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Social Media at the University Level

December 11th, 2008 by Erick Beck

I earlier mentioned that the Marketing office wants to move the university firmly into the realm of social media in the upcoming year.  That’s all good and well, but exactly what do we mean by social media and what can we do about it?

The glib might say that social media is “anything new,” “anything cool and shiny,” “anything marketing wants to sell,” or “anything the owner wants Yahoo or Google to buy.” The reality is not, however, about design style or slick interface. It is not the hip, cool applications like Twitter, You-Tube, MySpace, or Facebook. Those are only tools.

Social media, or Web 2.0 if you prefer, is instead about the release, sharing, and use of data. It is collaboration and the accumulation of content from various sources to be republished primarily through the medium of web services (i.e. using web technology to gather content from many separate information sources and republishing it through one or more web avenues – web pages, RSS feeds, etc.)  It is a two-way communication where the user participates in the conversation.

This is what we want to do in our social media strategy — engage prospective students and their parents in a dialog and show them why Texas A&M University is the right choice for them — if indeed it actually is.  In order to accomplish this we must make this path a truly integrated approach.  We cannot simply broadcast announcements via Twitter, post a splash page on Facebook, and call our job done. That isn’t listening to our audience, that is just doing business the same ol’ way with a different set of tools. It is taking a new technology and adapting it to our previous mode of thinking rather than adapting our way of thinking to the technologies used by our primary audience.

In order to be effective we must also incorporate the basic precepts of social media into our university, departmental, and office web pages.  We have to build the tools in such a way that information exchange is possible and data sharing replaces proprietary ownership by individual offices as the norm. We have to find a way not only of telling them what we want them to hear, but of ourselves listening to what they have to say.

Thursday, December 11th, 2008 Future Projects, Social Media
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