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.
- 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.
- 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.
August 4-6, Baltimore, MD, CA: Review the conference program and register.