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?
Becca Ramspott is a writer and social media specialist at Frostburg State University.
I have to admit that when Pinterest became all the rage, at first I dug in my heels. Sure, it seemed awesome. (What shoe fanatic doesn’t want her own, online visual smorgasbord of fashionable footwear, speaking of heels?) But I knew Pinterest’s popularity meant Frostburg State University might have to get on there eventually, and I wasn’t sure what our point of entry would be.
So I did what I always do whenever Frostburg faces a new social media adventure: I brought it to the attention of FSU’s social media group, a campus-wide team of faculty and staff who spearheads our university’s social media initiatives. We came up with key questions to research (What copyright concerns do we need to consider? Can more than one person pin to a board? Is Pinterest mainly something for soccer moms who are bored?) and divided them among team members. We contacted experts at other institutions. (A HUGE thank you goes to Oberlin’s endlessly creative Ma’ayan Plaut and Drake University's Aaron Jaco, higher education trailblazers on the Pinterest front who gave us some great resources and feedback). We also read articles about Pinterest, and thought about how to do it right.
It was spring 2012 and the news was dominated by economic doomsday stories about poor job prospects for college graduates. In the spirit of positive celebration and resourcefulness, Frostburg’s social media group decided to launch a Pinterest account as a graduation gift for the Class of 2012. We set to work building boards that related to life after college, including:
Having a specific target audience in mind gave us a great marketing strategy and allowed us to … well… pin our hopes for FSU’s Pinterest on a high-profile event like commencement. As with all of FSU’s social media efforts, we kept our new community fresh, conversational and authentic. We weren’t interested in re-creating our viewbook or some other sort of brochure. We wanted a mix-and-match grab bag of fun and useful resources for our graduates that would let them know we are proud of them and want them to succeed. We curated cool content from all over the interwebs, some of it directly connected to our institution, some of it not.
Today, Frostburg State is continuing to creatively grow its Pinterest presence. We just launched our latest round of boards for new students, which include Getting Our ‘Burg On, where we showcase great events on campus, and A Healthy Student Body, where we encourage a focus on health, wellness and stress management. We even have a School Me board to help students excel in their classes, which upholds FSU’s strategic planning efforts on improving graduation rates.
I love coming up with different ways to promote our Pinterest community. Right after our launch, I started highlighting a “Pin of the Week,” a link from one of our boards that I tweet out and post on Facebook. Sometimes, I’ll link to a pin rather than a press release on our university website when I’m promoting something on social media to experiment with ways to get people’s attention. We’re now experimenting with weekly Instagram hashtags to crowdsource imagery. I recently set up a Pinterest board where we showcase the best #instaFrostburg pictures people take.
Visual content is driving social media’s development. Curating that content takes on new dimensions when you have boards to play with, adjust and move around. I’m very glad Frostburg has set its sights on Pinterest.
Is your institution on Pinterest? Do you have plans to jump on board? Concerns about joining? I’d love to learn and hear from you in the comments below.
Sarah Hyde is the social media coordinator for Seattle University.
In a key scene in the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street, a customer is frustrated because she can’t find what she’s looking for at Macy’s, and Santa—the real Santa, as it turns out—directs her to another store for the item. Soon the gesture yields positive hype for Macy’s and business booms.
Last month, Seattle University experienced a similar “everybody benefits” situation when it did something unusual and honored a competitor. We published a full-page ad in the Seattle Times wishing the University of Washington, our neighbor a few miles to the north in Seattle, a very happy 150th birthday.
The University of Washington is recognized by many as one of the nation’s finest public universities and a global leader in healthcare research. Founded in 1891, Seattle University is an independent Jesuit Catholic university. Seattle is home to many people who hold degrees from both institutions.
We social media advocates are usually the first to say, “Do it online!” When we do print, we’re mindful to drive people back to the website. So why spend the money on a big ad praising our competition? Answer: because it’s a good idea to applaud the good work being done around you, and sometimes, as it turns out, a simple gesture in print can come back to benefit you online.
