Campus Overload Live with Jenna Johnson: College social media

Jan 20, 2011

Many colleges and universities are starting to use social media to reach students, parents, alums, faculty, sports fans, journalists and everyone else. There are Twitter feeds dispersing campus news, Facebook pages uniting incoming students, FourSquare campus tours, wanna-be viral videos and a host of other networking initiatives.

But is it worth the time and effort? What works and what doesn't work? Do students really want to connect with their school online? What can colleges learn from the social media endeavors of campus publications? What are the next innovative ideas out there? And how do you measure success?

Here to help me answer all of your college social media questions are three guest chatters: Marc Parry, who writes about technology for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Patrick Powers of Webster University in St. Louis, and Menachem Wecker, a writer and tweeter for George Washington University's online daily news service GW Today.

Campus Overload's Jenna Johnson chronicles national college news, drinking fads, admissions buzz and the latest exploits of interns on her blog each day. In her live chat, she answers your questions about life on campus -- and life off campus, too.

Hello -- and Happy National Coffee Break Day!

I'm looking forward to today's chat. We have an all-star cast of guest chatters today to talk about college social media: Marc Parry, who writes about technology for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Patrick Powers of Webster University in St. Louis, and Menachem Wecker, a writer and tweeter for George Washington University's online daily news service GW Today.

But let's get to your questions!

Hi, everyone. I’m a technology reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education. We’ve been watching social media seep into every aspect of the academy: teaching, outreach, research, professional development, publishing, campus tours, student life. There’s huge potential. There have also been some notable gaffes, like the Dartmouth professor who mistakenly left her Facebook profile public while labeling herself a fraud and her colleagues blowhards, or the speaker who was viciously abused--“tweckled”--on the Twitter back-channel during a conference of higher-ed web experts. I’m happy to be here, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions about any of these issues.

I'm really excited to be here. I've consistently joined every social media platform I currently use after initially mocking my wife for being an early adopter ("Remind me why you want to tell the world what you are having for lunch?"). I'm trying to learn from those mistakes, and have seen platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn (and Facebook to a degree) revolutionize just about every aspect of my job at GW and as a journalist. I'm looking forward to this chat particularly since some of the people whose online work I admire the most are my colleagues for the hour!

Greetings from the Gateway to the West. Patrick Powers here from Webster University. I’m logged in at our home campus in the suburbs of St. Louis, Mo., a quiet place to be since snow canceled classes today.

Most of my work here at Webster revolves around social media — monitoring our brand, creating social content and developing new ways to market this great university. Outside of the office, I blog about social media and higher education at

So let’s talk about colleges and how they use social media. I’m excited to get started!

Will I be able to register for classes on my phone one day? On facebook?

I'm channelling my editor, Josh Fischman, who just edited a story on colleges and mobile devices. He says that colleges as a group are generally behind the rest of the world when it comes to mobile apps. Few colleges will actually let you register using a mobile device at the moment, but more colleges are getting interested in doing it as they realize that 50% of college students use mobile devices to access the internet. Blackboard Mobile, part of the educational-technology company, is developing a suite of applications that colleges can buy for this kind of student service. And there is an open-source consortium, led by MIT, that is doing the same thing. You can try using a web browser from your phone, but many students find that the college portal is difficult to navigate this way. 

I will pull a fast one on this and say, I certainly hope so! (Though who is to say that by the time schools come around to setting this up that Facebook, which Marc notes could be a while, will still be the tool everyone is using?)

Many colleges have small marketing-communication staffs. Given limited resources, what are the top three things a small campus should be doing with social media?

Even if you have a small marketing staff, there are probably many others in your college community who are active on social media. One thing you might try is setting up a tool that aggregates all of the social media conversation about your institution. North Carolina State University and Bates College have both done a nice job with that kind of aggregation, which you can read about in this blog post.


  1. It takes virtually no time to set up a Twitter handle and to use something like Tweetdeck or HootSuite to monitor your brand. Even if you do no tweeting at all, it's important to do some listening. I'd say that is far more important than using a tool like Facebook that has comparatively worse search capacities. 
  2. Set up a Flickr page and allow your community to submit pictures. It's a great way to build an archive of photos to use (with permission of course!), and I'm guessing a small campus means a small photography staff.
  3. Talk to your students and find out what they are using. I started using Twitter for work, because GW students were using Twitter en masse. I'd say find out where your students are hanging out online and meet them there!

