11 Comments

Social Media in Canadian Universities

Choosing my topic for my #SMRTCCE class research proposal has been overwhelming. Perhaps you know what I mean. Have you ever decided to research something (anything!) to do with social media and realized it is a monumental, all-encompassing topic?

There is no end to the long list of  ‘experts‘ who will tell you exactly what THEY think is strategic use of social media in communications and public relations. I will not claim to be so omniscient.
A collage of McMaster Engineering images from Imagine Your Future
I searched my heart and mind to find a market sector of interest and a company or organization to settle upon for analysis of the impact social media has had on the area. I live and breathe music, but taking on the impact of social media in the music industry as a topic is a veritable megalith. Am I interested in health and wellness, specifically natural or organic foods? Yes, but this didn’t pique my interest enough.

Just counting ‘likes’ doesn’t ‘cut it’

What do I know well that would be a great area to review? It seems the answer was presented to me this week at two events I attended.

First was the #CPRSHamilton Social Media ROI expert panel discussion organized by #McMaster faculty member @alexsevigny. Guest speakers @dave_scholz ,Andrew Laing, and @d_bourne discussed the challenges and opportunities with measuring reputation and engagement using social media tools as well as traditional survey methods. Just counting ‘likes’ doesn’t ‘cut it’. We still have to find where our specific, target audience is and meet them there. Measuring hits or likes is quantitative and looks at outputs but we really need to consider campaign outcomes.

This information is extremely useful in my role at McMaster University where I work for the Faculty of Engineering in outreach and enrolment. My area, much like many offices across the whole University, is building a framework of social media channels to communicate and connect with prospective undergraduate students. While creating our online presence, we must consider our impact on the university’s brand and reputation as a whole. In such a large institution, it’s a challenge to avoid creating a fragmented online representation. Each department or area is completely capable of jumping on to the ‘information highway’ and creating a login or identity in minutes. Whether or not there is a consistent brand, key messaging or even a capable communicator who understands that social media is a CONVERSATION not a pulpit from which to push your message to the masses ~ makes all the difference.Engineering students on campus enjoying some conversation time.

How do I get them to listen?

Then today, I attended a McMaster Brand Café 2012 meeting. A brilliant conceptual event hosted by the Office of Public Relations and the Integrated Marketing committee. Over 80 staff and faculty from across the University (or so I was told) gathered in the Lyons New Media Centre in Mills Library. (What an AMAZING facility for students!) We had a group presentation then moved to break-out sessions to discuss best practices for using social media, the ideal print/web mix, and tips for strong writing and photography which captures the McMaster brand. Although I am quite familiar with the topics (having previously worked as PR Coordinator in that office), I was still able to glean some great tips. The meeting is a good idea, and should be repeated at least once per year.

However…..more than just a few tips here and there stood out this week as I looked at various articles and attended these events. What really stood out to me, is that participants in the audiences at these two events and online writers all seem to have the same question, no matter how it is phrased: “How do I get them to listen?”

Hmm. That’s where the barricade stands. If you don’t see social media as a channel or tool to help you connect and communicate with others in a two-way model, then you are not ‘clued in’ and not really understanding what engagement means. You will fall short of your organizational goals if your strategy is to ‘make people listen‘.

Light bulb! My topic: Social Media in Canadian Universities and specifically McMaster University. There are many, many things we are doing ‘right’ here at Mac through social media outreach, but I’m sure I can find some ways to improve our strategies and help the University evolve with the ever changing, ever challenging landscape of online communities.

Onward with my journey!

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11 comments on “Social Media in Canadian Universities

  1. It’s a tough demographic to engage. University can be seen as a revolving door for admissions and engaging students is endless, therefore. With students always on the go, I’m sure social media is valuable to them in some way, but then I guess that’s also the challenge. You must have access to the policies already in place at Mac and, maybe with your influence, you’ll be able to conduct some more informal research with those newbies.

    Great topic, Deborah. I know you’ll approach it with intrigue and thoughtfulness. Surely it’ll help you at work too!

  2. Great post Deborah!

    Have you taken a look at the social media guidelines for McMaster yet? There’s a link to them on this page.

  3. Great article Deborah! Considering your position at the University, this sounds like a very relevant topic for you.

  4. @autoblot Yes, I’m aware of those guidelines and actually have thoughts for my SWOT on that micro-site. Will post shortly.

  5. […] the Brand Café meeting was intended to create awareness and encourage solidarity in our approach to representing […]

  6. […] the Brand Café meeting was intended to create awareness and encourage solidarity in our approach to representing […]

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