Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Social Media at Universities

I've talked to several universities and people managing social media at universities and was not surprised that most universities are already on social media, and are very interested in engaging their prospective students, current students and alumni. Many faculties have started their own social media initiative and even within faculties, there are departments within that are doing their own engagement.

Most social media initiatives, though seemed independent of each other, are getting better with more interaction, and as the staff get the hang of it. Some universities have good policies to support the initiative while others need to get clearance, however, seeing that with or without permission, conversations about the university is going to happen, most universities get to engage on social media.

One thing I find in common in some of these universities who are starting their social media initiatives within departments of a faculty is poor communications. Many tasks are duplicated and there is not much collaborations even between faculties. After some central coordination, social media engagement can become more effective, however I still can see some major improvements that can be made.

1) Better Transition Required.

Admissions, Student Affairs and Alumni office need very good communications.

The transition between prospective students to students need to be well coordinated as there are influencers who became students, and the list of influencers should be cultivated to be student leaders to continue to help spread awareness of the University's messages.

Upon graduation, the students who are engaging with the social media team of student affairs or respective faculties should also be properly transitioned to engage in alumni affairs and get their friends to join as well.

The departments currently in all universities that I've spoken to seemed distinct and separate. There is nobody in charge or remotely interested in caring about the transition. The student affairs department sees their duties are done when students graduate, and the alumni office will try to only get the students after graduation. There may be collaboration in may other ways like running events, however, on social media, most universities do not have a transition plan.

2) Faculty vs Alumni Office.

In many universities, the faculties engage their alumni, and the university does it as well -- but separately. Being engaged twice make an alumni feel that the university does not have their act together. On social media, for an alumni to follow the university's alumni page and the faculty's page, they need to be of course different. Having all the faculties post on the university's main page is also not the answer.


There are many other issues which the universities that I met with encounter, however I feel that most of them can be addressed with simply better understanding on their audience and a better focus on what they want to achieve.

-- Robin Low

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