If you have a small marketing-communication staff and want to get involved in social media, I suggest you start with one thing (instead of three) and focus your efforts on doing that one thing really well.

Too often I see colleges and university jump on board with half a dozen social media sites just to announce their presence. This might work if you have the staffing to keep pace, but most don't. 

What would you rather have: mediocre Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, YouTube, and Vimeo accounts or one totally awesome Facebook account? I'd argue for the one awesome Facebook account ... with 500 million users it's the best place to allocate resources right now.

Do you have suggestions for foolproof ways to attract and engage current students to your Facebook page? Or, is it true that current students typically do not want to engage with their universities on Facebook?

I don't know if it's foolproof, but one direction some colleges are going is hiring companies to develop private Facebook applications for current students. Sort of a virtual student union. One company I know of that does this is Inigral, whose clients include Arizona State University. They've found that students don't really want to engage with course content on Facebook, but they do want to use it for social stuff within the college community, like finding classmates with the same major or seeing if anyone has an extra ticket to a concert.

What are some of the best practices colleges/universities are using to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns?

I think the great thing about social media is that people vote with their (computer) mice. If your campaign is successful, you are hearing about it. I know I've done something right when I hear from colleagues who asked prospective students why they decided to visit campus, and the students say they had a great interaction with the univeristy on Twitter.

There are several great free services out there than can provide a benchmark for the effectiveness of social media efforts: Klout, TwitterGrader, Sprout Social, to name a few.

However, the best measurements I've found have been aligned with particular university goals. If the goal of your Twitter account is to increase the number of applications, the measurement is the number of applications. Using such tools as Google Analytics can help make these numbers clear.

If teenagers are communicating mostly via text messaging and facebook, how does this change how colleges recruit students? Or communicate important messages to current students?

In the end, the best way to recruit a student remains building a personal connection. Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, these are all tools colleges and universities can use to make that connection stronger. If a student prefers to use Facebook as his/her main means of communication, colleges and universities need to be able to accept that fact and meet them where they are.

Hi Jenna, Do you have an idea of what percentage of colleges are using social media to provide admission decisions? Do you think this is a good trend? Why or why not? Thanks, Ryan

I don't know of any college that does this -- anyone out there have an example?

I can't imagine being a high school senior and suddenly getting a tweet that says, "OMG, congrats. UR accepted. Send us deposit." Or a Facebook post from an admissions officer? That's just making the confidential admissions process way too public.

But, with that said, lots of colleges are using e-mail and Web sites to notify students immediately of admissions decisions. No more waiting by the mailbox.

A write- in from a reader: "BU does --> &"

A note from Twitter - these are not actual decisions but rather just info on admissions.

Are collegiate Twitter accounts simply a digital extension of traditional media (e.g., newsletters, mass mailings, listserves), or do they require a uniquely different, interactive approach to bidirectional engagement? Who does this well? How can schools improve?

I think the general properties and best practices of communications apply generally. Collegiate Twitter accounts are a digital extension of traditional media (with worse grammar and punctuation perhaps), but there is also a very important difference. You get almost instantaneous feedback on social media handles. You don't get that in "traditional media."

Twitter, in my opinion, is unlike traditional media in that it demands more from its users. There is an understanding among avid Twitter users that the service is not only a broadcast tool, but a conversation tool. If an institution isn't prepared to engage in that conversation, they should rethink the idea that they need to be on Twitter.

I taught journalism for three years @ a large state univ. in the south. Even among that media-aware cohort, I was stunned to see the level of over-sharing of news, photos and video. To be blunt: I hired new professionals for years (and then taught for this same pipeline) - there is No. Freaking. Way. I would hire someone with a 'gone wild' or beer bong video online. Why is this message so hard to convey??

I think it's hard to convey, because folks' online practices mirror their offline practices. We just don't hear every person screaming ridiculous things on a street corner, because it's not search engine optimized!

Even though there has been so much publicity about Facebook privacy settings, students still don't realize that if a small group of people can see something -- there's a chance that the whole world could get a peek. I always tell students not to post anything they wouldn't want their mom (or grandma) to see.