Years ago, there would have been little consideration given to Seattle University investing in a celebration of the University of Washington. But in recent years, Seattle U has undergone a transformation—in academic programs, student services, campus improvements, entry into Division I athletics—and enjoys a significantly enhanced profile. We are comfortable with our status and with recognizing the University of Washington for its contributions and for 120 years of friendship and partnership. In some instances, we compete for students and we compete in athletics. But in many more ways, we work together, and we share a passion for educating future leaders.
When the ad ran in the Seattle Times, the response was overwhelming. After receiving our digital file, staff from the Times called us to say how much they loved the ad. The UW answered back by posting a thank you to Seattle U on its Facebook page, along with an image of the ad itself. This post became a sensation as Twitter and Facebook lit up with discussion with hundreds of UW and SU users liking and resharing the item.
The UW’s digital response to our printed olive branch was a real testament to the power of tipping your hat to your neighbor. Additionally, the conversation that took place on social media platforms illustrated the full benefits of transparency in today’s crowded media market and the potential power combo of print and web. What began as a print ad that reached hundreds of thousands of Seattle subscribers became an item shared electronically across the nation. By posting the ad online, UW really maximized the impact of the ad, carrying a print success one step further via social media.
Anyone who operates a social media site is looking to engage an audience. We spend a good amount of time brainstorming and planning campaigns for social media outlets, hoping to start a fire, but time and again the evidence shows that online audiences respond the most to content that suprises and delights them. Our gesture of friendship with UW, when re-posted on social media sites, was acknowledged and magnified by both the UW and SU audiences.
The success of our print ad via social media serves as a reminder to be opportunistic and look for chances to re-post or share information from other platforms that engage your audience, much like the Macy’s Santa pointing that shopper to another department store. Whether you’re sharing an article about a faculty member, a photo of campus or an ad praising another school, never forget to delight your audience.
Matthew Herek currently serves as the assistant director of young alumni in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University.
On a normal day, I wake up and check Twitter on an Ipad, usually while still in bed. I double check Facebook on a Droid, usually while walking my dog. Eventually I’ll use the same phone to check-in to the train station on Foursquare before going to work, where I spend at least part of the day monitoring alumni activity on those same platforms using Tweetdeck. I would define myself as a social media ninja.
Described another way—I’m very comfortable in the social media universe. If you’re reading this, I suspect you are as well, or at least you have the time to learn about it. Yet, as social media gets more integrated into what we do, we need to learn how to tell the story of social media to the non-ninjas in our lives. These are the people who don’t know the difference between a paycheck and a check-in, a ceiling fan and a fanpage, and think Tweets are a bulk Easter candy.
Social media is becoming so important to the work we do that we have to be able to talk about it in the workplace without it devolving into an Abbot and Costello routine. (He’s our fan? I thought he was our follower?)
Here are some thoughts about communicating effectively with the non-ninja:
As social media integrates itself more and more in what we do, there will be more ninjas than non-ninjas. Until that day comes, patience, understanding, and some deep breaths will help everyone maximize the use of these new technologies.
Michael Stoner is the president of mStoner and a faculty member for the CASE Social Media & Community conference.
Last year, CASE members reported that nearly all institutions (94 percent) were using Facebook to connect with important audiences. Their main purposes for using social media were engaging alumni (86 percent), strengthening their institutional brand (72 percent) and increasing awareness/advocacy/rankings (58 percent).
These were just some of the findings from the first survey of social media in advancement, conducted through a partnership between CASE, mStoner, and Slover Linett Strategies. We've reported on the results elsewhere and wrote a white paper, "Succeeding with Social Media: Lessons from the First Survey of Social Media in Advancement," that digests what we learned and provides some additional insights.
We're now busy analyzing the results from the second survey, which launched in February and closed in early March. I'm not going to share too many of our findings—we'll release the results on April 13 at the CASE Social Media & Community conference in San Francisco. Cheryl Slover-Linett and I will open the conference with a presentation of findings from the new survey.
