This week's #casesmc chat was co-moderated by Chandra Towler of Big Fish, a marketing firm located in Memphis,Tenn.
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.
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?
The co-moderator for this chat was Tim Ngwena, communications manager at the University of York.
These days, many institutions produce online and mobile magazines that provide unprecedented opportunities to engage with a global audience and unlock the gates. But simply placing everything online or on an app won’t engage your stakeholders. The right social strategy can help your print magazine do its job year-round and not just in the short window after it arrives in mailboxes.
The following case studies show how some universities are using social media to extend and enhance the reach of their magazines.
Building your brand in between editions—Harvard Magazine
“Keeping alumni of Harvard University connected to the University and to each other.”
That’s the blurb at the top of Harvard Magazine’s Facebook page, and it’s a succinct reminder of why alumni publications exist in the first place. Harvard's enviable resources have been put to good use and the magazine's Twitter account is now followed by 17,878 people. (That’s more than most institution-wide accounts!)
Harvard Magazine’s Facebook page gets things right—it posts daily, almost always links back to its own content and provides a simple sign-up form for the magazine’s weekly e-news to grow the readership even further.
Using social media in a time of crisis—University of Virginia Magazine
The University of Virginia acknowledged the transformative role played by social media in the wake of the controversial firing and re-appointment of President Teresa Sullivan earlier this year. In a special e-newsletter edition produced in July, the magazine offered deep coverage of the issue, including a Storify-esque round up of coverage that included substantial critical commentary.
The extraordinary fall 2012 print edition subtitled “17 days in June” provides dozens of additional pages of coverage and contains illustrated timelines and lengthy perspectives from the major players, including President Sullivan. This multi-platform approach provided alumni with complementary and timely coverage of a defining event in the university's history.
Let’s get visual—using Instagram and Pinterest to engage alumni
Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Florida regularly post Instagram campus shots that encourage students and alumni to share their warm and fuzzy feelings with their university communities.
Drake University, meanwhile, is all over Pinterest, with more than 100 pins inspired by its loveable bulldog mascot. Whether deployed on a photo-specific platform or shared via Twitter or Facebook, images are a great way to build school pride and encourage alumni to contribute to the conversation.
Alumni magazine social media tips:
In the spirit of sharing, how are you using social media to increase the lifespan of your alumni magazine?
Looking at “Cube Light” is like watching fractured sunlight on the ocean’s horizon, but contained within the geometric perfection of metal lines and angles. This is part of the “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” exhibition on view through Feb. 24, 2013, at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
When I describe what the best social media people do, my favorite term, hands down, is curating. Curating speaks not only to the importance of visual storytelling but also to the idea that communicators are responsible for creating meaningful experiences that inspire people to stop, look and interact with them.
The best art exhibitions do this too. Museum curators are successful when people respond intellectually and emotionally to the art, spend time with it and come back and see it again.
Those of us who handle social media at colleges, universities and schools seek to curate content that will convince people to invest in our institutions and form relationships with us in some way. Lately, I’ve been mulling over the dynamic between user-generated content (independently created content that we happen to discover, like students’ YouTube videos) and the content that colleges and universities create themselves, and the best ways to make that user-generated content an asset. I was considering this when I wandered into the Hirshhorn Museum recently and saw Ai Weiwei’s “Cube Light” (2008). Ai, who is from China, is not only is a contemporary art rock star but also someone who is highly fluent in social media. During his ascent as an idea leader in the art world, he has often turned to Twitter and blogs to express his opinions, which have both enthralled and enraged a country where the government carefully controls media and messaging.
Ai’s cube series is inspired by Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October which features a shaking crystal chandelier that suggests a society undergoing major change. Higher education is without a doubt experiencing an earthquake of change, every day. We’re dealing with MOOCs, the need for academic programs that are more relevant to workforce needs and new developments at every angle.
Marketing and branding are also pretty tumultuous territory. Suddenly we have new social media platforms to consider colonizing, mobile apps to develop and people who are frustrated by the job market questioning the value of a college degree. And the carefully prepared, one-way messaging we’ve treasured for decades is no longer as effective. We’re realizing that our students, alumni, parents, donors and friends can be terrific storytellers who can help us get our message out.
