Raise your Hand for Effective Social Media in Higher Education

Harvey Morris All Things WOMM 0 Comments


By Austin Lytle, Social Business Strategist, Spredfast

A SXSWi Session Recap

Patterns of success are beginning to emerge in social media at universities. While resources may be scarce, buy-in difficult and policies (if there are any) restrictive, a SXSW panel on Effective Social Media in Higher Education spoke to tactics making social successful. Deborah Maue of DePaul University and Liz Gross of the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha moderated the panel.

From the crowd of education officials and those with stakes in social media, it appears many departments are beginning to get it. They know they have to be on social and come up with a way to effectively manage communication. What emerged though is that if a university wants to get social right, it should be thought of on the university wide level.


Therein lies the rub, how do you promote the advantages of social within departments that don’t get it? Or better yet an administration? If you think of universities’ complexities with social they have multiple departments, each with their own objectives, with multiple stakeholders. And without explicit value on the departmental level, it’s much harder to make the case for social.

Just think of all the departments that can have involvement with social:

  • Development / Advancement
  • Alumni Association
  • Admissions
  • Marketing
  • Student Services
  • Academics
  • Athletics

So how are some institutions becoming successful in bridging social media gaps?

Task forces/committees seem to be a common practice. Made up of internal stakeholders usually including early adopters, marketing departments, admissions and representatives from various academic departments. They work to create social policies, types of communication, measures of success, strategies on where social makes sense internally and what external channels to be on. They do what higher education does best, analyze.

Universities are also turning to students to help with social activities, whether it’s from lack of resources or need for additional on-staff knowledge. Social media comes natural to students. They’re great to bounce ideas off of and keep up with what the latest feature is on a big network or what the next new thing is social is. Now before you get crazy and set them loose, consider the risks that are involved and provide guidelines and rules.

Internal social champions are also finding success with connecting social to existing university initiatives. Tying metrics to help drive previously unrealized results. In addition, it’s important to tailor your message on the audience you wish to reach. If it’s students, communicate when and where they want to be communicated with. Take time to decide if official communication should be driven via social. Take time to realize that social is about engagement. An admissions success story that emerged was Facebook engagement being used by current students sharing university messages with their former high school communities.

Higher education tends to run slow at adopting anything, and by my account they are still about 13 months behind the business sector for social adoption. However, social media benefits are being realized all over college campuses and the time is now to begin planning a strategy that will take your campus communication to the next level.

If it seems social is having difficulty infiltrating your organization, it may be best to do, as one member of the crowd said, just “Run with it and show the results”.

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