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Missed Opportunities: Social Media in Higher Education

February 18, 2012

I have been perusing the many many Facebook pages of my alma mater.  From what I have viewed there are three versions of site mangers. The first version is the  ”I made a page- period.”  Apparently, some higher up said it must be done. Yet, the college or group had no clue what to do, after they created it.  In other words, it has been sitting idle with no posts from anyone. The next group I call “Look what I did!”   These page owners took the initiative to create a series of posts. But, block anyone else from posting. Sorry. But , that is not social media. By definition, social media means an online “interactive dialog.” It’s a microblog and nobody is paying attention. Finally, there are page managers that give students carte blanch. These sites are engaging. There are discussions, questions being answered, networks being formed, pictures, and all sorts of valuable and useless information. It all makes me wonder ‘has anyone clearly stated the goal of creating a Facebook page to provide direction?’  After all, Facebook and other social media are powerful tools that are (for the most part) being undervalued.

From the articles that I have found, there are a lot of people touting that higher education should be using social media and even how. There is even an Association for Social Media in Higher Education.  However, it appears that there is a void between the people who write these are articles and see the “why”, and communicating that understanding to those that don’t. Here is my short version:

Why use social media in higher education? 

  1. Create a dialog between the program or college with current and potential students to address immediate queries.
  2. Facilitate a long term network between students and professors who wish to participate.
  3. Cultivate a community rich in ideas and culture.

These goals support the mission statements of most universities. The first helps with bringing new students in and addressing their needs on a more personal level. It also facilitates a network that would not have formed organically. The second answer addresses that the current users will be alumni one day. They will feel more connected to an even broader community than their immediate cohort, if given the opportunity.  The final answer supports the free exchange of ideas that supports education that extends beyond the classroom.

What are the general guidelines when dealing with social media?

Nicholas Lamphere who teaches sociology at Harvard produced the following:

  1. Social media is all about enabling conversations among your audience or market
  2. You cannot control conversations with social media, but you can influence them
  3. Influence is the bedrock on which all economically viable relations are built

 How is performance measured?

It depends on the media. For Facebook, the following can be tracked: likes, comment counts, and overall interaction. Here is the best site I found for analytics on a variety of social media.

Ultimately, there has been a clear paradigm shift in the expectations of media by students. Specifically, they want and expect an online dialog…not a monologue.

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