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TAMU Webmaster's Blog


Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Social Media and Web 2.0

March 11th, 2009 by Erick Beck

As many of you have probably noticed, we have updated the front page of www.tamu.edu with several social media buttons. This is just the first you will see in a long line of strategic shifts toward using these tools to get out the message of the university. We are dedicated to these technologies because, honestly, they are where prospective students reside.

So what then is Web 2.0? As collected from innumerable conferences and blogs:

  • The glib might say: “Anything new,” “anything cool and shiny,” “anything marketing wants to sell,” “anything the owner wants Yahoo or Google to buy from them.”
  • It is not, however, about design style or slick interface.
  • It is not the hip cool applications like Twitter, You-Tube, MySpace, or Facebook.
  • It 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 a conversation.
  • I.E., it is marketing term for Social Media

In reality it can be broken down to a few basic concepts:

  1. It promotes and revolves around interaction. The user is integrally involved in the process.
  2. Openness – it is honest and does not try to force its own ideas/spin upon viewers
  3. Rich interfaces – content aggregation and instantaneous feedback to viewers require advanced interfaces and the use of modern technologies through web standards (RSS, AJAX, iCal, etc.)
  4. New Digital Interactions – today’s web viewers do not want to go to a site and simply read pre-canned content. They want to be able to share their views (comments, polls, “share this with a friend,” etc.) and interact with others.

A few observations:

  • The static personal website of yesterday corresponds to the personal blog of today. The old website could be just as snazzy in its design, but it was basically a one-way communication vehicle through a single medium (your URL.) The blog, however, is interactive – it invites comments and commentary, is much more free-flowing than the old web site, and touches on several technologies to both aggregate and publish content (tags, RSS data input feeds, outward syndication, calendar feeds, web apps to other services, etc.) This brings us full circle to the motto of the print industry… “content is king.”
  • In today’s interconnected online world the key is not that we all have a voice, but that we can all be listened to. Companies and large organizations actually listening to an individual voice is a new concept; but it has already shifted the balance such that people are more willing to go to and trust blogs than they are corporate (and by extension university) web sites.
  • When today’s internet users go to a site they want to feel a connection, to “see the footprints of users who have been there before.” A classic example is the product ratings and reviews at amazon.com. Because people can identify with the reviewer, they tend to give these sites more credibility than the vendor site itself.
  • Say “No!” to Web 2.0 when it isn’t needed. Don’t utilize the various social media technologies just to appear trendy. They take a lot of work and must be kept current, so if you use them you need to dedicate yourself to them. Stale or misused technology is a bigger turn-off than not using it at all. Design appropriately to your content and context.
  • Work with your brand. Don’t throw it away simply for the sake of creativity. You can still be creative within the boundaries of the brand guidelines

Profile of today’s Web 2.0 users:

  1. They expect to be able to give and receive instantaneous feedback
  2. They want to personalize and create
  3. They expect active and complex collaboration with peer-to-peer interaction
  4. They desire instant, prolific, and overlapping channels of communication
  5. They have a “hypertext mind.” This has often been labeled as short attention spans, but is actually a new way of thinking – the ability to randomly access content rather than thinking in linear, sequential format.

Current students, faculty, and the administration are no longer your target audiences, it must be the prospect student. When they begin looking for a school to attend they will look for as much information as they can find — and very often not through “traditional” channels — and will share that information among one another via social media.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 Social Media
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