Social media, higher ed & being on every network

Back in 2009, I wrote a post where I confronted the idea that we needed to be everywhere students are. This related to higher education social media and the notion at a lot of institutions with not super well articulated social media strategies that effectively think that every time a new social network crops up, you need to decamp on social network and figure out how to do it.

Last year at Aggregate Conference, University of Michigan Social Media director Nikki Sunstrum talked about their success with Snapchat, but then proceeded to tell the crowd why it wasn’t necessary for them to jump out there.

My position six  years ago hasn’t changed much. I said then institutions had a responsibility to invest in their own institutional web strategy if they really wanted to make an impact and reach people.

The institutional web site has fully arrived as a “marketing tool” on many campuses and the uneasy balance between trying to reach the students of the future, while connecting to their parents, alumni and pretty much anyone else with a rooting interest in the school can be a difficult task at times, especially for smaller schools and community colleges.

You don’t have to go where the students are to reach them, you need to adapt your web strategy to reach them more effectively. There’s no better place to that than on your college’s own web site.

Having managed lots of pages over the years, I can tell you there are few things that I enjoyed more than getting the instant feedback from a Facebook or Twitter. The recent SAE controversy at the University of Oklahoma shows how decisive leadership and deft use of social media by leaders can make all the difference in addressing a crisis.

The real issue here is not every college or university has the resources, team or in-house talent of a major flagship state university. While our stories don’t resonate nationally, they can resonate locally. It’s easy to look at a situation like this and think it’s more reason to double down on social media and to invest more heavily in establishing a robust presence.

After all, it’s where people are right?

You can’t publish a press release on Twitter. You can link to one, sure. But do you have people in place to respond to the legions of comments that your Twitter profile or Facebook page gets? Sure you can pay someone, but will they speak how you want?

The bottom line is there’s a price to being everywhere you want to be. Just saying FOLLOW US ON TWITTER doesn’t really mean a whole lot if you don’t understand what you’re doing there.

You still don’t have to be everywhere.

Customer Experience Starts At Home

In my journeys, I’ve seen the difference in the culture of institutions and a relationship between their success based on how the people working there treat each other. It seems like a simple thing, but it matters.

Since I primarily work with colleges and universities, I notice it more acutely. Outsiders wistfully remember college as a place of warmth and fun, wrapped in a spinach wrap of learning. The reality for most staff and faculty is institutions are like any other job with good days, bad days and excitement for Fridays at 4:30 or 5pm.

In higher ed, we keep pumping money into finding the next great solution but not often enough do I hear that we need to focus on our own houses. Not just the workplace satisfaction piece, I’m talking about the same experience of our customers — students, alumni & other stakeholders — who need positive experiences.

The admissions process changes the consumer climate because not everyone who can afford the product will be admitted. Still, you can see on the faces of the people who come to work everyday whether or not you’re visiting the kind of place that can attract others.

It starts with how you treat each other.