Today, I have reporting fellow Breann Schossow shadowing me. She's a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and says some of her friends post keg stand or beer bong photos because they are proud of such feats -- they think that lifestyle can stay in college and not follow them into the real world. Some of her friends create an entire new Facebook and social media identity after graduation. (She adds that it's a "very silly mentality to have.")

Does Facebook, Twitter have an age gap? Do the technologies cap off at age 45 for use? And, within the range of recent grad to alumni who has been out for 20 years, can we use the same methods on FB and Twitter to reach each group? Would having recent and older alumni content make more sense?

There may be an age gap between Twitter and Facebook, but I don't necessarily see it. While our marketing efforts are geared toward students, one of our largest audience segments is parents. More than 9 percent of the active users on our Facebook page are over 45 years old.

There are many tools that tell you about repostings, reach, etc. but how do you tie this into your marketing measurement?

It all comes back to your goals. If your goal is to max out the number of retweets you can get (and I'm not advising that it should be), measuring the number of retweets is an important measurement to take. More importantly, good measures should reflect good marketing goals.

Both in terms of admissions efforts and as a value-added service for current students, do collegiate Twitter accounts really move the needle?

Depends on what needle are you talking about? Do Twitter accounts raise brand awareness? Certainly. Do they provide an opportunity for better customer service? I believe so. Do they drive people in droves to apply to your institution? I have yet to see a Twitter account that can accomplish that.

What tools are colleges using successfully to monitor and respond real-time to what's being said in various social media channels?

I know for me, as a reporter, I use HootSuite to monitor everything on Twitter -- my first column is my regular feed, second column is tweets mentioning @wpjenna, third column is a list of DC-area colleges and student newspapers, fourth column is something fun (like any tweets mentioning "interns" or "finals"). It works well for me and could easily be tailored to whatever you need to track.

I'm a college prof, and was wondering if there is any benefit to using social media as part of a science class, at any level? My guess is that it wouldn't result in any real learning, but I'm curious what your guess think.

Some professors have tried welcoming Twitter backchannel discussions into the lecture hall. Here's a story that describes an app that Purdue built to facilitate this. One recent study found that tweeting students earned higher grades than their nontweeting peers. You might also check out Brian Croxall's ProfHacker blog post reflecting on teaching with social media. And here's a very skeptical take on teaching with technology from author Nick Carr. 

As colleges and universities, what tools and platforms should we keep an eye on for 2011?

I think Facebook will continue to change and evolve and it will be important to keep pace in this regard. However, the best new service I've seen is Quora. I think it will be a while before higher education finds the best way to market effectively through it, but I think they service it provides is a natural fit for higher ed.

I'm actually a bit surprised Tumblr isn't making more of a scholarly splash. If you have any doubt about Tumblr's creative abilities, check out TBD's amazing Tumblr on suspcious packages.

Oh, I meant to mention in my intro that I am chatting live from the campus of Catholic University in D.C. Later this afternoon I am sitting in on a class taught by new President John Garvey. (Any CUA students out there? Stop by the Pryz and say hello!)

How should one guard against "Brand Hijacking" in the realm of social media?

I imagine by brand hijacking you mean that there is an "unofficial" handle that masquerades as an "official" one. I'd say in general that the overall tone of social media is one of collaboration and conversation, so I'd be careful about worrying about rogue handles. If someone is issuing comments posing as a univeristiy or college employee, that's a problem that needs to be fixed. If the incoming freshman class already has a "Never Never Land U Class of 2015" Facebook group, why not relax and thing how profound it is that students are identifying with your brand before even arriving on campus! And rest assured, no one will confuse that group with your official NNLU page.

There are three ways to best guard against "brand hijacking:" Monitor regularly, move with purpose and know your options.

If you're going to have an institutional account on any social media channel, you must monitor what's being said. Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Twitter search, and Google Reader can call be effective tools to help this happen. You also must be able to foresee potential pitfalls, i.e. FacebookGate2015, and act with purpose to beat potential hijackers to the punch. Also, you must know your options should something bad happen. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., all have reporting structures that users can tap into to report bad behavior.

What role if any do professors play in your social media strategy?