What I will say is that it's interesting to see what's changed in a year. And how much hasn't. In general, the shifts are smaller than I would have anticipated.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of institutions consider Facebook the most successful social tool for meeting their goals (87 percent in 2011 vs. 85 percent in 2010). There are a few shifts in the ranking of other social tools, but not big ones. I could say much the same thing about the changes in other areas of the survey.
Here's an example of a place where I expected to see more change occurring in the future: "Is the use of social media developing spontaneously or is it the result of planning in your unit?" In 2011, 7 percent of respondents indicated "highly spontaneous" and 17 percent "highly planned." Last year? It was 8 percent "highly spontaneous" and 13 percent "highly planned."
It looks as if the majority of institutions are still relying on counting measures (number of comments, tweets, etc.) as indications of social media success. Compare that with the Altimeter Group's research on the measures corporate social strategists are using to measure social media engagement:
So what does this mean? We are still combing through the data and don't have all the details yet. Stay tuned for the results of the second survey in April.
We believe social media helps us achieve our goals, yet we’re measuring success by numbers rather than actions.
We like our independence managing social media but would welcome more coordination and planning across our institutions.
We say the greatest barrier to effective use of social media is lack of human resources, yet we don’t think our institutions will provide those resources in the immediate future.
These findings, culled from the results of the first survey on the use of social media in educational advancement, offer a look at the state of social media today – or at least in June, when the study was conducted by mStoner, Slover Linett Strategies and CASE. The results are presented in a newly released white paper written by Cheryl Slover-Linett and Michael Stoner.
Not surprisingly, the survey results tell us that most institutions are on Facebook and most are engaging alumni and friends among their primary audiences. Fewer are engaging employees or parents through social media. Fewer still are using social media in crisis and issues management (a use just added to Andy Shaindlin’s evolving matrix on the impact of social networks on alumni relations).
The more intriguing findings may sound a bit familiar to those of us who were around when we were helping our campuses figure out the web: How do we measure? Who’s in charge? How do we get it done? Arguably, the need to explore and understand the answers to these questions may be more urgent today than it was then given the rapid pace of change and the accompanying cultural shift in how we interact with our constituents.
In addition to calling attention to the challenges and tensions associated with the evolution of social media in advancement, the survey findings suggest that we want our social media initiatives to be more strategic, more collaborative, more integrated and better resourced. Perhaps the results can be used to start campus conversations about opportunities on all of these fronts.
The white paper looks at how we’re using social media and for what goals, how effective we think we are, how we manage and deploy social media, perceived barriers to success, how we determine success, and what we see happening related to social media in the coming year.
It also includes thoughtful feedback on the survey results from Andrew Gossen of Cornell and Charlie Melichar of Vanderbilt, co-chairs of the joint CASE commission task force on social media, and by alumni relations commission chair and Alumni Futures guru Andy Shaindlin. And it features case studies that take an in-depth look at how four institutions are using social media. Download it from the CASE website.
What findings did you find to be most surprising? Most enlightening? Most helpful?
Members of the CASE social media task force are interviewing colleagues at institutions they think are using social media effectively. Peter Johnson is the executive associate vice president for university relations at the University of North Dakota. He was interviewed by Don Koijch, associate vice president for marketing and communications at the University of Illinois Foundation.
DK: What social media programs is the University of North Dakota currently engaged in?
DK: Which do you think are the most effective?
PJ: Facebook is great because it provides a pathway to connect and communicate. It’s engaging and immediate.
DK: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked?
PJ: We haven’t yet made YouTube a top priority, and we’ve only dabbled with iTunes University, so we haven’t seen a lot of return in those channels.
DK: What new social media tools are you considering or exploring?
PJ: We recently hired a full-time social media coordinator for the office, so our latest initiative has been committing more staff time and energy for these tools.
DK: Are social media initiatives integrated into your strategic communications plan?
PJ: I’ll give a “soft yes” to that. We’ve been including it in our plans, especially as we’re looking at social media as part of a new campus web redesign.
