You Don’t Have to Use it Yet; Just Be Open to Social Media

I was at the Social Media Club – Boston event last night where the topic of conversation was “Change dot Gov”.  The panel included Brad Blake, the Director of New Media Strategy for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Matt Viser, a political reporter for the Globe, Brian Reich, a consultant, author, blogger and State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.

While listening to the panel, I was struck by how similar the rhetoric used by State Senator  Jennifer Flanagan was to some of the admissions offices I talk to.  Senator Flanagan, while having a constituency that includes an older demographic argued that she receives enough e-mails, talks to enough people while out and about in her community and through the use of her website and blog views Social Media as yet another tool that requires too much time without providing enough benefit for her constituents.

I think her argument can transition well into the international student recruiting space.  Like Senator Flanagan some of our offices may be concentrating our recruiting efforts in countries where students don’t have the same kind of access to the internet or high bandwidth as the developed nations.  This means we don’t need to start using certain tools of social media  just yet because let’s face it, we will be wasting our time.  However this barrier to using social media by developing nations will soon be knocked down.

So how should this affect the way our offices embrace social media?  We need to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. Our prospective students are only becoming more knowledgeable digital natives meaning they have grown up using all this great Internet technology, especially web 2.0 technology.   While next year and the year after prospective students may not require you to engage them exclusively through social media there will come a time where that will be the only way to effectively recruit.

Twitter for example may in fact be the worst tool to recruit international students right now but as it’s global popularity grows, agents in developing nations will begin to pick it up, potential university partners will pick it up, prospective students and so on.  So jump on Twitter and get used to how it works.  Understand how it can be used as a viral tool.  Understand how you can meet new people and develop relationships using it.

My recommendation to admissions offices is not to worry too much about using all the tools right now but to keep up with what’s out there and more importantly how these tools work!

Photo by David Ohmer

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2 responses to “You Don’t Have to Use it Yet; Just Be Open to Social Media

  1. Nailed it. Most communication mediums are not necessarily going to be successful immediately. The key is being there when the foundation is being built and you can become an essential part of that community. Always be experimenting with and exploring new methods of communication: more often then not you will find one that matches up with your demo.

    The most interesting thing that I took away from this talk was the lack of understanding about scalability from the Senator. Brian and Brad are clearly in the space and understand the need for different forms of communication and experimenting with new ways in which to reach voters and the need for scalability. You are never going to have a direct pipeline to the government…it’s to complex.

    However, I don’t think that we should be celebrating the accomplishment of putting up a facebook page. A real effort needs to be made to reach out and ask people for their input: what mode works best for you?

  2. Stu, great points!

    Brad had another comment that I found really interesting. He said that the commonwealth was creating all of these blogs and publicizing opportunities to interact at town hall meeting with the governor, but no one was reading the content being produced and no one was showing up to the governor’s meet and greets.

    I know Brad is on top of his game but it make me wonder if they are employing the use of social media to publicize their content effectively.

    While creating content through the use of social media is important that is only half of the game. The other half is to get people to come and interact with the content created.

    So as you said at the end of your comment ‘what mode works best for you?’ is a great question to ask when determining if the content one is creating is truly effective. While creating a facebook page with important, valuable content is great, are the modes in which one is publicizing that content working effectively?

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