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?
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.
Keith Hannon is the assistant director for social media at Cornell University.
During the past few months, several peers at other institutions have asked me for my job description. Typically, I just forward the job description my supervisor posted when he was hiring for my position, but lately I have been thinking about how hard it is to determine whether or not someone would make a good social media or community manager. There aren’t too many people out there with a bachelor’s in social media, so determining who is worthy of owning the keys to your institution's social media castle can be a challenge.
While living and working in Hollywood for seven years, I met many talented people whose jobs couldn't be further from their career aspirations. I'll shoot straight with you—I was one of those people. With a degree in video production and ambitions to write and perform comedy, I spent my days working as a production assistant for Nickelodeon. If you're not familiar with the entertainment industry, production assistant is short for "shut up, do what you're told, and feel lucky we're paying you." The skills I had developed in college grew dustier with each passing year. Just when I thought my life would be devoted to meeting the demands of 10-year-old divas, something interesting happened.
Facebook and Myspace were just beginning to fight it out for online social supremecy, Youtube was starting to heat up and most relevant to me, social gaming was creating online communities at an unprecedented rate. Anxious for a change of scenery, I decided to roll the dice on a new gig with an online game publisher looking for someone with sports journalism experience. I would be the new community manager of its sports-themed virtual world. In college, I was the voice of the Ithaca college football team for four years, a sports anchor for the school’s TV station and an intern at the "Best Damn Sports Show Period." I was excited to be back in a sports-centric industry. My only experience with virtual worlds was the five minutes I had spent in Second Life before a guy approached me and asked if I knew where he could get a gun. I was hoping this position would be a little more wholesome.
What I thought would be a sports writing job turned out to be much more. Learning the online community management business opened my mind to a whole new world of entertainment possibilities. All of a sudden, that dusty communications degree was alive and well as I began crafting content to engage more than 300K monthly uniques! Fast forward a couple of years and I'm staring down the barrel of parenthood. Instantly the City of Angels becomes undesirable. Luckily for me, Cornell's alumni affairs office was looking for a community manager and was willing to take a chance on a Hollywood drop-out.
Most community managers agree that each social network requires its own unique touch. Spreading one piece of content across all of your networks is a sure way to scare off your followers. While the content should be different, the goal is usually the same—to tell a compelling story. Whether recapping an event, highlighting an alumnus in the news, spreading a campus press release, gamifying a piece of nostalgia or producing a video, community managers are storytellers. The specific platform dictates HOW we tell the story and that's the real challenge.
Certainly enthusiasm and familiarity with the tech sector and with social media are important, but I'm of the opinion that it's crucial to find someone who can tell a story both in 140 characters and in a 1:40 video. In alumni affairs and development, we frequently talk about how we have to compete for donors with other nonprofits. In social media, we're not comepting directly for an alum's wallet, but we are competing for their attention—which is a much more daunting proposition. With an endless number of distractions on social media platforms, mobile devices and the web, it's imperative that we craft an engaging story to draw them in. To be successful, you need someone who knows how to not only communicate but also entertain.
Am I a tad biased? Probably, but I think you have to consider what we're after. We want Facebook posts that generate comments and likes. We want tweets that are catchy enough to be clicked on and retweeted. We want videos that strike a chord in the hearts of our constituencies and that have the potential to go viral. The frontier of alumni events is clearly livestream and that requires someone who is both video production-savvy and story-minded.
Social media is a serious business but there are skeptics out there who fail to understand how important these channels of communication are to institutions. If social media is going to be taken seriously in higher education, we need people who can produce compelling content on a regular basis.
If you're looking for a community manager, don't look for someone with a lot of social media experience, because you could be looking for a long time. Instead, look for someone who has the production training, creativity and personality that enables them to convey the story that is unique to your institution.
Michael Stoner is president of mStoner. He co-presented the key findings of the 2011 social media survey at the CASE Social Media and Community conference in April 2011.
Organizing social media in .edu sounds like an oxymoron if there ever was one.
Many institutions have some degree of difficulty managing marketing and brand activities. Social media is much newer and some leaders doubt its value—and perhaps don’t see a reason to manage it.