DK: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
PJ: Many departments on campus have created social media opportunities within their various sites. And we’re making university relations a centralized unit by hiring a full-time social media coordinator.
DK: Where does the buck stop when it comes to social media decisions?
PJ: Right here, at the campus Office of University Relations.
DK: What do you wish you knew when you were first exploring social media initiatives that you know now?
PJ: I wish I knew how important social media has become to the generation of students now in high school and college. It’s tough to know what’s a fad and what is here to stay.
DK: Has the University of North Dakota established any type of social media policies?
PJ: We have -- as complete a set of social media policies as seem logical at this time. Under Heather Bushaw's leadership, we did some research and "CASEd" -- or "borrowed" from, if you prefer -- the best policies we found, adapting what we needed to for the environment at The University of North Dakota. You can find the policy at http://und.edu/socialmedia/policy/.
DK: What advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
PJ: Find out what’s cutting edge and stay with it. Find out who does it well and learn from them. And hire somebody whose job it is to think about social media 24/7.
For more than a decade, Proctor Academy’s Chuck Will has been the leader in social media amongst educational institutions—well before the term was even coined. Cleary University’s Amanda Chaborek, who first heard about Chuck’s Corner at a CASE District I conference in 2004, interviews the veteran blogger and director of communications for Proctor below.
AC: When did you start Chuck’s Corner and what exactly is it?
CW: I started Chuck’s Corner in 1998 and according to MStoner, it is the longest running education blog in the world. It’s about trivial stuff—what’s going on in the dorms, science labs gone awry—the every day stuff. I think it’s important to show that we are not perfect here…that we are a real school with real students.
AC: What is the readership of Chuck’s Corner?
CW: We have tens of thousands of regular readers.
AC: What other social media initiatives is Proctor Academy currently engaged in?
CW: On the front page of our website, we have a major Twitter presence (if anyone mentions Proctor Academy via hashtags, retweets, etc., it shows up); Proctor In Focus, a Flickr stream which enables anyone in the world to download pictures for free; a Facebook fan page which alumni regularly use for networking and event promotion; LinkedIn; UStream, which we use to stream online major events such as commencement; and customized web pages directed to different constituents in lieu of magazines and newsletters. The customized web pages have been a huge hit in terms of stewardship. For example, if someone donates to ceramics and dance, he or she would receive a customized web page with info/updates/news on those specific programs. We also use Flickr to archive school photos.
AC: Are social media initiatives integrated into your strategic communications plan? If so, how?
CW: Our communication plan is relatively organic, evolving as we identify new opportunities and resources. Right now, Facebook plays a significant role with alumni communications; Chuck's Corner is first and foremost an admission and current parent blog; Twitter informs parents, alumni and other schools of school news; and Flickr is meeting image archival needs while documenting campus happenings. What is important is that a communication plan is responsive to emerging opportunities.
AC: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
CW: It is all about decentralization! I am the content generator and the photos are all cataloged in LightRoom.
AC: Where does the buck stop when it comes to social media decisions?
CW: Our Development and Communications Team meets somewhat regularly to brainstorm ideas. There is no formal committee for Chuck’s Corner, but if someone has an issue with a post, their requests will be taken into consideration. This may happen once or twice a year at most.
AC: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?
CW: Student Voices (student blogs) has traditionally been hard to get students involved. We’ve had to use English classes to pull content. Twitter has only been marginally successful.
AC: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?
CW: We’re looking at students using Flip Cameras to interview players during practices before big games and right after the games to stream through the homepage.
AC: What social media resources have you found to be invaluable (i.e. what resources would you recommend to your peers, and what resources do you wish were available)?
AC: What are the two most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
CW: Demand the freedom to be creative AND transparent. Also, look at the skill set of the people in your department. Pair them up with what they are good at and what they enjoy versus compartmentalizing people into job descriptions.
Finally, if you are setting up a blog, start with pictures and then work in blog content. The writer and photographer should be the same person.
