Monday, October 8, 2012

Stop looking through windows: social media in higher education

In discussing the roles of a new communications director for a College of Agriculture, a colleague said "We still have a need to do some of the traditional things like press releases, but we need to get into social media for marketing and branding."

My response was "That is all good, except social media is much more than that. A communications director for an educational institution should understand that social media should be used for education." Why is it that we always look for the marketing aspects? Every organization should consider the educational component and the ability to connect with others as integral parts of purpose and strategy of using social media.

Education institutions, in particular, need to look at social media as ways to further our educational mission. The big four--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube--can be used but so can many other tools, like blogging, curation, and collaboration tools. Part of understanding how social media can be integrating into education is learning to how let go.

Improving the speed and quality of research via shared algorithm implementationsSharing educational resources and discussing in the open can enhance both education and research efforts. Students and serious amateurs* contributing to content, ideas, and research can confirm that we are on the right track and that more diverse ideas can spread faster, speeding innovation and research.

Communications units at educational institutions should be helping faculty learn how to effectively use open online tools and support them as they become involved in online social environments.

If social media and online tools are effectively used connecting with others, expanding education, enhancing our own learning and research, then the marketing and branding will be embedded within those efforts, making the formal marketing and branding campaigns easier.

Looking at social media as marketing tools only is like believing that looking through windows helps you understand what is in the trees.

Partial lyrics from Breakdown by Jack Jackson:

But you can’t stop nothing if you got no control 

Of the thoughts in your mind that you kept and you know 

That you don’t know nothing but you don’t need to know 

The wisdom’s in the trees not the glass windows 

You can’t stop wishing if you don’t let go 

Photo credit:

*Jerry Buchko uses this term to describe the value of inclusion of others in education, research, and outreach.