An Interview with Heather Sullivan of Northfield Mount Hermon

Northfield Mount Hermon is a private boarding school for students in grades 9-12 located Massachusetts’ idyllic Pioneer Valley. The school’s strong sense of tradition hasn’t limited its exploration into social media: NMHbook.org, its beautifully designed, interactive network site, placed silver in the 2010 CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. Amanda Holdsworth talked with Heather Sullivan, director of communications and marketing at Northfield Mount Hermon School, about NMHbook.org and other new media initiatives.

AH: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?

HS: Our Facebook fan page is about three years old and has over 4,800 fans and more than 2,000 active monthly users. It’s the third greatest source of traffic to our website, so it’s hugely important to us. We also have Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts. In the first half of this academic year, we created and posted about 25 new videos that show life on campus.

Flickr holds more than 40,000 searchable NMH images, and we use it to feed images directly into our website. Our WordPress blogs are integrated  into the main website; we have 35 active blogs ranging from students studying abroad to college counseling and campaign blogs. And NMHbook.org houses all of these initiatives.

AH:  Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why?

HS: NMHBook.org has been very successful. Within that, Flickr gets thousands of hits and works well with both photo-sharing and storytelling. We’ve found great success with our blogs and with our Facebook page, which points back to the NMH website and is useful for building and maintaining relationships.

AH:  What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?

HS: We decided not to focus our efforts on LinkedIn, since that didn’t seem to be where our target audiences were spending the most energy. We’re finding that Twitter is useful and flexible, but we took some initial missteps in our use of Twitter.

AH: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?

HS: With Facebook, we’re wondering if we need to do segmented pages: Do we need to divide pages by alumni, admissions, etc.? [Ed. note: NMH now has pages for its basketball team, soccer team, and archives.]

We’re also thinking about how we should be deliberate about messaging for social media, and how to more clearly define and properly evaluate social media goals.

AH: Do you have social media policies or guidelines and, if so, can you share them?

HS: Yes, and we’ve shared them with the community. Our social media manager, Rachael Hanley, has developed a series of tips and guidelines, including “10 Steps to Blogging.” People have good judgment. Communications has editing rights, but we rarely control community content.

AH: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?

HS: NMHBook.org hosts all social media initiatives, and content development is done by communications in collaboration with admission and advancement. But we need to ensure consistency of institutional voice. Communications has the final say.

 

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