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Navigating Social Media

May 30, 2011

Peterson’s and CUnet Social Media Strategist, Jeff Berg shares five ways for schools to create vibrant social media communities for graduate students. See his suggestions and why many schools are turning to social media.

Did you know?

  • Facebook is a world of 620 million users—one-third of everyone in the world with Internet access is on Facebook.
  • For every minute that goes by about 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.
  • 20% of the world’s collective Internet time is spent on social media.

At a recent conference for the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals, Jeff presented “More than Just Fans: 5 Steps to Creating Vibrant Social Communities for Graduate Students.” Attendees to his session included professionals from Waterford Institute of Technology, University of New Haven, and Johns Hopkins University. Here’s a look at what Jeff had to say:

Question: Do graduate students even use social media that much?

Jeff:  Yes! Today’s grad students are considered “digital natives.”
• They could easily have grown up never having corded phones.
• More importantly, they’re the first generation that has grown natively using technology to maintain interpersonal relationship, instead of adopting it later in life.
• Nearly three-fourths use social media.
• 18% use Twitter.
• 81% access the Internet wirelessly.
• 70% believe colleges should have a presence on social networks.
• 51% want to be contacted directly through a social network.

Question: Ok, so they like social media, but why should colleges and universities invest in it?

 Jeff: At the most basic level, social media tools give students a much deeper understanding of school communities. But more importantly to the schools, social media campaigns are three to five times more successful than standard targeted marketing. So now we know that students are on social media and that it is often times better than targeted marketing and advertising—now what?

Jeff’s Five Steps:

If schools follow these five steps, they’ll be on the right track!

Don’t hide: Potential students are busy enough trying to figure out what school they want to go to, so schools shouldn’t make them search for their Twitter or Facebook account, too! If a school’s social media presence isn’t on the front page of its brochure or website, it should be.

Have human conversations: Think about the people you consider friends. Chances are you like them because they don’t always just talk about themselves, right? The same goes for a school’s social media presence—sometimes it’s good to go off script and talk about what students want to talk about. It might not seem like a big deal to thank someone for visiting, but those small interactions are good because students may be more likely to spread more information about the school.

Show, don’t tell: It’s good to be subtle in the messaging. Effective marketing is like telling a story and social technologies enable schools to craft compelling narratives. A school shouldn’t post, “We have a beautiful campus.” Saying something about the art around campus or showing pictures is a much more effective approach.

Spotlight students and staff success: Nearly every school has something really interesting going on today, but there is no way for students to access it unless they review published journals, so schools should celebrate current students, alumni, and faculty in a more casual way through social media.

Measureable: All of this is wonderful, but the only way for schools to know that its working is to see some measureable outcomes. In 2006, the biggest question to measure success was, “How many friends do you have?” But we don’t live in that world any more. That’s how you live in a purchase economy. Social media today is a gift economy and, in gift economies, the most important questions are : “Are you giving people information THEY want to share?” and “How shareable are you making that information?”

Schools can measure this by click-throughs, and CUnet recently launched a product specifically designed to help schools measure their social media presence all from one panel. Unlike most social media management tools, SocialThumb allows educators to engage beyond just posting and responding to comments, by providing robust workflow management, posting scheduling, and the analytics required to track successful student engagement.

Jeff Berg is the Social Media Strategist for Peterson’s and CUnet

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