Higher education & the social media bubble… more with Doug Miller

Social media marketing: the perils of digital flash-mobs and chasing shiny new objects

Here’s the second
installment in my interview with Doug Miller, New Media Manager at DePaul
University, on the social media bubble and how to thrive in the social media
world in the future. 

My questions were based on Doug’s upcoming workshop at
eduWeb2014 on the same topic. Note that the early bird registration discount
runs until June 28.

If you’ve come upon this
article before reading Doug’s answers to my first two questions you can double
back here for the first installment

3. What’s the most
important lesson you’ve learned from community management?

  • The most important
    lesson I’ve learned from community management in higher education in a digital
    context is that community management is almost a misnomer. To assume that we
    can institutionally control how and when community emerges and develops in
    these new digital environments lacks an understanding of how communities form
    and perpetuate online in a modern digital context.
Adapting to digital flash-mobs

  • The modern community
    online is a digital flash-mob that coalesces (and just as quickly disperses)
    around a hashtag, notion or meme, not a formally-fixed attendance-sheet of
    loyal acolytes. It takes a nimble environment to track and trace these subtle
    shifts. The most that can be done is to create an environment whereby the
    barrier of entry for participation is acceptably low and expectation of the
    benefits of the relationship clearly outlined.

  • Then it is best to let
    the community show (by tracked behavior) where the interest lies (which is
    often counter to common logic about what “should” be done in communities.) The
    reason engagement is such a sought after metric is that lurking is so easy to
    do and active participation so easy to avoid. The social contract of the modern
    digital community should not be a burden to accept, and participation metrics
    need to extend beyond overt displays of forced affinity or compliment fishing.

  • The last thing I would
    say I’ve learned about community management in a modern digital context is that
    appropriate public discourse can and should be regularly modeled and
    distinguished from more intimate environments – because in many ways we are all
    still learning how to be public online. For me there is no such thing as public
    vs. private online, there is only public and less public (intimate) and
    privacy, in the sense many of us have grown up imagining, is only an option in
    digital contexts via non-participation.

4. Any special obstacles
you see that keep universities from effectively using social media?

  • The primary obstacle I
    see keeping universities from effective participation in digital social
    networks is in failing to distinguish the strategic from the tactical. Many
    schools have enough smarts to realize that there are strategic lessons to be
    learned by the way digital social tools operate and simply translate that into
    physical presence in a particular digital platform rather than understanding
    systems of digital social networking holistically.
Pressure to chase the latest shining social objects

  • Instead of attempting to
    understand what it is about visual digital social objects that have become so
    popular and easily shareable or strategically integrating that popularity into
    institutional behavior, the tendency is to cave to the pressure to chase after
    whatever social platform happens to be en vogue at the moment and simply be
    present in that platform – assuming mere presence to be the primary factor in
    determining success. We also tend to use outliers as benchmarks for expected
    performance which falsely deflates return on investment and makes justification
    of strategic resources self-limiting. 

That’s all for now.

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eduWeb2014 conference in August

August 4-6,  Baltimore, MD, CA: Review the conference program and register.
Early bird registration discount until June 28.

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