Matthew Anderson (@hewanderson) is the new media coordinator at Western Washington University.
What are you doing here?
If you’re like me, you often get so caught up in the fast pace of life in higher education that you forget to stop and consider the reasons for the work you do in social media.
In a community education class I’ve been teaching, the question I get most often is, “What’s the point? I see what I CAN do in social media, but I don’t know why I SHOULD do any of it. I don’t see what hole I have to fill online.”
These are questions we’ve all asked ourselves before: “Who am I, and what can I do to be of value to others?”
In higher ed, it’s important that we take time on regular intervals to consider our efforts and ensure they’re aligned with the university’s mission.
I started thinking heavily about this last week after an interaction with a student on Twitter.
In the 15 minutes she had before class, she was trying to get to the Starbucks across campus for a cup of coffee.
I’ll let Twitter take it from here:
Having spent nearly $5 for the coffee (those things are expensive, you know) and 15 minutes of my time, when I returned to my office I had to ask myself whether this was a good use of money. In the world of ROI, what tangible benefit could I attach to this escapade? Did I buy this student coffee just because I got caught up in the fun of it or was I actually doing service to my university?
My answer: Yes, it was worth it. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. Here’s why: “Engaging” is one of five words we use to describe ourselves here at Western Washington University. (The others are inviting, adventurous, distinctive and collaborative.) This specific interaction was a very small part of that day’s social media efforts and it won’t have a significant long-term benefit. However, it was an example of the university living its brand—its mission to be engaging—in a small, tangible way. Added up over days and months, interactions like this set the tone for the university’s presence online.
Though our universities all serve similar purposes, they’re all different. What works for one school might not work well for another. I encourage you all to regularly re-read your university’s mission statement or positioning guidelines and ask yourselves these questions:
- What specific traits characterize my university? (If my university were a person, what would that person be like?)
- How can I live those traits through social media (and in “real life”)? (Be as specific as possible. Hold brainstorming sessions with students and co-workers to come up with additional ideas for living your brand online.)
And when you’ve answered those questions, share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you come up with.