social media

Help Me Help You: Social Media Education

Are you a resource on your campus for all things social media?

Yes? Let’s brainstorm about how we can best react to and assist people on campus who come to us to ask for guidance with some ideas they have.

No? Let’s pretend. Play along with us here — the more collaborative minds we put together, the better.

The primary purpose of this post is to flesh out  the best response to this type of question:

“I want to create a Facebook Page for my [department/program/event/service] and thought I should probably coordinate that with you. Where should I start?”

I understand this may not be as likely to happen on larger campuses as it is in small to mid-size campuses. The point of posing this question is to talk through the best ways we can help educate and partner with people on campus who want to embrace social media.

I usually start with this first question:  Who is your audience?

Then I move to:  What are your department’s/program’s/event’s/service’s goals? Let’s start with the end result and work backwards.

Spokes in the marketing wheel by Rachel ReubenNext, I tell them social media may or may not be the best tool for them to use. This usually stumps them. Yes, I present at a bunch of conferences on social media. Yes, I did a research paper on the use of social media in higher education. Yes, I’m an active user of many social networking sites. However, as I say in just about every presentation I give — social media is not the be all end all. It is just one spoke in our marketing wheel. It may or may not be the right tool to use for a particular department/program/event/service — it all depends on your audience and your goal(s). It can be a very powerful medium that can reach very targeted audiences, but may not be the right tool for every audience and strategy.

“But I want my event to go viral.”

Just because you want something to go viral doesn’t mean it will. It takes a dose of effort and a pinch of luck, along with a powerful strategy and commitment, to really make this work.

Let’s keep exploring. Next steps:

  • Educate them about the art of listening. Chris Brogan has a great post I regularly point people to — “Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes.” In addition, Kyle James wrote a post about monitoring your online identity that provides additional ideas and details. Listening first gives you a sense of what is being said about your department/program/event/service. It may also give you further ideas for content generation (see next step), and gives you an opportunity to join in existing conversations.
  • Content issues: Where will the content come from? Who will be responsible for maintaining your content and your presence? How will you engage your audience? Having a presence is not nearly enough – you must commit to fresh content that would be of interest to your audience.
  • Integration: How will you integrate this effort through the other mediums in your marketing wheel? Things to consider — mentioning in e-mail newsletters, e-mail signatures, print publications, ads, Web sites, blogs, admission tours, etc.
  • Measurement: How will you measure if your effort is successful? Were goals achieved? Is having a dollar value ROI important? (If so, see Karlyn’s presentation on Eye On the Prize.) While there is great value in calculating ROI, I also like to focus on the “I” as “influence” — looking at the long tail effect. For example, in our Café New Paltz community for fall 2009 accepted students, I’m interested in tracking the different impacts on student service offices from their typical routine and schedule over the summer and early fall. Students in this community were figuring out as early as January who they wanted to room with, instead of waiting and scrambling during Orientation in July, taking a load off Residence Life and Student Development staff from what they’re normally used to that time of the year. Students are asking questions earlier about paying bills, setting up meal plans, and how to accept financial aid packages. There likely won’t be as big of a rush in these offices at the end of August, as we’ve been answering their questions months earlier. How else can you measure your success? I posted some other ideas in “Café New Paltz: A Yielding Success” that might give you some additional ideas. 

What steps did I miss? Do you have other strategies you employ when faced with a similar question? Do you make an concerted effort to coordinate all of the individual social media outposts on your campus, or just concern yourself with the big picture presence?

Café New Paltz: A Yielding Success

Cafe New Paltz community web banner graphic

Since my last update a few months ago about Café New Paltz, our online Ning community for fall 2009 accepted students, we’ve completed this year’s traditional recruitment cycle. We’re extremely pleased with the results and continued growth of this community.

The community continued to grow from February through the mid-April, as our undergraduate admissions office sent email invitations every couple of weeks to the latest batch of students accepted to our university.