Participation in social media is baked into the culture on many campuses, with faculty, staff and students participating in social media via blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and many other tools. This cacophony of voices shares many disparate views, using social media for personal and professional purposes, mixing it up, incorporating it in learning and teaching activities, and conducting research via social media.
It’s more important than ever that institutions find ways to manage some of this activity.
Successful Institutions Manage Social Media
The 2010 Survey of Social Media in Advancement found that institutions that considered themselves to be successful in social media generally spent more time managing their social media presence. Our 2011 findings are similar.
A major area of focus for our 2011 white paper will be exploring how institutions organize their social media activities. We’ll focus specifically on social media for marketing, advancement, recruiting and other external relations purposes.
To guide my thinking, I’ve relied on work done by the inestimable analyst, Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), a partner in the Altimeter Group (with Charlene Li, the author of Open Leadership). Jeremiah has identified five different models for managing social media. Three in particular apply in education: the distributed (organic) model, the centralized model and the coordinated model.
This model of social media management is typical of organizations where social media activity develops in many areas at once and empowered staff members throughout the organization would find other types of social media appealing, too, and be free to explore them. In this kind of organization, there isn’t much “management” of social media—it simply happens, bubbling up from everywhere.
In .edu innovations begin at the edges and may flourish there long before they are taken up by the institution as a whole. This is the way social media developed on most campuses: individuals or offices began to blog, then launched Facebook pages or groups or began tweeting. There was no thought to coordinating or asking from input from anyone with overall institutional responsibilities for marketing or communications.
Many institutions continue to function this way today. Other institutions haven’t been able to come to terms with the importance of social media and therefore don’t see a need to manage it, or have difficulty managing anything across units.
In contrast to the organic model, the centralized model reflects organizations where social media is controlled by a central office, often a marketing department.
The major advantage of this model is that by adopting it, an institution can achieve an incredible amount of consistency in tone and voice across social media.
But you can see the problems inherent in adopting this model in education.
First, there aren’t many institutions where it would work.Too many people would question the control that the central team would have over social media and many of them would simply continue to do exactly what they’re already doing. It would be very difficult to police or shut down rogue social media accounts—the result would be too much ill will.
A major drawback with this model is that it won’t scale: large institutions like Ohio State or the University of Michigan will never be able to staff a centralized office to manage social media and even colleges would find it difficult.
Finally, while the centralized model may seem appealing to some, it could easily result in social media that appears way too controlled and inauthentic: too much like advertising or broadcasting rather than engagement.
In this model, one office develops policies, guidelines and other procedures and is responsible for communicating them across the institution. The central unit may continue to play a role as a coach, helping to establish and communicate best practices.
You can see the appeal of this model immediately. Because various units control their own social media, there’s likely to be less push-back against guidelines but there can be quality control over messages, usage, frequency and tone. This model is the only one that is likely to provide any ability to scale—it can work equally well at a small college or a large university.
What’s Your Model?
What model does your institution use? How’s it working? What are its advantages and drawbacks? We want to know: we’ll include information from institutions that have a story to share in our 2011 white paper. Please leave a comment below.
An expanded version of this blog post is cross-posted at mStonerBlog.com.
Michael Stoner is president of mStoner. He co-presented the key findings of the 2011 social media survey at the CASE Social Media and Community conference in April 2011.
While advancement offices at many institutions are engaged in using some social media platforms (especially Facebook, which 96 percent of institutions utilize), institutions are still struggling with how to manage social media. And there weren't significant shifts in usage, management or other trends since our first survey was conducted in April and May, 2010.
These are key findings from the 2011 survey of social media in advancement, which mStoner conducted in February and March in partnership with Slover Linett Strategies and CASE. The first survey was released in July 2010.
I'll report briefly on some of the findings in this post. You can download the topline findings and a presentation about them that Cheryl Slover-Linett and I did at CASE's Social Media and Community Conference last week. We're working on a white paper further analyzing the data, which we'll release at the CASE Summit in July.
