Members of the CASE social media task force are interviewing colleagues at institutions they think are using social media effectively. Below, Melissa Starace, director of alumni affairs at Northampton Community College, interviewsCara Huey, project assistant in alumni affairs at Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.
MS: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?
CH: At CCAC, the college maintains a profile on Facebook. The CCAC alumni program maintains a separate Facebook profile (3,406 friends and counting!) and an online community through Harris Connect. I am currently exploring the possibility of using Twitter and/or LinkedIn.
MS: Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why?
CH: For the alumni program, Facebook has certainly been successful and effective. We have a large following, and the site provides a way to link alumni back to our CCAC website. Facebook has been extremely effective when we’re promoting events or news about the college. As far as CCAC as a whole, the college’s Facebook page is slowly gaining fans.
The Harris Connect online community enables us to utilize a blast email function, which is extremely convenient and time effective.
MS: What have you tried that hasn’t worked, and why?
CH: We tried using MySpace for the alumni program, but the site has steadily been losing popularity to Facebook.
MS: What practices do you use to manage your online communities?
CH: With Facebook, my most important practice is to immediately remove any comments from our page that are not acceptable (i.e. use of profanity). With the online community, we try not to overwhelm our alumni with too many email blasts.
We also work to respond to discussions and questions on both platforms as quickly as possible. I tend to think of social media as fast food—it is convenient and we want it fast.
MS: What are the two most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to
launch any type of social media initiative today?
CH: Many organizations launch business profile pages on Facebook. This limits the functionality of what you can do. I recommend starting a regular profile page, working on building your followers and then creating sub pages off of that profile. I recently created a fan page for the CCAC Alumni Association off of the CCAC Alum profile, and we already have more than 500 fans.
The best piece of advice I could give would be to explore social media personally before you attempt to incorporate it into the workplace. For example, create a personal profile on Facebook and learn how to search for friends. But be sure to keep your personal and work profiles separate.