At the end of April we had a slight mishap that we ended up turning into a great opportunity. During one of our routine exports from Banner, our student record system where we pull email addresses for the latest batch of accepted students, we accidentally included “all” accepted students, not just first-year students. This resulted in inviting 400 recently accepted transfer students. A large majority ended up accepting our invitation and started forming their own groups organically. While we initially panicked, we realized this was a good thing. They have many of the same concerns as first year students – meeting new people, starting classes at a brand new campus, figuring out the maze of offices to contact for various questions/concerns, etc. The only major difference is that we don’t provide on-campus housing to transfer students — and this turned into an excellent opportunity they seized by starting groups related to finding off-campus housing and roommates.

We continued to provide video updates by our two baristas throughout the semester. According to Ning’s usage stats, their viewership was not significantly high enough for us to want to put a great deal of resources (time, human and money) into this effort in the future, should we do this again.

My love letter to Ning

Ning makes it very hard for us to measure our success in a quantitative way. We have tied in our Google Analytics account for basic Web stats. Within Ning, I’ve been able to grab oodles of qualitative tid-bits I’ve been able to grab from various forum posts, live chats and direct messages, but I want more. Here is my kind request to Ning:

Dear Ning,

It would mean the world to me if you would give us access to member usage data. My wish list includes the ability to track the most active member(s), the least active member(s), percentages showing how often people log in (x daily, x weekly, x monthly), and how many times they’ve logged in overall.

We love you dearly and are grateful for all you’ve helped us accomplish, but we need more.

With much love and respect,
Rachel & her colleagues

May 1st was the national deposit deadline, which we also use. I was interested to see how the membership data correlated with the statistics of those students who paid their pre-enrollment deposit (PED).

Since Ning does not connect directly with our student records system, I was still determined to find a way to get some data out of the email address export I can get from Ning. I worked with my colleague in undergraduate admissions and our Web Programmer, and developed a list of areas I wanted to be able to report on by matching email addresses exported from Ning with email addresses in Banner. Here’s what we were able to get from the list of 690 members we exported from Ning on May 4:

  • Paid PED: 357 – 52%
  • Did not pay PED: 283 – 41%

May Stats Snapshot

  • Members: 711
  • Photos: 1,114
  • Videos: 22 (6 by members of the community)
  • Forums: 8

70 % of the members of our Ning community who paid their PED were from our highest admission selectivity group. The yield of our highest selectivity group took a significant jump from 30% last year to 37% this year. The Ning community was one our largest efforts to increase the yield of this highly selective group and based on the participation in the Ning and our significant increase in yield for this group we would consider it a great success.

I was also able to get three separate e-mail lists: first-year students (742) and transfer students (526) who paid their PED but did not become a member of Café New Paltz, so we can send them a special re-invite; and those accepted students who joined Café New Paltz but opted not to pay their PED or attend SUNY New Paltz (283). We will use that final list to purge members from the Café. Unfortunately, this is another limitation of Ning – we have to do this manually, one-by-one. To give these numbers a bit of context, we have roughly 15,000 freshmen applications, accept around 5,000, and our first year class for fall 2009 will be around 1,100 students. We received about 3,200 transfer applications, accepted about 1,100 and just over 600 will be joining us this fall.

Next Steps

We started a forum in mid-March asking the members to tell us if they wanted Café New Paltz to continue to be available, and we received about 30 responses strongly encouraging us to keep it open at least through summer orientation, and some requested to continue through their entire first year. Undergraduate Admissions is turning over their role to the Student Affairs division, whose efforts will be largely led by their Coordinator of First Year Programs. Café New Paltz will continue to exist at least through the end of this calendar year at this point. We’re going to re-evaluate its use and effectiveness in October/November to determine whether it is worth continuing for the spring 2010 semester.

Our two current baristas are moving on — one graduated from graduate school with his MBA, and the other will continue his active membership in many student organizations and being a student ambassador. He’s also going to be a blogger for us next year on http://npbloggers.newpaltz.edu. The Coordinator of First Year Programs will take the lead on the occasion that responses will be helpful from staff at the college, and she will be joined by a few other students later in the summer that will fill in the barista role. One student is an international student from China who will cater specifically to international students in the Café. The other two are this summer’s senior orientation leaders that all first-year students will meet throughout the summer.

