Matthew Herek (@mherek) currently serves as the interim director of career services, students, and young alumni in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University.
These days, social media is often at the forefront of conversations and a hot topic at advancement-related conferences with sessions offering multiple opportunities to discuss tools and strategies. I suppose this is a good thing, but I also see a couple of disconcerting trends.
- There is a cacophony of misaligned viewpoints on social media. If you attend different social media sessions at a given conference (or even at multiple conferences), you might walk away from one presenter believing that the best place to start learning about social media is to use Google alerts only to learn from a presenter in another session that Twitter is the place to go.Does this mean one presenter is wrong? Probably not. However, I do think this exposes a problem with curriculum development around social media. As a profession, we have not devised standards of practice in social media and therefore have no best practices.
- Social is still being treated in some quarters as something “the kids” are doing. You can sense that some advancement professionals, who were never sure social media was worth worrying about, are now paying more attention but are still on the sidelines. This is a symptom of a larger issue. In our bottom-line driven, “return-on-investment” universe, advancement professionals often have a hard time seeing social media as important because they can’t directly measure its impact. And yet, it is everywhere. Conferences would benefit from conversations about the lack of understanding around social media and from showing senior professionals how to lead these conversations.
- The future is not in your institution’s Facebook account; it’s in everybody else’s. Let’s call it the “Yelp-ification” of higher education. What a student says on Twitter about a school is potentially more impactful than what the school says about itself. An employee speaking negatively about an institution via a blog or other social media platform could prevent that institution from attracting talented employees. We still seem stuck in the mud on when it comes to controlling and delivering the message. Perhaps, instead, we should be discussing the best way to train people to be solid ambassadors of our message and brand.
We have the talent as a profession to think harder about standards and learning outcomes for our social media discussions at conferences. I think it is time we focused on doing just that. I would be interested to know other’s thoughts on this issue in the comment section below.