Higher education marketing, the social media bubble… and the tools we need to prosper

The “social media bubble” and what it means for higher education marketing

Doug Miller describes himself as a “social curator, content creator and digital media educator.” He’s currently New Media Manager at DePaul University.

At this year’s eduWeb conference Doug is leading a workshop on “Bursting the Social Media Bubble: How to Leverage Social Media Before it Leverages You.” You can find his workshop details on the eduWeb conference site.

I sent Doug four questions about the impending burst of the bubble and what people in higher education might do to take best advantage of it. Here are his answers to the first two questions. The other two will follow tomorrow. 

1. Tell us more about
the “social media bubble” and how much further it has to go before it

  • Change is a constant when it comes to technology. Technologists are so
    acclimated to this evolution that many believe its progress to be predictable
    along a consistent line, as in the case of Moore’s Law. In looking at the current
    state of the use of social digital platforms in higher education, it is
    certainly change that has brought us to where we are as an industry, but change
    as a tactical response to a strategic problem. We are now aware of the
    undeniability of the impact of social digital tools on the way so many of our
    myriad facets do business, yet we are often still struggling to think of them
    strategically rather than tactically.

  • From advertising and
    brand recognition to admissions, enrollment, customer service, retention,
    pedagogy, alumni services, advancement and fundraising – every aspect of our
    diverse vertical has felt the seismic shift precipitated by the promises of
    these digital tools, techniques and trends. Yet, as quickly as much of our
    industry has been moved to action, we take no solace in such regular,
    predictable phenomenon as Moore’s Law because we often find our strategy mired
    in the search to predict which platform will be the destination for the next
    great social media migration. These are the beginnings of the bubble that must
    (and will) burst.

  • There are those for whom
    this tactical search has yielded success. Certainly, we love our case studies
    and to lift them up as benchmarks rather than outliers – such and such school
    experiences success on such and such platform – and then we make efforts to
    replicate such efforts across the industry. But not every tool or tactical
    response is appropriate for every school or strategic scenario.
The bubble that will burst…

  • That is the bubble that
    will burst – not that tools and platforms will no longer be social, not that
    users won’t gravitate toward digital social objects and be curators and
    generators of them – but rather that the search to find the next most popular
    tactical tool will prove itself unsustainable as a strategic approach. The
    social media bubble is about how we respond as an industry to these trends, not
    about the lifespan of a particular set of tools or tactics. 

2. How about an example
of “data gathering tools” that the “big brands” use that
will also work for universities?

  • What digital social tools provide more than connectivity is data about
    users. There is no shortage of references of businesses, brands or governments
    using these new lenses to make predictive assumptions about consumers and set
    strategic initiatives for how to engage them.

  • Higher education is no
    exception, except that our methods for gathering data often exist in siloed
    environments or legacy systems that routinely don’t provide the same bigger
    picture perspective. A good example of this is what we call “social CRM” or
    constituent relationship management inclusive of data from digital social media

  • Even schools with
    departments and divisions active inside social media platforms don’t always tie
    that data back to institutional knowledge or outcomes in a constructive and
    meaningful way. Could you imagine if Target’s pharmacy did not easily share
    data with the children’s clothing department about consumer sentiment as
    expressed through social digital platforms? How good would they be at
    predicting that their shoppers are pregnant then?
Tools that can help you survive and thrive…

  • Many schools are
    beginning to see the value of integrating data from the social graph into
    larger strategic discussions, not just as a bullhorn for broadcasting the same
    old messages, but as a prism through which user behavior is better understood.
    Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow for
    greater perspective about the behaviors of users in aggregate, but it takes
    social plugins and data tracking on an individual level from systems like
    Salesforce, NationBuilder, or other “Social CRM” platforms to take higher
    education where it needs to go to approach these issueshttp://www.salesforce.com strategically.

That’s all for now.

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