Will we do this again?

Good question! Café New Paltz has exceeded our wildest expectations. We have no regrets and could absolutely foresee doing this again. However, we won’t decide until October/November. January 1, 2010 is too far ahead to plan in this social media space, in my opinion. Who knows what the next best thing will be then…

Reining in the outliers for a university-wide cohesive social media presence

image of social media iconsEarlier this week we talked about a cohesive university-wide Web presence. Today we’re going to take that same theory, but explore it in the social media space.

The ease of access of social media tools, including blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. have enabled people with little to no Web development or marketing experience to create an online presence for your institution. Most do this with the best intentions in mind, but many don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to make them truly useful and successful.

I believe the central Web and/or marketing units of a university should also be the campus experts to create and maintain a strong and effective social media presence. They should coordinate campus-wide efforts and serve as consultants to individual departments to help them with their efforts.

In recent months I’ve led social media workshops for our athletics department, which included just about every coach and administrator, and for faculty and professional staff who attended a full day of technology-related workshops.

The goals of these workshops were to:

  1. educate them about the tools available
  2. show them examples and best practices of these tools in use related to their specific interests
  3. have brainstorming sessions to determine which tools would help them better connect with their constituencies 
  4. develop 1-3 short term goals and implementation schedules

Secretly (or not so, since I’m saying it here in such a public forum), I also lead these workshops to establish my office as the a resourceful unit that others will come to for assistance in learning more about social media, and to help in determining how and if they can best leverage it. Others on campus have heard about these workshops, and I am now in the process of scheduling them with other units.

Whether you reach out to the first unit that you think could utilize social media, or whether they approach you – the ultimate goal is to not have competing efforts on various social networking sites. In addition, not every department/program/unit needs to be using social media. Take a step back, listen to what their goals are, and help them find the right mix of tools that will implement them. This may or may not include social media.

For most small- to mid-size universities, I think a tool like Facebook can be seen structurally as the university Web site. There is one main home page, otherwise known as a Fan Page on Facebook, for the university. That hub should provide easy access in a box on the Page with links to other university outposts on Facebook. Most of these are best done as groups, but there is becoming more and more value for other units establishing Pages, such as being able to view Insights (statistics) and target messages (updates).

Be a partner. Assist other units in setting up their outposts. Encourage them not to duplicate existing efforts. Help them think of ways to be unique. Social media is not a space to treat like Times Square or the bulletin boards scattering your campus. It’s not for the “hey look at my program,” or “hey, look at this awesome event we have coming up.” It’s for building relationships around them. Alumni who have graduated from the program and feel a strong allegiance to it are likely to talk about their experiences, and look to network with others that have previously gone through the program to assist in future career opportunities. If the event is a reunion, they may be more likely to rally around it to catch up with classmates in advance of the actual event. A one-time concert may not have that kind of pull into social media.

Regardless of the tool used and the way it is implemented, it needs to be done in a cohesive way that doesn’t create multiple outlets for very similar purposes and further disjoints the community using these tools. We have a discussion related to this going on the cuweb.ning.com site, as well.

Is it a wild, wild west show when your prospective students search for your university on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? Is it easy to tell which is the official university presence vs. individual units within the campus, or other user-generated content? Or, do you think having a central presence is not even necessary? Let’s talk.

Highlights from E-expectations: Class of 2009

Stephanie Geyer, Associate Vice President for e-strategy and Web development at Noel-Levitz, released their latest E-expectations survey of 1,005 college-bound high school seniors in 2009 at the OmniUpdate Users Conference this morning. This is their fourth year doing this research study in conjunction with James Tower and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. This survey is done by professional telephone counselors.

This presentation was jam packed with great insights and nuggets that I found enlightening, and some rather surprising. 