I know this is unrealistic, but I think every professor should have a blog. I help David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso and a professor, with his blog. When he interviews with a reporter, one sentence might make it into the story, but we will post the 1,000-word transcript. He shares his research, publications and speaking engagements. I think that's a great way professors can take a part in this. (For some other faculty blogs at GW, check out AnthropologyWorks, From Under the Fig Tree, Abu Aardvark and Crooked Timber).

I think professors play the same role as students, staff and alumni. They can be incredible brand advocates for an institution.

I like the aforementioned idea of every professor having a blog, but also realize the impracticality of such a suggestion. Instead, I believe it important for any social media specialist to education and train faculty on the benefits social media could provide — in the classroom, for the institution, for research in a field of study. A professor who openly embraces social media can be a powerful storyteller on your behalf.

Have any institutions sucessfully implemented a way to measure the success and value of their social media efforts? Those of us who do it may intuitively know the value, but we are asked to justify the time spent on the effort to our number-driven administrators, who may not be skilled in or knowledgeable about social media.

When I put this question out on Twitter, this was the first answer I got: Social media "is social/personal, you cannot measure ROI in human investments. It's like saying what's the ROI on having blond hair."

The editor of also responded that she is tracking web analytics and providing resources to the higher ed community. Here's a link she shared.

Maybe try using this line? "It's professional development, prophecy, forecasting, networking, institutional research and being a good neighbor all at once."

Give me some success stories - what's a college that has done extremely well responding to student concerns via facebook? On the other hand, are there horror stories of college social media efforts gone awry? How do colleges that are accustomed to one-way communication figure out the world of social media?

I highlighted a number of colleges and universities that impressed me with social media campaigns in the last year over at my blog. There is some tremendous work coming out of colleges and universities.

I don't highlight many horror stories coming from colleges and universities, but if you Google Nestle and "No logo" or Cook Source magazine you'll be sure to find a few examples from outside of education.

For all, how do you balance the "PR" aspect of your job with a dual mission of providing accurate and honest information for students? Put differently, as social media has gained prominence and administrative heads begun recognizing the inherent audience, has there been an erosion of transparency or candor?

Yikes. I'm going to have to transparent about being careful about answering this one. I don't think one can debate that reporters covering higher education can often reveal more (though there is a "thus far, and no further!" point) about their parent institution than higher education officials. I think everyone gets that, and there's no reason to dance around that point. I think the key is to be as transparent and accurate and authentic as possible. There's a bit of a give-and-take, and I think this is something a lot of higher education folks are still trying to figure out how to balance. I know I am!

Do you think non-traditional aged students *want* to be engaged through social media with their colleges and universities? We have some tools set up (FB, Twitter, YouTube) but are finding that busy, working adult students have little time left over for the online space. Thoughts?

The students that I know what real, genuine experiences and interactions. They want social media with a purpose -- so, honestly, most students care much more about a snow day announcement than a press release about a massive donation. And if you annoy them with too many things they don't want to read, they will drop you.

It's tough to have one social media account that hits lots of different audiences, which is why you see a lot of colleges having each department or student group set up its own Facebook or Twitter account.

Seems to me that Twitter would be a great way to inform reporters, bloggers, etc. of trends, issues,events happening on campus. Any success stories? Caveats?

I think Jenna is the perfect example of what you are describing. Jenna, you take pitches via Twitter, right?

I really encourage people to contact reporters this way. When I travel to conferences and other events for work, I often put out a call on Twitter, asking for recommendations of people in the area to speak with for possible stories. One example: During a trip to New Orleans, a Twitter friend pointed me to a community college source who gave me the idea for this story about technology killing the academic calendar. I would never have known about the community college program at the heart of that story without finding the person via Twitter.

Any suggestions to create buzz for an online campus?

Yikes! This question worries me as much as it's cousin, "Any suggestions for finding real, brick-and-mortar property for our offline campus?" I'd hope creating buzz was part of the school's marketing plan!

How useful is Foursquare for colleges?

I thought it would deliver us to the (GPS-optimized) promised land, but after trying Foursquare for a while, I had to be honest with myself and drop it. My colleagues may have better ideas, but I couldn't find a way to justify all those check-ins and mayorships.

