Matthew Herek currently serves as the associate director of young alumni engagement in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University.
‘Tis the season for end-of-the-year lists: Most fascinating people, best songs, greatest dance innovations and most shocking reality TV moments are just a few that I’ve seen. Not to be outdone by the cacophony of experts providing you with their ideas on the most groundbreaking events of 2011, I am happy to provide you with my Top Five Social Media Happenings of 2011: A Completely Unscientific List. These opinions are my own (aren’t they always?) and are listed in no particular order:
- Twitter continues to be the place where news breaks: In late November, the athletic director at the University of Arizona was ready to announce the identity of the new football coach. There were no leaks to favored reporters from hometown papers. Initially, there wasn’t even a press release. Instead, he chose to announce the new coach on Twitter, complete with a photo taken on his phone. This shows that campus leaders (presidents, athletic directors, etc.) are usingTwitter to announce campus news in their own words, bypassing the filter of television or newspapers. It is another example of why leaders in alumni relations need to know how to use Twitter, even if they have no desire to tweet or interact in the “Twitterspace.” Leaders need to ask themselves if they want alumni to learn of campus news before they do. If the answer is yes, they don’t need a Twitter account.
- LinkedIn launches Classmates: Most alumni career offices have long implored their constituents to create and launch a LinkedIn profile. In some cases, it has been difficult to teach alumni what to do with that profile and how to use it to help build a solid network for career development purposes. LinkedIn has begun taking steps toward recognizing the affinity that individuals have for their alma mater with their Classmates feature. Using the feature allows alumni to search by a variety of factors for fellow alumni who they may want to connect with. It also has the potential to help alumni offices take a snapshot of the career paths alumni are entering in different geographic areas.
- Facebook changes….again: This should be a standing item on all social media lists. Facebook changed its interface, then it changed how top stories were determined and then it changed its insights metrics. All of this proves one thing about Facebook—users are simply ambassadors with embassies in the Facebook world; the rules can change at anytime. The challenge for those of us who see value in social media is finding a way to articulate to decision-makers why 8,100 impressions one day can suddenly become 1,200 impressions the next day. As social media sites continue to evolve, it may make year-to-year comparisons impractical from a reporting standpoint. This will certainly frustrate the more numbers-driven among us.
- Streaming video gets easier: More and more schools are starting to take advantage of the capabilities offered by sites such as Ustream. One of the pleasant surprise this year at Northwestern was the success of a livestream from our reunions/homecoming program in October. Sites such as Ustream are helping us get the good news of our different programs in front of more eyes worldwide. Streaming video could be key to ramping up future alumni engagement on an international level.
- Google Plus came…left…then came back…kind of: When word broke that Google was launching a “Facebook killer,” quite a few of us started looking for invites, hoping to be early adopters. Unfortunately, Google did not allow businesses or groups to have Google+ identities in the early days of the launch. Then Facebook adopted many of the features that made Google+ an interesting competitor. In 2012, we should give Google+ a second look. The hangouts feature provides a slick way to have meetings with alumni from around the world. If no other part of the interface survives, I hope that part does.
Much more happened in 2011 in social media and more will continue to happen in 2012. Technology keeps challenging us to stay on our toes and generate new ways to serve our constituents. What are your top five trends in social media?