Demographics:

  • 250 from each of the four geographic regions in the U.S.
  • 50/50 male/female
  • 53% caucasian, 16% African-American/Black, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 9% multiple ethnicities, 4% Asian, 3% Indian/Native American, 3% declined, 1% other
  • Grades: A – 39%, B – 48%, C – 12%
  • Family income: 25% less than $50k, 23% between $50-75k, 11% between $75-100k, 7% between %100-$125k, 4% more than $125k, 29% don’t know/refused
  • 77% connect via DSL or cable, 11% phone modem, 3% handheld device.

When asked if the current economic crisis caused them to reconsider the schools they were applying to or may attend, 64% said no. 

62% said their parents/family are helping them with research and/or paperwork. Of that group, 21% say they help them look at Web sites and go on campus visits with them.

Content is king! Prospects are taking time to read details about cost and processes. 

content is king

 

50% said colleges and universities should use young, edgy and bold designs for their sites. 43% said schools should take a more traditional approach with their site design. When I tweeted this tid-bit, @KarlynM said it would be interesting to find out these students definition of body and edgy. 

Navigation and information architecture is so important. 85% report the links should take me right to the answers to their questions, where 15% said they don’t pay much attention to the link choices and head straight for the search box or site index. Either way – making information easily findable and searchable is key.

41% found your school via Google or another search site by typing in your school’s name. 38% use services like Zinch, MyCollegeOptions or College Board to match them to your school. Only 13% referred to a printed document with your URL on it. May be time to re-think handouts, such as postcards, just to advertise specific Web sites.

They want to do fun stuff. 42% say they want to find more to do on a college site than just click and read. 

What do they want to do most? I’m most shocked by “RSS feeds with admissions info and campus activities,” and where it fares in the list! They actually know what RSS feeds are? I’ve gotten the impression from other articles and survey results I’ve read that most don’t know, that RSS is just the plumbing behind the scenes. They may be using it, but they aren’t aware of it. Maybe they are, now?

what they want to do

 

Social Networking

And, the ever-popular Facebook vs. MySpace debate. 50% listed being on Facebook and 52% said MySpace. For the Facebook group, 56% were A students, 47% B students, 41% C students. Northeast, midwest and south all more likely to be on Facebook than MySpace. For the MySpace group, 65% black, 70% latino vs. 44% white and 43% Asian. 47% were B students, 58% were C students, and 44% were A students. Only 2% reported not participating in social networking. When asked if colleges and universities should create a presence within social networks/communities to promote their programs, 70% said yes! In addition, 75% said schools should create their own private communities, like Cafe New Paltz, that are password protected and for invited students only. 51% said they wouldn’t mind school representatives contacting them directly via a social network.

What content will make a different to them on a social network? They’re most interested in discussions about courses and academics (3.74, mean 1-5), student activities and extracurricular options (3.65), and insight into the school’s culture and diversity (3.37). They’re interested in communication with current students and faculty (3.10), communication with prospective students (3.01), profiles of current students and faculty (2.88), and posting profiles as a student who may attend (2.88).

 

Very few reported text messaging as a method they’d prefer for admissions transactions such as answers to questions or  acceptance notices. For all transactions, their preferred method was online over in person, phone, mail or text.

87% are willing to give their e-mail address to a school to communicate with them. 45% of them do it at the inquiry stage, 28% when they’re ready to apply to the school, 15% after they’ve been accepted, and 9% after they make their final decision.

Summary:

  • Economic issues mean that Web sites will have to work harder in lieu of visits to ensure prospects see value and compelling details.
  • Parents and families are inextricably linked and we should be talking directly to them — and often!
  • The experience prospects have on our site matters in their decision whether to probe further into your programs and offerings, and how they’d fit on our campus.
  • We need to focus more on content. Content, content, content. Make it readable, printable, referenceable, searchable. 
  • Focus on your navigation. Test it with college-bound students. Don’t use internal lingo. 
  • Focus on your design. Take a leap. Go bold.
  • Find your place on social networks. Be social. Be helpful. Find the right fit for your campus with the various tools out there. Re-read the demographics above – different sites work for different institutions, depending on their typical student base.

Café New Paltz – One month update

This update is part 3 in a series about Café New Paltz, an exclusive online community using Ning for our fall 2009 accepted students at the State University of New York at New Paltz. See: article 1 | article 2

We continue to be extremely pleased with the engagement and relationship building inside Café New Paltz.