If you're looking for an interesting use of Foursquare on a university campus, be sure to look up Marquette University. The school built a branded presence on the location-based service, produced a video promoting it, and racked up more than 3,500 followers along the way. It also gave a nice shout-out to all its mayors in its alumni magazine.

Certainly, that is your option, but many people, young and old, are navigating the threshold for oversharing, etc. As technology continues to make so much of our lives available for public consumption, I worry that there will be no room for empathy and forgiveness for the new generations. Young people have done stupid things forever, but this lack of compassion and selective amnesia by older folks is bothersome. The be forever barred for stupid decision like getting drunk made as a young adult is overly harsh. The only difference between back then and now is the number of people who could witness your mistakes.

Totally -- let's not forget that college is a time of personal growth and maturity, not just academic growth. It used to be that a student could get into a drunken disaster, learn from the experience and go on to live a normal life. Today, one embarrassing college newspaper article can haunt a student on Google for the rest of time.

Are there ways students can be engaged to become brand advocates or is that simply a process that happens organically (or not at all)? Any good examples or best practices regarding students being involved in content creation and actually reaching out to their peers on behalf of schools?

I remember reading about a study a while back about teaching monkeys to paint. The monkeys loved painting until they were given bananas as a reward. Sure enough, they started making a single stroke and then demanding the loot. Make a long story short, I think students are your best advocates (and critics, which is important too!) when they are allowed to be authentic. Would you want to sacrifice that by asking them to get approval for their Facebook updates, tweets and blog posts?

That said, if your campus is anything like GW, you've got troves of super smart, digitally wise studetns who will be happy to be involved.

I agree. Students tell the most compelling stories and are some of the strongest brand advocates. 

When using Facebook and the like, should it be limited to the college/university or should it be two way. I'm afraid if we allow students to post and they had a bad experience, let's say, with an instructor, that can hurt us. What do you all think?

Effective use of social media is always going to be a two-way street. Knowing this, you need a plan.

In order to effectively manage a social media account on behalf of an institution, the person managing that account needs to be certain how and when to reply should something go awry. Operating without a plan is an invitation for disaster.

It's easy to say you'll delete comments that are hateful, racist or threaten the safety of another person. But what about the gray areas. Sometimes you have to be willing to relinquish control to the users.

Are Twitter and Facebook possible tools to reach media with ideas for faculty experts to interview on trending topics. Do you sense that reporters are using social media to look for stories. What suggestions do you have for using social media to share research and expert commentary?

It depends -- some reporters are on Twitter, a lot are not on Twitter. I get tons and tons and tons of story pitches everyday via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and phone.

No matter what the vehicle, the best pitches are those that are tailored for me -- you can tell that the person has actually read your work and knows your general fields of interest. (And you wouldn't believe how many pitches I get addressed to Melissa or Jennifer or Samantha. )

With that said, I have developed a lot of professional relationships with university spokespeople, students, admissions officials and others on Twitter that probably wouldn't have happened as easily off-line.

At a large university, folks tend to go off on their own sometimes, creating their own Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc. Do you think it's a better idea to have a single centralized account that MarCom has oversight on (to ensure brand appropriateness, messaging, etc.), or is it better to allow departments and centers to maintain their own feeds? (And if you distribute it out to the departments, what kind of oversight is appropriate?)

It's unrealistic at a large college or university, or even a small one, to think people won't create their own Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc. The best way to combat brand dilution and ensure consistency of message is education.

The marketing/communications staff has an obligation to train those throughout the university community in best practices when it comes to social media. It's hard to relinquish this control, for sure, but I've found a little training goes a long way in fostering a better brand advocate online.

Menachem, is there a strategy for building a successful twitter handle? If so, what are some of the ways to gain recognition in a crowded field?

Thanks for a great question! I imagine there are quite a few strategies for creating and maintaining successful handles. Of course, it is important to manage expectations and define what we mean by “successful.” I would caution against being seduced by the unfortunate trend of increasingly more Twitter “experts” measuring success as a function of multitude of followers or retweets. I’d take one important and relevant follower over 1,000 haphazard followers, who treat following like a tit-for-tat game, any day.

