This morning I presented to a group of ~80 higher education colleagues who work in creative services offices for colleges and universities across the country. My session, Stand Out! Customize Your Institution’s Social Media Presence went beyond yesterdays Social Media 101 session and got under the hood with seven social networking sites to equip these designers with the specs and knowledge needed to customize their college’s presence.
Whew. Nearly 500 people tuned in to my session, eRecruiting with Social Media and a Purpose this afternoon as part of the CollegeWeekLive/Chronicle of Higher Education eRecruitment Web Forum. There were a ton of questions I didn’t have time to get to during the live presentation (120!!), so I’ve answered the ones I didn’t get to below. Did you miss the live presentation? The folks at CollegeWeekLive have made it available to watch on-demand.
The following is a guest post by Mike Petroff, Web Manager for Enrollment at Emerson College. Mike leads Web marketing and recruitment efforts for undergraduate and graduate admission. He also chairs the Social Media Group at Emerson, working with several departments to develop strategies and policies for the college’s social media presence. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.
If you are a staff member involved in your college’s Facebook presence, you are probably well aware of the “FacebookGate” fiasco with many Class of 2013 groups. As a result of Facebook’s sweeping approach to delete groups in question, colleges lost established communities even after some gained control of their Class of 2013 groups by becoming administrators and removing non-applicants.
Last week one of my friends on Twitter tweeted, “Just added myself to http://campustweet.com – Ithaca College and Georgetown University.”
My immediate thought — is this another one of those sites that’s going to create buzz most of the day by our circle of common friends and then fade, or could this one actually stick? Lots of friends tweeted questions about it as more and more tweets “Just added myself to ….” came across the stream. The folks at campustweet.com (@campustweet on Twitter) were kind enough send me their e-mail address so I could ask them eight questions about their service. Here’s the interview.
The Division III Management Council just released their newly adopted “noncontroversial change to the Division III electronic transmissions limitations.” They’ve given it a retroactive effective date of August 1, 2008 to match when their original legislation went into effect. They’ve also released this article: “DIII Council opens up use of social-networking media”
- “Division III institutions now are free to use such media as Facebook and Twitter to publicize game results and other athletics news without worrying whether prospective student-athletes are receiving those “electronically transmitted” messages, provided the communication meets some new objective guidelines established by the Division III Management Council.”
The original bylaw said:
“Electronically transmitted correspondence that may be sent to a prospective student-athlete by, or on behalf of, a member of the institition’s athletics department staff is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles. All other forms of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g. instant messaging, text messaging and social networking Web sites) are prohibited.”
They’ve now added to this — “except as specified in this section.”
- “Any member of the general public may become a member of the group to which the electronic transmission is sent.”
- In other words, no closed/gated online communities
- “A prospective student-athlete who chooses to receive electronic transmissions through the electronic service must retain the ability to decline receipt of the communications at any time or may unsubscribe from all electronic service at any time.”
- In other words, use common sense and always have unsubscribe options with all forms of communication.
- “The content of any electronic transmission that is sent to a public group that may include prospective student-athletes must be the same for all members of the group (e.g. news alerts, admissions and alumni information, scores) and of a general nature.”
- We can’t send custom content to recruits.
- “The proposal does not allow direct person-to-person electronic communication with an individual prospective student-athlete sent by a member of the athletics department staff, or on their behalf, (e.g., instant messaging, comments via MySpace, Wall-to-Wall via Facebook, direct messaging via Twitter) except via electronic mail or facsimile. Further, the proposal ensures the communications are being sent from the athletics department or the institution, and not from the individual members of the athletics department acting on their own.”
This last paragraph is most crucial, and makes it even more important for collaborative efforts on your campus. Your athletic director likely received this communication (it was e-mailed at 9 a.m. ET this morning, July 22), but it may be a bit confusing for those that don’t have a great understanding of the various tools. From that e-mail, they offer this example:
- “If your coach uses Twitter or Facebook on their own for communication of athletics related information, and that information is delivered to prospective student-athletes, you will need to report that violation.”
Am I the only one thinking they’ve contradicted themselves here? On one hand they’re saying if it’s generic information and publicly available to anyone, then why would a coach disseminating that same public information in a public space be in violation?
Here is the complete PDF that was attached to the e-mail communication this morning. I’d love to hear your take on it.
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.
Next, 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?
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:
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
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.
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 forsee 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…
On April 23-24, 2009, Cornell University will be hosting the HighEdWeb Regional Conference. The .eduGuru Crew is scheduled for a session at 3:15 p.m. EDT on the 23rd called “Social Media Storytelling with the .eduGurus.” Only one of us will be there in person, but the rest of the crew will be joining the session virtually. We’d like to invite our readers to also join us virtually!
Mark Anbinder from Cornell University has graciously agreed to ustream our session live. Follow this link to join our ustream channel on Thursday, April 23 and 3:15 p.m. EDT.
During the live stream, we should also appear below:
Live Streaming by Ustream.TV
We’re hoping to pull off a minor technical feat for this session. Stay tuned and watch it all unfold…
Earlier 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:
- educate them about the tools available
- show them examples and best practices of these tools in use related to their specific interests
- have brainstorming sessions to determine which tools would help them better connect with their constituencies
- 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.