our favorite kind of success is when students let us know that the Tumblr helped
them feel more excited about or more comfortable with their decision to choose
UChicago. We also had another post that gained popularity—a lovely picture of a girl reading a book on our
Quads on a fall day that was accompanied by a quote about reading. You never know what
will resonate with a wider crowd!
Where do you think we are in Tumblr's lifespan? Is there room for the audience to grow?
Right now, we’re still seeing a lot of positive response to our Tumblr. As with most social media sites, we know there will eventually come a time when we should end things—we’re not on Myspace now for a reason, for example. But we plan to keep it around as long as we think the blog remains a good place to provide information to prospective students.
Do you have questions or thoughts? Please share them below.
Elizabeth Allen (@LizAllen) is the director of online communications and alumni relations at the American School in London. She is also a faculty member for the CASE Social Media and Community conference.
I've previously written about the valuable role students can play in generating content for social spaces. Student-generated content is a great way to communicate the culture of your school, straight from kids who experience it every day. But you might not realize that there is another source for content creation right under your nose—the faculty.
Faculty bloggers are a great way to round out your school's story online. You can show off your outstanding teachers to several different audiences. Potential families and potential employees are both curious about what life is like on campus. Although student recruitment is a major part of outreach, staff turnover rates in international independent schools range from 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. This makes staff and faculty recruitment a big part of school marketing.
Making the Case
Faculty are already busy—they're teaching, after all—so asking teachers to blog on top of their regular duties might be a hard sell. There are ways to make the case, however. Teachers already regularly communicate with parents in a variety of ways. Think about how some of that information can be turned into blog posts—for example, photos from a field trip, quick video clips from presentations or class reading for the week. If the class is using technology or other tools in the classroom, all the better. Initiatives like 1:1 programs (one laptop for each student) are also great fodder for blogs.
Another way to make the case is to appeal to a teacher’s professional goals and career arc. Blogs can be a great way to create and maintain personal brand. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for international school teachers to change schools. Some migrate to new schools every two to three years and having a digital record of classrooms and activities can be a great way to show course progression, teaching styles and interest to potential employers.
As always, protecting students and families is critical. Faculty should adhere to the same data protection and privacy policies used for all school publications. I am personally a big proponent of having the majority of content publicly available, but keeping kids safe is of the utmost importance.
Your teachers might be creating the greatest blog content ever written, but if it isn't easy to find, they might as well not bother. Make faculty blogs easy to find for all of your audiences: potential families, current families, potential employees and the teaching and learning community at large. Consider creating a page on your website that lists all faculty blogs and make it easy for users to navigate between them.
Final thoughts: Blogs aren’t the only way to share faculty-generated content. Microblogs like Twitter, photo sharing sites like Flickr or the many social bookmarking sites are also options. It’s up to you, the school and your faculty to figure out what works best.