Quick Bites (stats as of 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9):

  • 282 members (1,323 initially invited on Jan. 2)
  • 712 photos posted by members
  • 38 discussion forums
    • topics include finding roommates, academics, pets in residence halls, residence hall questions, and more
  • Videos: We’ve posted 7, they’ve posted 4
    • Ours: 2 episodes on residence life, dining hall, around town, 1 week update, visit campus contest, welcome to Café New Paltz — average ~100 views each
    • Theirs: One member posted a video of herself singing the national anthem at her high school’s basketball game, another posted a tour of his room at home (parts 1 & 2!), a guitar riff, and a “name that riff”game
  • Birthdays: We’ve toned down our initial exuberance of 4 separate videos plus all of the other publicity on the site about member’s birthdays. We now have a text box on the top of the page as soon as they login that calls out birthdays, we post on their walls, and feature that member for the day.

Google Analytics

  • 8,111 visits
  • 78,631 pageviews
  • 17.03% bounce rate
  • 10:27 avg. time on site
  • Top 4 features: home page, chat, member profiles, forums

Things we’ve learned:

  • Scripting, producing, editing & posting 1 video every week is not realistic for our current staffing resources. We’ve loosened that timeframe to be a week and a half to two weeks between them if needed. Interestingly, the video views aren’t as high as we’d expect them to be.
  • These accepted students are eager to form relationships, to figure out who they’ll room with — already. This is 5-6 months earlier than the traditional process.
  • We’re reading a large number of posts in the forums by people who have paid their deposit already and are committed to coming to New Paltz.
  • Lots of anxiety being allayed earlier in the process. They’re finding roommates, and other students with similar interests (music, academic interests, extra-curricular activities, etc.). They’re asking if they can have cars on campus, if people go home on weekends, how many classes they will have to take, will their AP credits transfer, can they paint their residence halls, etc.

Next steps

  • On February 21 we will be inviting our first round of general accepts – approximately 1,000 of them – to join the community. From that point on, invitations will be sent to the latest round of new general accepts every two weeks.
  • In early March we need to start giving more serious consideration to what comes next. What happens after May 1, other than seeing how many of these members actually pay their deposit. Should we shut down the Café? Does it turn into a first year student community? What do we do with the members that choose not to come to New Paltz? Given the great amount of activity and interaction, I don’t see how we can shut it down, but we have to have a number of internal conversations between divisions to carefully plan the next stages.

What do you think our next steps should be?

What’s an Appropriate Response Time to Inquirers?

About ten years ago when e-mail became mainstream at colleges/universities, departments were skittish about having a separate dedicated e-mail account as a way for their customers to contact them. They worried about work load creep, and customers expecting a quick turn around time for responses. Most of these folks still preferred to be tied up on the phone with their customers at that point.
photo of a train moving fast

Now, most departments are long on board with the dedicated e-mail account. And it’s mutually understood that customers will receive a response within one to two business days at most.

Enter… Facebook.

Your college/university has a Facebook Fan page. It’s getting littered with wall posts from prospective students eager for information about your institution. They’re posting at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and re-posting “helllooooo??” by 11 a.m. Sunday morning if they haven’t received a response yet. Holidays? Doesn’t matter. Receiving posts on Christmas Day and New Years Eve get the same reactions.

How do you handle this if you’re not looking until you get back to work again Monday morning?

Do you know how many lost opportunities take place if you only monitor your social media efforts during the traditional work week? Other fans of your page may jump in and try to be helpful. If they’re right, fantastic. It’s the ones who spread misinformation you have to worry about and is why it is critical for you to keep listening periodically throughout the weekend and evenings during the week.

If you’re going to jump into social media – you need to be able to realistically support it. Expect to check your Facebook Fan Page at all weird hours of the weekend and evening. If you can’t, find someone on your team that will. Students are a great resource for this — but of course you need to find someone you can trust who will not only be genuine, but maintain a level of professionalism and accuracy while speaking in “their language.”