So how we do harness the power of these storytellers while also ensuring our marketing and branding messages are still getting through to the masses? You can follow some basic steps to make this happen, including asking interesting questions on Twitter and retweeting people’s answers with commentary, and creating Spotify playlists of alumni’s favorite songs from their college days to promote homecoming.
Here are two examples from colleagues I know through the Mid-Atlantic Higher Ed Social Network.
At Frostburg State, we’ve organized YouTube contests to net cool videos. We also take screenshots of people’s tweets and pop them up on our Facebook Page and crowdsource Instagram imagery each week. We launched our Pinterest account with the goal of empowering our recent graduates to create their own stories, through resources like articles on job-hunting advice and volunteering.
None of this amounts to an exact science, and you’re not always going to get the best content. But those moments when you do get something amazing, and your constituents notice you shared their stories on social media and recognized them ... those moments build relationships. Like sunlight on broken water, these stories can never be perfectly controlled or directed, but they can inspire you with their brilliance, if you organize them in an interesting way and invite others to look.
The co-moderator for this chat was Victoria Russell, online communications officer at the University of Leicester.
Those who know me know that I tweet—quite a bit.
I started tweeting in March 2009 and have come to the conclusion that Twitter is the best continuing professional development tool that has emerged for fundraisers since I started in the profession 15 years ago.
Back in the old days, if you wanted to keep up-to-date on fundraising, it was an expensive business. You would probably need to subscribe to at least two or three fundraising journals and attend at least two conferences a year where major charities, respected agencies and consultants would be presenting their latest case studies. You might hear on the grapevine about fundraisers who were doing excellent work. But unless they happened to write an article in a journal or you knew someone who knew them and could introduce you, you’d have little or no idea about the specifics.
Twitter has changed all that. In the UK, the directors of fundraising of most major charities tweet. The managing directors and senior creatives of many of the most successful fundraising agencies do too. Twitter and linking through to blogs is the shop window for their latest thinking. Thanks to the informality of the medium, few people mind someone else joining the conversation—as long as they add to it constructively!
Am I overselling? To illustrate, let me share a couple of stories about good things that have happened for me, and my institution, thanks to Twitter:
The agency that beat all of our previous appeals
Early on in my time on Twitter, I identified one person who consistently tweeted and blogged excellent content on donor motivations and how to create fundraising appeals that truly spoke to them. “A” was the creative director of a UK direct marketing agency (well-known among charities but not universities). I responded to some of her posts, and as we tweeted at one another, it emerged that she was a graduate of the University of Leeds–did I know? No, said I, and went back to check our database. She wasn’t on it. It turned out her details had never come through to us from student records. Score 1 for Twitter.
As conference co-chair, I invited A to come and speak at the CASE Europe Annual Giving conference and share some of her ideas around creating truly compelling direct mail appeals. Modest, thoughtful and wryly funny, she was a star at the event. Another university hired her agency almost immediately and the agency delivered the institution’s best direct mail appeal results in 10 years, on a very short lead-time. Score 2 for Twitter (but not for the University of Leeds quite yet!)
Armed with this information, I invited A’s agency to be one of those tendering for work at the University of Leeds&151;a process the agency staff won fair and square with the quality of their thought and planning. The first appeal they delivered for us was seven times more successful than our previous best. In fact, during the course of 12 weeks, the appeal raised more money and acquired more donors than the previous eight years’ worth of direct mail put together. Home run for Twitter, if not out of the park.
Finding a ready-made team of student researchers to bring our history back to life
In the UK—apart from Oxford and Cambridge—the university sector is still only beginning to rediscover the philanthropic tradition that founded so many of our great institutions. The University of Leeds has just one book that details the donations made between 1831 and 1951—and it is 60 years out of date. And there are no pictures.
I’d already been through the book, looking for information to bring the philanthropic story of our university’s beginnings to life for our new generation of donors and show them the proud tradition that they are now taking up. I was trying to work out what some of these donations would be worth in current values—staggering sums, including a public appeal that raised £500,000 in donations from more than 4,000 donors, in 1925.