Members of the CASE social media task force are interviewing colleagues at institutions they thought were using social media effectively. Below, Marina Pedreira-Vilarino, deputy development director at the University of Sussex, interviews colleague Sara Adamson, corporate editor with the university’s publications and branding team.
MP-V: What social media initiatives is the University of Sussex currently engaged in?
SA: We have a presence on Facebook, including a general Sussex fan page, an alumni fan page and a library page. We also have a YouTube channel and a number of Twitter feeds, including a general Sussex feed, a feed for staff and a feed for students.
We are currently developing a Flikr stream, and will be adding digg and reddit buttons to our website soon. We also have our own internal social networking site, SPLASH.
The Development and Alumni Office (DARO) also has a group on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Within Facebook, DARO has a fan page for the American Friends and also links to other other university pages and Sussex alumni geographical subgroups created by and large by alumni themselves.
MP-V: Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why?
SA: Our Facebook pages are currently very popular, with a lot of alumni, prospective and current students interacting with the pages to ask questions, contact each other and start discussions. I think they’ve been successful because we keep them updated with interesting content and interact with our ‘fans.’
MP-V: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?
SA: We do have a profile on other social networking sites (e.g. Bebo, Orkut) but it’s impossible to keep on top of all of these, especially since they can fall out of fashion so quickly. Using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is the most time-effective way we can use social media, as they are all such popular sites. The development and alumni relations office had a presence in Xin but it wasn’t as popular and we needed to focus resources on the sites that appealed the most to our audience.
MP-V: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?
SA: We’ve have recently formed a social media networking group from across the university so we can have a joined-up approach to our communication in this area. The group is made up of colleagues from the library, web team, other departments (e.g. student recruitment) and is fairly informal. We just get together and share knowledge, thinking about ways we can work together, and sometimes invite external guests in to share their ideas about what we could be doing in social media.
MP-V: Do you have social media policies or guidelines or common practices?
If there are any negative comments posted, for example, on our Facebook wall, we don’t delete or censor as this often causes many more problems than it solves. We try to reply to (and rub) the negative comment if we can, or in a pinch we add more content on top so it moves down the wall!
The Sussex Alumni Facebook group does not censor content either so that it is seen as a place for alumni to post anything they want openly. We respond to comments to show we listen and to create a genuine and meaningful dialogue with our alumni.
MP-V: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
SA: There is no specific budget at the moment. It’s pretty ad hoc with different areas of the university managing their own social media presence. When revising the job description for the alumni officer post, the development and alumni office has made this area of work the responsibility of this post-holder. The director of communications has the ultimate responsibility for social media.
MP-V: What do you wish you knew when you were first exploring social media initiatives that you know now?
Not to be afraid! Embrace it -- it’s not going to go away. Also, that it’s worth starting small rather than trying to have a presence in too many social media sites and not being able to maintain it and keep content fresh.
MP-V: What are the most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
Have a think about who you’re trying to communicate with and what social media will be best to reach them so that you stay relevant and targeted. Tone of voice is also important – you can be more playful in social media than you would in other media. Don’t forget it’s interactive, so it’s a useful tool for listening to your audience as well and communicating to them.
What social media resources have you found to be invaluable? What resources would you recommend to your peers?
During interviews with social media leaders at more than 20 educational institutions, members of the CASE social media task force asked these two questions as part of an effort to begin developing a list of tried-and-true, peer-endorsed resources for advancement professionals who are either just stepping into or already working in the social media arena.
For staying on top of social media trends, tips and resources, interviewees suggested:
Suggested tools for tracking, aggregating and managing social media, include:
A couple of respondents suggested checking out:
Some of the survey participants stay tuned to social media trends by scanning what’s going on at other institutions and by relying on the expertise of on-campus colleagues. Others mentioned growing their skills and knowledge by attending face-to-face and online social media conferences. And one enterprising participant follows a self-developed list of 350 Twitter feeds by experts in the field, noting that they often include to links of case studies and helpful articles.
What would you add to the list?