Social media has blown the traditional work week out the door. It’s made it harder and harder for professionals to disconnect. The new culture is all about “the now.” Text message me now. Instant message me now. They don’t want to wait until tomorrow. Should we train them to slow down, or just ride this wave with them?

Photo credit shindohd

Café New Paltz – 5 days in

Cafe New PaltzThis update is part 2 in a series about Café New Paltz, an exclusive online community using Ning for our fall 2009 accepted students at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Wow. That about sums up the reaction my colleagues and I have had since launching Café New Paltz on Friday, January 2.

Quick Bites (stats as of 8:30 a.m. Jan. 7):

  • invited 1,323 early action accepted students
  • 169 members
  • 143 photos posted by members
  • 6 discussion forums started by members — including one with 33 replies

Videos
We posted two videos when we launched. I’m actually surprised at the low number of video plays, in relation to the number of members and their other activity. Everyone we have chatted with in the Café has been raving about them.

  • Welcome to Café New Paltz (2:06) – 66 views
  • Visit New Paltz (contest – 1:14) – 65 views

Jingle + Birthdays
My graduate assistant and his brother produced a catchy jingle for Café New Paltz that we use in the beginning and end of every video.

We noticed we have two birthdays in the community today. We’ve posted 4 happy birthday videos for them — one from the Office of Undergraduate Admission staff, one from two current students working in the Welcome Center, and one from each of our baristas. We also posted birthday wishes on their walls and pushed an activity update to the “latest activity feed” to wish them happy birthday.

More insights
Google Analytics Snippets (Jan. 2-6)
 

  • 1,539 visits
  • 18,758 pageviews
  • 20.40% bounce rate
  • 13:54 average time on site
  • top 3 features: home page, members page, chat page, and one person’s profile page (he’s popular!)

Finances

  • paying Ning $24.95/month to remove the ads
  • paying Ning $4.95/month to point to custom domain
  • paid $10.19 for domain name for one year

Anecdotes
Over the weekend our baristas spent countless hours (on their own time, without being asked!) inside the Café striking up conversations and making new friends. They let the community decide what the next videos are they will produce (we’re calling them “Flavors of the Week”), and the order they will be posted.

Some snippets I saved from one of many weekend chat sessions:

  • “I must be going. i’m definitely gonna log on again though, this is an amazing resource.”
  • “Yeah this is a pretty great thing set up here”
  • “Yeah, I’ve never run across a school with something this helpful and people this nice before! It’s great!”

They were also correcting each other’s grammar and spelling during one chat session. 🙂

A parent called my colleague in the admissions office to sign her daughter up for an event that is advertised in the Café. She said her daughter was very impressed with the Café and wishes other schools did something like this. The mom was very impressed with how much we were doing for our accepted students, and also commented on how cute and entertaining her daughter thought the two guys doing the videos were (our “baristas”). 

Next Up?
This Friday we’re going to send a re-invitation to the balance of original invitees that haven’t responded. The four videos our baristas are working on include residence life, dining services, clubs/sports/intramurals, and around town.

Plug for upcoming Webinar
Want to hear more about how to recruit on a budget? Sign-up for my HigherEdExperts.com Webinar in the Saving Big series, which will be held February 4.

Am I missing something I should be tracking? What are you interested in learning? What does the activity in your communities look like?

Do we really need a social media strategy?

If you’re having a hard time convincing your administration that social media is worth the investment, try coming at it from a different angle — and I’m not suggesting writing the “social media strategy” we’ve all been hearing about lately. My theory? Piggy back on existing strategies at your university.

Stamats Integrated Marketing conference earlier this month I was all jazzed up to write a social media strategy. Fritz McDonald and C.J. Cunniff from the Interactive Media division of Stamats gave a fantastic presentation to close the conference on developing an effective Web 2.0 plan. They outlined twelve steps in developing this strategy.

But here’s where my thinking is now different — the steps they offered, the foundation they provided, would work for just about any form of media – not just social. I have sat at my computer staring at the screen, poised to write my college’s social media strategy with these twelve steps in mind. I haven’t been able to get into it. And the other morning, it struck me why. Do we really need one?

