Higher Ed Communication Evolution

Higher education is near and dear to my heart. Over the past three years, I have seen instructors, students and curriculum evolve to embrace new ideas and technology at an astounding rate. In every class taught, I have incorporated hands-on social media training. Sometimes the addition to the curriculum brought about backlash from fellow faculty members and complaining from students who feared the additional work. Yet, at the end of the semester my perseverance was rewarded with the smiles and work of students who overcame their fear of the unknown.

Much of how and what I taught about social media was discovered through trial and error and discussions with fellow instructors. This is why I applaud Jon Hussey of American University for taking the institution to new levels of communication and relationship building. However, after reading the interview between Jon and John Moore, I am concerned about those developing social media strategies in the highered space and their views regarding policies, CRM integration and ROI. And it is not just American University who is struggling to find their way, I recently sat down with a group of educators who wanted to embrace social media, but were encountering road blocks at every turn.

Go Beyond the Channels

Social media goals, objectives and strategies cannot be based on channels (such as Twitter and Facebook) exclusively or there will not be any longevity in your social media endeavors. Strategies will forever be contained to campaigns instead of invested programs if there are no measurable goals and objectives (aligned with overall business goals) in place prior to social media engagement. You have to know where you are going to obtain the results desired. What are you measuring? Why? Yes, do listen for and determine where your community is talking and creating so you can begin to engage in those locations, but do not limit your opportunities because of the channels.  

Embrace Policy

Did a shiver just run down your spine with the mention of a policy? Sharing best practices and conversing with fellow employees does not replace the structure needed when an organization enters social media. Having a social media policy in place is not to box in the participants, but to provide education and structure for how to engage online, and empower your workforce to operate within accepted and encouraged boundaries with the freedom to be themselves. Online interaction is 24/7. Your policy will need to address how the workforce is engaging online during work hours and when they are not at work. Your workforce is representing the organization every time they interact online, even if you have a single “official” voice or limited number of official online spokespeople.

Provide clear guidelines for engagement and disclosure, so that all employees can represent themselves and the company clearly and professionally. By allowing your workforce do what they do best and act as your representative, your organization can gain valuable social capital, credibility, and opportunity. Radian6 (my employer) has some great resources about how to develop a social media policy and engagement guidelines. Check it out and discover you no longer have to be afraid of policy.

Speak C-Suite Lingo

ROI is not about influence, but about talking the same lingo as executive management. It all comes down to dollars and cents. Tracking clickthroughs is superficial information unless you can map the navigation to actions such as downloading a whitepaper, requesting more information or purchasing a product/service. If you aren’t familiar with Olivier Blanchard, he knows a thing or two about how to properly calculate ROI. View his presentation on the Basics of Social Media ROI and go beyond HITS.

Organizations spend millions of dollars to implement CRM tools and processes. Ensure you understand how your social media tools and strategies mesh with back-end systems like CRM. Relationship building through Twitter is not CRM unless the data is being captured in the same profile as all other correspondence. What is CRM? According to DestinationCRM.com, “True CRM brings together information from all data sources within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one, holistic view of each customer in real time.” Remember, you want your social media strategies to become more than a campaign, but integrated into your programs…so learn to speak the language of those pulling the purse strings.

Kudos to those universities that are diving into social media and transforming higher education. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do what you do best…educate yourself on the ins and outs of social media and how it integrates into overall business practices and objectives. You will take your lumps, but keep on trudging after lessons learned.

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  • http://www.kingrpg.net KINGRPG

    I like that you think. Thank you for share very much.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5cae8de970c twitter.com/CaraKeithley

    Thank you so much for writing this. As an adjunct professor, content creator, and someone who is trying to talk about social media use in higher education…we need more people saying these things. Some higher ed institutions see the potential here, and others just don’t see the business implications yet. We need the same level of advocacy that gov 2.0 has found. Thanks again!

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    It’s funny…In my previous job, I worked for the Federal Government and was able to see first-hand the acceptance and power of social media. The fear of higher ed institutions taking on social media is very similar to what govt has had to overcome. So, I am applying the same methodologies for govt social media inclusion in the higher ed space.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5cae8de970c twitter.com/CaraKeithley

    Very cool! I’m doing both state gov and higher ed at the same time so I get to compare daily. State gov is nervous but easier to persuade. Funny thing is, ROI is much more apparent for higher ed (think more enrollment, less transfers, larger donations, etc.)

  • http://www.commdiscussion.com John Carraway

    A well thought out article. Don’t base your social media strategy on the platform because the platforms will continue to change. Don’t get sucked into the Web 2.0 hype. Figure out what’s needed, put a strategy together, and implement.