Ken Budd is the editor-in-chief of CURRENTS magazine.
Ryan Denham, writer and editor at the Illinois State University magazine, asked that question at his CASE Editors Forum session on social media last week in Minneapolis, Minn., and quickly answered it with some eye-opening, here’s-why-we-do-it stats. Sixty-seven percent of Internet users visit social media sites, according to the Pew Research Center, the most popular being Facebook (67 percent), Twitter (16 percent), Pinterest (15 percent, with women five times more likely to use it than men) and Instagram (13 percent). Social media is also a way to reach younger alumni who spend more time with mobile devices than magazines, said Dehnam. Only 35 percent of alumni under age 25 read their alumni magazines, a 2012 CASE survey found, compared with 70 percent of grads 50 and over.
So what types of content work best? Denham naturally posts news items, videos and articles from the ISU magazine, but here are some of his other favorite Facebook options:
The chat was co-moderated by Shane Dunn, assistant director of alumni relations at MIT's Sloan School of Managment.
If there’s one thing savvy, social media professionals love to talk about, it’s metrics. For those not in the business, this can be either coma-inducing dinner conversation or insomnia-curing nerdiness.
During the past year, I’ve heard many people dismiss Facebook likes as nothing more than a vanity metric, suggesting they do not serve as evidence of engagement. I’ve come full circle with regards to my opinion. When I first began dipping my toe into the social media waters, I was frequently excited when posts received dozens of likes and was obsessed with increasing the overall like count of the page I was managing. Then, as I developed social media maturity, I took up arms with the vanity metric caucus, turning my focus to posting content designed to trigger comments versus the “lazy” alternative of liking a post.
(Too lazy or too busy?)
Now, I have a new perspective on the like. As our team continues to explore prospect identification through social media, I now believe that a like is much more than just low-level engagement. Recently, we made a post on the Cornell Alumni Facebook page that received more than 500 likes. At first, I thought “that’s great, but what are they SAYING about it?” Then, after climbing down from my social media high horse, I realized that I had a list of 500 people who had just admitted their affection for a specific area of the university. Facebook no longer allows you to see a list of everyone who has liked your page, but it does allow you to see who liked a post (500 is a good number to start with). You can then check these names against your database and see if they are tracked prospects.
Sure, simply liking a post or page isn't the same as volunteering to host an event in your backyard, but it shows interest nonetheless. It is opt-in interaction regardless of whether a person leaves a five-sentence comment or simply takes a second to click the like button. At times, it seema like we dive too deeply into defining engagement and what it means to have a bustling, active online community. When it comes to proving social media's return on investment, it comes down to the individuals within your community who can help to advance your institution. Highly successful people don’t generally have the time to write long, thought-out comments, but almost everyone has the time to like something.
While interesting and authentic content is stil important, can we really dismiss ANY metrics in an industry where we struggle to connect dollar signs to our day-to-day activities? We’re in the social media business and have a deep commitment to technology, trends and an overall geekiness that can lead to overthinking things. We need to remember we do social media ON BEHALF OF a department that’s very much in the people business. The next like on your page could be that of your next $100,000 donor who just provided your gift officer with a conversational piece on a silver platter.
This week's #casesmc chat was co-moderated by Chandra Towler of Big Fish, a marketing firm located in Memphis,Tenn.
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.
Jen Doak (@jpdoak) is the communications specialist at CASE.
The University at Buffalo’s straightforward, intuitive website won a gold Circle of Excellence award in 2012. But have you ever wondered how an institution decides to nominate a website, viewbook or magazine for an award? Or what winning an award can mean for a department?
Joe Brennan, the university’s associate vice president for university communications, and Jeffrey Smith, assistant vice president for marketing, web and creative communications, were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their award-winning website.
How has winning a gold Circle of
Excellence award affected your department? Has it had a ripple effect on your
institution as well?
Winning has been enormously helpful in validating the deliberative work that was done throughout the redesign process. Through the research conducted and campus-wide engagement in the redesign project, we were able to devise a best-practice-driven process that we're using for our Digital Communications Transformation Initiative, the goal of which is to move all departmental websites to one content management system. We’re collaborating with administrative and academic teams across campus, involving them in strategic business planning, content evaluation and thoughtful remediation.
The project has created unprecedented
cooperation and content sharing and has helped strengthen the UB brand online
through visual and messaging consistency.
Why did you decide to nominate your new website for an award?
We’re very choosy about which awards competitions we enter. We only enter competitions that are national in scope and recognize results—and aren't just beauty contests. The Circle of Excellence awards obviously meet those criteria.
The submission process was painless. It really helped that we had specific data we could use to demonstrate the impact of this project.
has the community reacted to Buffalo.edu? Have you seen increased interaction
on your site in the year since its redesign?
We've received a tremendously positive response from the UB community. The visual appeal and sophistication of the new site has stimulated interest across campus and many units have been very eager to work with us to help to transform their online presences.
Since the site redesign, visitors spend significantly more time on our top-level pages. We've also noticed that more site visitors view pages that promote campus visits.
We held a party to recognize the staff
who worked on this project. The president came and spoke, and colleagues from
dozens of departments dropped by to celebrate this honor with us.
Are there any future website or social media developments in the works for your team?
Loads. We're working to mobile-optimize the full body of our site content, refining Web apps as well as implementing truly responsive design. We're also working to more strategically integrate our social media activities into the rest of our communications channels.
Are you interested in nominating your website, online magazine or social media campaign for a Circle of Excellence award? There’s still time: The deadline for submissions is March 15.
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.