What Institutions Do
Institutions utilize an array of the most popular social media platforms: 75 percent use Twitter, 66 percent use LinkedIn or YouTube, 40 percent have blogs, use Flickr, or offer a social community developed by an outside vendor. Only 4 percent don't use social media at all.
Top goals for social media remain alumni engagement (at 84 percent of institutions responding) and strengthening brand image (75 percent); also engaging prospective students (68 percent of respondents), admitted students (63 percent), increasing awareness and rankings (61 percent). But only 38 percent of development offices use it for fundraising.
Staffing for social media varies across institutions. At the institutional level, 25 percent of institutions have at least one person working full-time on social media. It's far more common for staff to have social media responsibilities incorporated into their jobs, along with other responsibilities: at the department level, roughly .5 FTE focuses on social media.
There were some changes since 2010:
Success with Social Media
Again this year, we asked institutions to report how successful they are with social media and 62 percent reported that they are moderately successful with their social media initiatives, measuring success by the number of touches (friends, fans, comments, likes, etc.) they receive. Facebook is viewed as the most successful social media platform (by a large majority, 87 percent of institutions). They're still challenged by staffing, lack of full support and buy-in from senior staff and lack of readily available expertise and funding.
Institutions that are successful report a number of characteristics: they have specific goals for their social media; they are less spontaneous and plan more; they have institutional buy-in and support for their social media activities; they control social media content and staff with their own department; they use multiple social media platforms and target multiple audiences; and they are more likely to have policies. They are also more likely to evaluate their success in multiple ways.
Looking ahead to 2011, we'll see institutions creating social media plans (51 percent), expanding their activities to new audiences (46 percent), adding new social media tools to current programs (44 percent), and developing formal policies (37 percent).
Elizabeth Allen is a blogger and consultant, advising educational institutions on social media and communications. She is a faculty member for the 2011 CASE conference on Social Media & Community.
Where do social media staff belong on the org chart?
Northfield Mount Hermon is a private boarding school for students in grades 9-12 located Massachusetts’ idyllic Pioneer Valley. The school’s strong sense of tradition hasn’t limited its exploration into social media: NMHbook.org, its beautifully designed, interactive network site, placed silver in the 2010 CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. Amanda Holdsworth talked with Heather Sullivan, director of communications and marketing at Northfield Mount Hermon School, about NMHbook.org and other new media initiatives.
AH: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?
HS: Our Facebook fan page is about three years old and has over 4,800 fans and more than 2,000 active monthly users. It’s the third greatest source of traffic to our website, so it’s hugely important to us. We also have Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts. In the first half of this academic year, we created and posted about 25 new videos that show life on campus.
Flickr holds more than 40,000 searchable NMH images, and we use it to feed images directly into our website. Our Wordpress blogs are integrated into the main website; we have 35 active blogs ranging from students studying abroad to college counseling and campaign blogs. And NMHbook.org houses all of these initiatives.
AH: Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why?
HS: NMHBook.org has been very successful. Within that, Flickr gets thousands of hits and works well with both photo-sharing and storytelling. We’ve found great success with our blogs and with our Facebook page, which points back to the NMH website and is useful for building and maintaining relationships.
AH: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?
HS: We decided not to focus our efforts on LinkedIn, since that didn’t seem to be where our target audiences were spending the most energy. We’re finding that Twitter is useful and flexible, but we took some initial missteps in our use of Twitter.
AH: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?
HS: With Facebook, we’re wondering if we need to do segmented pages: Do we need to divide pages by alumni, admissions, etc.? [Ed. note: NMH now has pages for its basketball team, soccer team, and archives.]
We’re also thinking about how we should be deliberate about messaging for social media, and how to more clearly define and properly evaluate social media goals.
AH: Do you have social media policies or guidelines and, if so, can you share them?
HS: Yes, and we’ve shared them with the community. Our social media manager, Rachael Hanley, has developed a series of tips and guidelines, including “10 Steps to Blogging.” People have good judgment. Communications has editing rights, but we rarely control community content.
AH: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
HS: NMHBook.org hosts all social media initiatives, and content development is done by communications in collaboration with admission and advancement. But we need to ensure consistency of institutional voice. Communications has the final say.
