Last weekend, I had a fantastic opportunity to teach a social media seminar at Drake University in Des Moines,Iowa. The course offers one hour of master's level credit for a class that meets on a Friday evening from 5-10 p.m. and Saturday from 8-5. That seems like a really long time to be sitting on a weekend, but to me it went by incredibly fast.
I am a 2001 graduate of the university, and it seems impossible, but I typed most of my papers on a typewriter. I researched most of the material in the basement archive room in Cowles Library. I painstakingly read through research abstracts in the electronic databases and used a "state of the art" program to access all of the material. But I still had to drag those big green books off the shelves and make expensive copies.
Think about how much technology has changed and benefited both students and the academic community. Apply that thinking to the use of social media in universities and the adoption of a social media major in Journalism and Mass Communication Schools in the U.S. Social media has the potential to set a university apart from its competition and tell the stories of the student and faculty.
Colleges and universities should adopt a holistic approach to social media. The problem becomes herding academic types (which is worse than herding cats, times 1000) and getting them to make some decisions without over-thinking it.
My advice to universities for communicating with its "publics":
- Get the buy-in of the president and the VP in charge of marketing communications. Once those two are in, the rest is academic (pun intended).
- Form a small committee of people interested in moving the institution forward in using social media, including a representatives from the following groups:
- PR and communications staff
- Admissions staff
- Alumni relations office
- Sports communications staff
- Community relations representative
- Set a goal of getting at least one form of social media up and running in one month,and having all members contribute and participate
- Communicate with the group when something significant is happening that the other members can talk about too (i.e. A big basketball game coming up, FAFSA deadline, a snow day, a campus visit by a famous alum, etc)
- Meet monthly to share successes and failures. Share information.
- From the beginning, keep good track of metrics and report success to leaders
- Visit other school sites to get ideas
- Listen to people who are talking to you via social media and respond to them using social media