I also think Twitter is built for conversation, so being conversational and authentic is always a great strategy. I like to think of Twitter as replicating regular offline communication, and there ought to be a Hippocratic Oath of social media: primarily, do no communicative harm. That means don’t use your Twitter handle to talk endlessly and continuously about yourself and how wonderful you are; nobody likes that person at the bar or cocktail party who doesn’t know how to listen. Authentic is also key. I know of very few people who are dying to befriend institutions.

When employees can offer a personal touch and humanize their places of employment, I think that adds a lot of value. A quick example. As a displaced Bostonian, I happen to write the @GWToday handle from the perspective of a Patriots (condolences to my fellow expats – pun intended), Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins fan. This is not because George Washington was a Boston sports fan, and to the best of my knowledge, GW doesn’t officially support any professional teams (though there is a strong Red Sox connection among certain senior staff, as I reported here.

I do it, because I think the right social media blend is not 100 percent serious business. It’s good to mix up high brow and pop culture, hard and soft pitches. That’s the way to gain recognition in the crowded field, I think. Best to be yourself (you ought to be able to wipe the floor with the competition in that regard!), and be patient.

Not to channel “the last shall be first, and the first last” inappropriately, but I think those who persist in taking the right social media steps will triumph in the long run. Those who sacrifice content by chasing after immediate rewards are likely to dilute their content (which is the bread and butter of all communications) to such an extent that at best they will be gaining tremendous publicity for content whose limit approaches nothing at all.

I'm part of a team working the newsroom Twitter feed for the systemwide office of our multicampus university. Have built a solid following just as a news feed; how might we broaden the conversation beyond just steering people to our stories?

I think "conversation" is the key. People who represent their institutions are more interesting on Twitter when they join the discussion, and interact with readers, and add some personal voice. Jenna recently pointed to an admissions person who seems to do this well: Daniel Creasy at Johns Hopkins.

Reach out to people. On Twitter, the "@" symbol is one of the most powerful tools out there. Social media thrives on the conversation, why not start one? If someone is going to engage an audience on Twitter, I suggest at least half of their tweets should be directed at individuals and start with "@."

Oftentimes students can tell when college admins aren't running their own Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. If these admins aren't directly--and personally--engaging students and university community members, should they even bother?

Yup, it's pretty easy to tell when an assistant or intern (or worse, automated robot) is running someone's social media accounts. It's meant to be social and personal. If it's not, it's probably a waste of time.

I'm a big fan of University of California President Mark G. Yudof's twitter feed -- @mark_yudof.

Hiya. I'm assuming schools are putting out vastly more info now than in the past, since we have these mediums for quick-fire, no-cost dissemination. Assuming that's the case, has the quality remained the same -- that is, is it still largely useful? Or do you find it's becoming diluted?

The information digested through social media is different, but I still believe it to be largely useful. It was common practice years ago for colleges and universities to spend thousands of dollars on thick viewbooks that aimed to present an honest portrayal of life on campus. Today, that same message is being portrayed, only 140 characters at a time. Some may say the information is even better since it is more immediate, more transparent and more authentic.

Is it the end of the line for Admissions blogs as a marketing tool? All the kids today seem to want to hang in Facebook. Do college-bound senior bother to read these things anymore?

Students do, and blogs show up in Google (if you've built them right). I'd say don't write the obit yet!

What are your thought on who should "own" social media (if anyone)? Where should it report?

We all do. I know Wiki platforms for university sites are not on the horizon, but I'd welcome them. I think in social media-ville, there are curators, but no owners.

Do colleges typically hire a full time person to handle social media?

More and more are doing it, but still definitely not a trend with any momentum, in my estimation.

I understand the marketing aspect of the colleges, but what about using it in the classroom i.e. hashtags for classes, OpenStudy, Grade Guru etc. What are some of the best examples you've seen?

Some people are doing really interesting work using social media to help open their courses to the outside world, rather than just enrolled students. Professors are using Twitter and other technology to get folks involved who have taken a class before, or who are working in fields being studied by a current class. These people can be mentors for current students. The people highlighted in this article about "open teaching" are doing good stuff along those lines.

One of my favorite videos on YouTube features Bill Genereux  from Kansas State University in Salina and tackles YouTube in the classroom. Check it out.

In a cash strapped economy is it wise for a smaller private or public college to try and compete by allocating limited development/admission staff to social media upkeep? How can they compete against a GWU or University of MD or Virginia Tech? Are the little guys out of this club?