Northampton Community College, in Bethlehem, Penn., was an early adopter in terms of social media. In this blog entry, Heidi Butler, director of public information and community relations, shares lessons learned with Melissa Starace, director of alumni affairs.
MS: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?
HB: Facebook is definitely the most popular. The college mascot has been our “face” on Facebook for the past four years. Although he’s unusual looking, he’s a popular guy. We also have an official fan page. As of this fall, quite a few college departments are starting to add their own pages as well. We were excited to be one of the first community colleges to qualify for an EDU channel on YouTube. Videos posted there average about 4000 clicks a month. We haven’t done as much as some other colleges with LinkedIn, but we have groups for faculty and staff and for students and alumni. We have a fairly robust site on Wikipedia and a small photo collection on Flickr. We also tweet at NorthamptonComm and nccfan.
MS: Which initiatives do you think are most effective?
HB: Different tools are effective for different purposes. Facebook is great for communicating with students, promoting participation in campus life, and monitoring student opinion. YouTube also generates excitement about student activities and gives prospective students — including international students — a feel for campus life. Twitter helps us connect with the media and with some alumni. And, whether you’re a Wikipedia fan or not, there’s no doubt prospective employees, students and funding sources look there for information. You can’t afford to neglect it. One benefit of Facebook we didn’t expect is that it has helped attract a lot of visitors to the college website. Links posted on Facebook usually result in 2,000-3,000 page views a month for news articles on the website.
MS: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked?
HB: We are no longer doing regular updates on MySpace. It is easier to interact with students on Facebook. Most students seem to have migrated there.
MS: Does Northampton have a social media policy?
HB: We chose to go with guidelines rather than with a policy. They have been well received. Social media is new territory for many of our faculty and staff. They seem to appreciate having some tips.
MS: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering?
HB: We definitely need to expand LinkedIn as a resource for students and alumni who are job-hunting. We also hope to use Facebook and YouTube to market non-credit courses. We haven’t done that before. And we want to make our social media sites more prominent on the college website.
MS: Are social media initiative integrated into your strategic communications plan?
HB: Goals for social media are incorporated into the public information annual plan, into the institutional advancement action plan, and into the crisis communications plan. Now that we have our sites established, we’re starting to pay more attention to metrics, measuring not just how many fans we have and how many clicks the sites get, but how much interactivity there is. I wish we could say that we’ve found a foolproof formula for gauging what works and what doesn’t. We haven’t, but we’ve got data that tells us more than we knew before.
MS: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
HB: Public information staff members take the lead in social media initiatives and support other offices and organizations that want to become involved. The staff consists almost entirely of part-timers. One is the voice of the mascot on Facebook. Another coordinates the fan page. Another one manages the YouTube channel and Wikipedia. Two of us tweet. We offer workshops for faculty and staff who want to learn more about social media, and facilitate “SMUG,” the social media users group on campus. This is on top of other responsibilities. There is no budget line for social media, but the college has invested in some professional development for staff involved in this work.
MS: What do you wish you knew when you were first exploring social media initiatives that you know now?
HB: How useful social media would be for market research and student engagement, as well as for communicating with external publics.
MS: What social media resources would you recommend to your peers, and what resources do you wish were available?
HB: CASE and Ragan Communications both offer excellent workshops and webinars on social media. The tools are changing so rapidly that it’s also helpful to scan the PR Daily newsfeed on a regular basis.
MS: What are the two most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
HB: One: Have courage. Best practices are still being developed, so trial and error is part of the process. You can learn from students, and you can learn by watching what other organizations do. You’re still going to make some mistakes. Move on! Attention spans tend to be short in social media!
Two: Team up with at least one other colleague so you can brainstorm, calm each other down when things go amiss, and share the workload when sites need to be monitored and updated on evenings and weekends (not that it takes long).
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.
We welcome this cross-posting from Michael Stoner’s blog.
The goal at the Emory University Alumni Association (EAA) is to make all staff proficient enough to participate in social media. “We think it should be part of everyone’s job, just like the telephone or email,” said Stacey Gall, assistant director of technology and information management. She’s responsible for developing social media strategy for the EAA, which is part of the department of development and alumni relations at Emory.
