Whether anyone wants to accept it or not, it is 2011 and social media is taking the world by storm. Sit down during any commercial break and you’ll see at least two or three businesses saying to “like” them on Facebook. Universities and colleges around the country are still finding their niche in the digital spectrum. College is a social hub for 18-23 year olds (give or take). I know I have met numerous new people, participated in campus activities, did stereotypical college things, and did not-so-typical things in college. But is it damaging for these colleges to lack a social media presence? I think the answer is yes and here’s why:
1) Recruitment: We’re not Ivy leagues, and not everyone is going to fawn after attending our university. The days have passed where mailed brochures are the most effective medium. Universities need to find these teens where they hang out, and nowadays that place is the internet (and for geeks like me, this is where I’ve always been).
2) Building Community: Admissions advisors are now starting Facebook groups for incoming freshmen so they can build relationships pre-moving in and work on Q&A. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow users to interact with local businesses and residents, for universities that means establishing relationships. You want your neighborhood to love you, be a part of the community, don’t overpower it.
3) Engaging that Community: I have at-replied my university on Twitter handfuls of times, usually to no-avail. With social media, everyone is now available to be your critic and your biggest fan at the drop of a dime. As a university, college, business, person, it is important to protect your brand and respond to both the bad and the good. Just because you ignore the negative comments, does not mean that other people will not see those and judge you based upon it. Talk to your followers, fans, and your community. Don’t put out information; ask their input on that information. Be a conversationalist, not a lecturer.
4) Showcasing Personality: Some students don’t get the opportunity to tour every campus and the only feel they get of a university is via brochures, websites, and telephone calls to the admissions office. There is a more low-key vibe with social media, and it can allow for these snooty up-tight institutions to add a little personality (pizazz) to their image. A pop-culture reference or joke every once in a while won’t hurt, but rather can add to the appeal of your university.
I’ve recently gotten the opportunity to become a student ambassador for the website, Zinch.com. The whole idea behind Zinch is that every student is “more than a test score.” They built a social networking site where prospective students can set up profiles, along with colleges looking for recruiting opportunities. To interact with an actual human being from the university adds a much more personable level to the institution, and I know that’s what I wanted in a college – just sayin’.