Report from the 2012 conference, “Social Media Beyond the Basics”

2012 Oct 19
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From September 17-19, Anne Petersen, Director of Digital Strategy,  and I attended a three-day workshop with Academic Impressions. The workshop, titled Social Media Beyond The Basics, looked at higher-level social media strategy and tactics with a focus on enrollment management, advancement, and managing student workers. Though my professional background is in higher ed social media, I’ve been working in the world of consumer packaged goods social media for the past two years, which is not only an eternity in social media time but also a very different social media environment.

In the age of Instagram, Facebook promoted posts and Pinterest, the social media landscape has changed a great deal in a very short time. I arrived at the conference eager to discuss and absorb the latest social media initiatives from higher education social media professionals working on the front lines. On the roster were Patrick Powers (Director, Digital Marketing and Communication; Webster University), Jason Simon (Director, Marketing and Communication Services; University of California System), Keith Hannon (Assistant Director, Social Media; Cornell University), Kate Brodock (Executive Director of Digital and Social Media; Syracuse University), and Tim Jones (Executive Creative Director; North Carolina State University).

A consistent theme of the conference seemed to be staffing, documentation, and infrastructure: issues of social media policy, setting procedures for social media content and crisis management, and hiring, developing, and educating qualified staff. This is a natural evolution for higher ed social media, as most colleges have some kind of social media presence established. Many of the “trailblazers” in this field have moved on to director-level appointments and are now charged with scaling things up. In addition, social media policies and staffing discussions have become a best practice for many corporate brands and large non-profits, so the discussion is inevitable. At this point, the discussion of various platforms and tactics has been pushed to its limit. There is not always a clear-cut answer to the eternal question of, “what’s next in social media,” and while the discussion of strategy, planning, and policy is usually the least exciting, it is absolutely the most necessary.

The conference breakout sessions were separated into two tracks that focused on enrollment management and alumni relations. Coming from a fundraising and advancement background, I wanted to immerse myself in social media geared towards enrollment and the prospective student. A real standout on day one was Patrick Powers’ comprehensive presentation on social media analytics. Analytics and measurement can be an overwhelming topic for practitioners; it’s hard to know where to start, what to measure, and where to end when presented with reams of data. His tips for analytics reporting success

-make data easy to read/understand (charts, graphs, visuals)
-monitor and highlight trends, not just individual numbers
-offer recommendations, don’t just report data with no insight
-explain causation, tell a story with your data.

Check out Kate Brodock’s Storify recap of Powers’ presentation here:

Jason Simon cited the University of California system as a case study in his presentations on how to effectively manage crises and develop an internal social media policy. He laid out roadmaps for developing an internal strategy, constantly reminding attendees that “policy is an iterative process” that shouldn’t be bound or defined by the platform or tool being used.

I stayed for the post conference session with Kate Brodock, who talked about her social media team of 11 undergraduate student workers at Syracuse, called #44social. A cross between marketing, advocacy, and student resources, the #44socialteam serves as the social media ambassadors for the Syracuse community. She noted that her students come from various backgrounds and majors, not just marketing, communications, or technology. She sees the role as more than just a student work position; rather, it is a leadership opportunity.

I was very happy to see the evolution of higher ed social media as a profession. There’s no shortage of conversation around creative social media tactics and campaigns in higher ed, but to see the conversation elevate to its logical next step is a great sign. I’m sure we’ll continue to see the profession evolve to include even more best-practices in higher ed social media strategy.

Keidra Chaney, Social Media Strategist

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