But I had no time to visit the archives and try to find the letters and other original materials that would help bring this story to life.
Then I saw a story on Twitter about a group of undergraduate history students who were researching the history of philanthropy in Leeds and Yorkshire. I found out who in the school of history was supervising their research and got in touch. Were they looking at gifts to the university? No, not at the moment. Would they like to? Almost certainly, yes!
A few months on, I am about to brief five of our undergraduate students on a 200-hour project to hunt through our archive materials and find letters, photographs, newspaper stories and anything else to help build the story around philanthropy at the university. Fingers crossed, I think they will find wonderful things, and I hope they, and our donors, will love the results.
Neither of these things would have happened had I not been on Twitter (and had a couple of lucky breaks, of course). I can’t guarantee that you will have similar experiences but if you only follow 50 people or aren’t on Twitter, then you’re missing out. Get on. Follow everyone who looks interesting—I follow nearly 1,800 people. Don’t worry about saying anything to start with—listen, learn and click through. Maybe you’ll get the chance to make your own luck, too.
Although I don’t believe that college and university presidents must have a social media presence, I think there’s a compelling case to be made for it. “Hail to the Tweeps,” in the November/December issue of CURRENTS magazine, provides a good overview of why presidents use social media and how tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs fit into their lives and work. The interviews I conducted for the article with seven university and college presidents provide additional personal insights.
But, I realize that many presidents and other advancement professionals may want the CliffsNotes version. So here’s a quick-start guide to being social.
1. Consider Twitter and a blog. The combination of a personal blog housed on your institution's website and a Twitter presence offers distinct advantages—in essence, you get the best of both worlds. Twitter offers considerable reach for important audiences, including media. A blog allows you to share more nuanced thinking, in more detail. Twitter is easy to update when you’re on the go. They both afford opportunities for you to interact with people. And, best of all, you have more control over these two platforms than over many others.
Two presidents who I think do a particularly good job combining Twitter and a blog are Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU (on Twitter: @snhuprez; blog: "The President’s Corner") and Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the principal and vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University in Scotland (on Twitter: @vonprond; blog, “A University Blog”).
2. Be wary of Facebook. Robert Wyatt, president of Coker College, has been very successful in using Facebook to nurture and expand relationships, particularly with students. But I’m not a fan of Facebook, especially if you don’t have someone on campus following its changing rules and the way it periodically tweaks its algorithms to privilege larger brands and those who pay for placement of content. There’s nothing wrong with this, mind you, but it does mean that you have less control unless you’re paying close attention.
3. Remember that the rules of engagement differ on different social networks. Twitter and Facebook are very different and followers and fans expect different kinds of posts and interactions. Don’t tweet your Facebook updates or auto-share tweets with Facebook. If you can’t commit to updating both regularly, pick one and do it very well.
4. It’s OK to be a sporadic poster, tweeter or blogger. Some presidents have been able to integrate social media into their lives to a rather amazing extent. I’m particularly impressed with how prolific Walter M. Kimbrough, Dan Porterfield and Anne Kress are on Twitter. But I also follow many presidents who tweet less often and do a terrific job.
5. You have to be able to take failure in stride. Don’t let the fact that you might make a mistake (in public) in a tweet hold you back from participating. It has happened to all of us and it’s not a big deal.
6. You’re never too old to learn. Most presidents I’ve met know how to communicate and do it very well. The real barrier to using social media is deciding that it’s important enough to commit to doing it. Once you’re over that hurdle, you'll find that you already know most of what you need to know. The mechanics are easy.
7. Follow first, tweet later. If you want to learn, follow other presidents first and see what they do. I follow everyone I interviewed for “Hail to the Tweeps” and admire them all. Andy Shaindlin (@AlumniFutures) has a list of EdLeaders on Twitter. It’s a good place to begin—you’re sure to find a few people you know (or know of) on the list.
Is there a president you follow on social media who you think does a particularly good job? Do you have any advice for presidents starting out on social media? Let me know in the comments section.