My campus has lots of strategies. Our president has eight solid vision points to guide us internally. We’re very fortunate right now – our undergraduate admissions office has more applicants than they know what to do with. However, they have some key strategies they are employing this year to continue to increase quality of the academics of our incoming student body. They are targeting select populations to increase diversity. They are concerned about the upcoming decline in high school graduates, significant increase of Hispanic graduates, and fewer white non-Hispanic graduates in the United States

More than likely, there are already strategies that exist on your campus. Find out what they are. Learn all you can about them. Then, pitch that person/department/division an idea using social media that will further their strategy and assist in achieving their goal. If you know more about their issues, they’ll be less reluctant to think you’re coming at them with yet another Web-based hair-brained scheme (even if they do think the term “Web 2.0” is still cool).

Social media isn’t the solution to the upcoming decreasing number of college applications. It’s not the solution for attracting the higher quality students. What it can be, is a strong spoke in your marketing wheel, but don’t try to convince your administration that it is a replacement for the things in your marketing mix you’re hearing prospective students are no longer interested in (viewbooks, CDs, etc.).

Most universities aren’t going to give up printing viewbooks in mass, going to large college fairs, and certainly wouldn’t dream of closing down their admissions Web site that reaches millions. The masses need information, and you can’t have individual conversations with every single prospect. Or maybe you can. Maybe you at least make it seem like you are. That’s where social media comes in. It’s not going to replace any of the traditional spokes in your marketing wheel. It’s not going to be “the one thing” that makes the difference in your recruiting efforts this season, but it can certainly make an impact, make your university seem more personal, and provide that higher level of customer service that could potentially knock the socks off a prospect.

Spending time focusing on the personal interactions you can have with your target audience will benefit your larger scale efforts. Pretend your Facebook Page is a small Cafe. Introduce yourself. Make friends. Engage your fans. But don’t give up on the larger-scale, more traditional tools in your marketing mix. These individual conversations are important – especially if you’re conversing with someone who is a member of an underrepresented group you’re targeted, or has very strong academics. The outreach to these individuals will cultivate relationships, and this is where viral marketing begins. These prospects will likely tell their friends about their early experience with your university (especially if it’s personal and meaningful), and word will spread. But in the end – you’re still recruiting to the masses, and you’re still trying to achieve overarching strategies. Don’t forget the bigger picture, but to get there, you have to cultivate the snowflakes before the avalanche begins.

What do you think? Let’s discuss.

Live Blogging: Press Release 2.0 – News Releases in the Social Media Era

Matt Herzberger’s (@mherzber) Session @ #stamats08

*Watch the Presentation Video*

Goals & Research

  • migrate old posts, move to WordPress, ability to add multimedia, social media linkage, easy for writers

Research

  • evaluate what’s out there (both .edu & .com) – <3’s NYTimes.com
  • talk to writers – what are their needs
  • themes/designs/templates (SocialMediaRelease.org) – SMPR template

Goal: Make news sexy!!

RSS = plumbing (if only you could see the photo to go with this slide – classic!): You may not know it, but you’re consuming RSS

Problems

  • writers: put it in play to see what works
  • comments: convince to enable, monitor
  • consistency
  • add multimedia: writers tend not to care

Measurement

  • tools
    • Pay: Vocus, CustomScoop, Trackur
    • Free: Google Alerts, Technorati, Blog Pulse, Compete, del.icio.us

Future: What’s next

  • Do reporters in your area want RSS feeds instead of e-mails, faxes, paper press releases?

Examples:

How to practically start w/ limited resources:

  • use WordPress – known for 5 min install
  • redeploy writers – they’re already writing, just change where they’re putting it
  • they’re already taking photos – use them here
  • find creative ways to add sound & video – try SlideShowPro. Beauty of YouTube – they don’t have to be polished. Flip & Kodak video cameras.

Social Media News Release
[youtube cD_mYKc20OY]

MNR on MNR
[youtube CEfs8NDC6V4]