Her colleague, Eric Rangus, remarked, “We want to get to a place where all of the alumni association is comfortable communicating through social media and using it to encourage alumni to get involved with us.” Rangus, the EAA’s director of communications, works with Gall and Cassie Young, coordinator of alumni programs and student development, to manage social media strategies, model best practices, manage key channels, and help their colleagues understand how to use social media effectively to do their jobs, market and promote EAA programs, and engage alumni.
It helps that the EAA has done its research and knows what its audience wants. Young, who also manages the social media strategies for homecoming weekend and commencement, said, “We don’t have to worry about covering all EU’s academic information. So we can be more selective in our content. We know our audience and what they like.”
It also helps that this team has set up some guiding principles for their social media presence:
How the channels work
Rangus manages EAAvesdropping, the alumni association’s blog, which is updated daily with posts about the EAA staff, alumni, and other Emory-related subjects, as well as posts about events. Content from the blog is automatically fed to Facebook, LinkedIn, and a few other social sites, and is cross-promoted on Twitter. They encourage blog posts from EAA staff and alumni and run photos of the day. “Alumni love photos!”
EAA has three Twitter feeds. Young manages two of them (@EmoryAlumni and @EmoryTravel); a third is alumni-run (@EmoryAlumNash). These feeds are primarily used to promote new blog content or events, or as a way of cross-promoting other EAA activities or events on campus. “For example, we might communicate about a VIP visiting Emory or if the science department has an interesting article they just published,” Rangus said.
Emory has nine LinkedIn groups. EAA’s, which is open to Emory alumni only, has 3,448 members.
EAA’s main Facebook page launched in 2009. Gall, Rangus and Young schedule posts and promotional tweets, as well as blog posts. But EAA has a lot more going on on Facebook: three fan pages (for the EAA itself, the Emory Travel Program, and Emory Cares International) and 70 Facebook groups, (mainly based on events or city-specific networking). For these, other EAA staff members are empowered to post and engage with fans, as are key volunteers. In fact, Gall reports, “All of the 26 full-time staff members contribute to the EAA’s social media strategy.”
The EAA is particularly invested in using social media to promote their events. They sketch out the calendar of events and locations and then work to develop a message and communications strategy around key events. Young said, “First we select events and then determine how to communicate and what to communicate about the event. Then we gather content from our staff. We want to involve everyone we can, so those who like to write can write blog posts. We reach out to students, too. One of our lead bloggers is a student intern.”
Emory content strategy
Managing all the editorial content at an institution like Emory is challenging, he says. Not only because of the volume, which is large and requires a great deal of thought to manage, but because the less formal nature of social media content and discourse runs counter to the kind of content that many colleagues are used to producing for other university channels, even online channels.
Rangus said, “We learned early on that the key is to be human; to be conversational and approachable. This kind of attitude and tone is something we try to put into all of our communications. We want to talk to alumni the way we talk to our friends.”
They’re constantly looking for a type of content that Young called “offbeat stuff” like student videos or elements that one wouldn’t expect from a university news feed. And EAA attempts to break news to alumni so they feel as if they’re getting the inside scoop: “It makes alumni feel like they’re back on campus,” Young observed.
Memorial pages are also very popular. “This is because these sites are the only place where alumni can leave thoughts and messages about departed friends,” Rangus observed.
In order to establish a share responsibility for social media, Gall and her colleagues do many presentations and talk to staff about the nuts and bolts of social media. “We find that the more people understand how to use each social tool, the better they’re able to generate content and help to plan for the different event campaigns,” she said.
Looking ahead, the team is exploring development of a mobile app for alumni and is looking at multiple new social media channels, including Scvngr, an app that bills itself as “a game about doing challenges at places.” Gall sees possibilities for using this app to provide a challenge for alumni visiting campus or doing something with it to enliven homecoming.
As Cassie Young pointed out, “The key for us is to diversify our social media efforts—not to put all our eggs in one basket, but to be aware of the networks that our alumni are using. If it’s the next best thing, we want to be there already.”