Great question! Good thing social media is free though. All you need is a personality, and little bit of creativity. Also, surviving on little sleep helps in the 24/7 news cycle.

Aren't people concerned that engaging too much in social media will give students an unrealistic expectation for immediate gratification?

I was talking with a University of Nebraska student over the holiday break who told me that she uses Twitter to resolve her banking issues with Wells Fargo, because it's the quickest way they respond. Students are smart -- if you give them the tools, they will use them.

Perhaps that does feed into unrealistic expectations. But, at the same time, don't colleges want to help their tuition-paying students??


I've noticed certain post-grad candidates (MBAs mostly) have iPads or similar tablets, but what about other fields - don't we need them too? Those medical textbooks are HEAVY! Online chats with your committee are critical ...

There was a great chat about textbooks on this same forum. Did you see it?

I think there must be some great opportunities on the Facebook Discussion tab, but honestly, I haven't seen any business, university, political candidate or other entity make decent use of the tab. Do you have any examples of schools that have done so? And what have their discussion topics covered?

I actually haven't seen any successful Facebook discussions myself -- although I am sure they exist. Actually, one of my New Years resolutions is to try it out on my Campus Overload fan page. Would love hints and suggestions!

I've heard "like" conversions increase dramatically with a welcome/intro tab. Since developing a tab requires knowledge of FBML, how are budget and staff-strapped colleges developing those? Are there automated tools out there?

There are a few automated tools out there, but I'm not a big fan of paying for something that really isn't too difficult. FBML isn't as scary as you may think. If you know the basics of HTML or XHTML, tacking FBML isn't too tough.

I created the FBML tab for Webster University using only the tools provided from the Facebook developers toolkit and the results have been outstanding.

How are Facebook groups more beneficial than "fanpages?"

Fan pages spit out analytics for you, which is nice. For that reason, I'd recommend that over a group.

Facebook groups are more beneficial when you have a more intimate collection of users that don't need the promotion and marketing tools available to pages. Features in the new Facebook groups allow for better document sharing and better group chat options, among other things.

From a student perspective, how many Facebook pages/groups belonging to departments within one university are too many? Is it important for a university to consolidate FB pages rather than risk confusing and/or alienating students with too much?

Trying to clamp down on this sounds to me like herding digital cats. Better to curate a bibliography page of the effective and relevant ones, and the more you have to sift through and choose from the better. I'd spend time callibrating your searches well so they get you the good information. You can ignore the bad.

In terms of what's too much for students, my guess is they are used to sifting through reams and reams of information. I'm not so worried about there being too much for them!

What institutions do you think are using social media successfully and effectively as part of their proactive public relations and communications strategy?

I like the Twitter feed run by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. They don't just tout their own activities. They highlight other people's interesting material as well. 

Wow! So, so many questions -- thank you to everyone who joined. And a very special thanks to guest chatters Menachem, Marc and Patrick!

You can find all of us on Twitter: @mwecker, @marcparry, @patrickjpowers and @wpjenna.

Okay, Breann and I are headed off to class! Have a great Thursday!

In This Chat
Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson writes about college students and campus trends for the Post. She also runs the blog "Campus Overload," which chronicles national college news, drinking fads, admissions buzz and the latest exploits of Hill interns.
Marc Parry
Marc Parry writes about technology for the Chronicle of Higher Education, with a focus on online education. Parry also contributes to the Wired Campus blog. More questions? You can find him on Twitter.
Patrick Powers
Patrick Powers is an interactive media manager at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. He is responsible for creating web content, managing portions of the university website and overseeing marketing efforts through various social media channels.

His background includes more than 10 years in the communication field with experience as writer, reporter, editor, web developer and community manager. His personal blog about higher education and social media can be found at:
Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker, a writer for George Washington University's online daily news service GW Today, launched the first official GW Twitter handle @elliottschoolgw (which Foreign Policy magazine called one of the top 100 handles in international affairs). He maintains the handle @GWToday and a GWToday photo blog, which is part of the TBD community network. Wecker (@mwecker), who is chairing the Council for Advancement and Support of Education's annual conference for media relations professionals (March 14-15), is also a freelance writer who blogs on the side for Houston Chronicle and Huffington Post.
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