The Power of Social Media to Engage Your Audience and Build Your Brand
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
Social media barely existed at the start of this decade. In fact, the term did not gain enough currency to merit a Wikipedia entry until 2006, when it was defined as “media which [sic] are formed mainly by the public as a group, in a social way, rather than media produced by journalists, editors and media conglomerates.” Fast-forward to late 2009 and millions of people participate in social media every day, as these eye-popping statistics show:
• Facebook has more than 300 million active users around the globe who post more than 40 million status updates each day.
• Analysts predict YouTube will hit one billion views a day by the end of 2009.
• Twitter, launched just three years ago, expects to have 25 million tweeters by year’s end.
• In October LinkedIn grew to 50 million members, up from 45 million just two months previously.
All of these social media sites, as well as social bookmarking sites like Digg.com or delicious.com, photo sharing sites such as Flickr, and the incalculable number of blogs, are part of a communications revolution that has big implications for your entrepreneurship program. Now is the time to get up to speed on social media and harness its massive power to speak directly in new and exciting ways with just about anybody who should know about your program and its activities, including students, prospective students, community partners and supporters, and local entrepreneurs.
If you are not yet using the power of social media to promote your campus’ entrepreneurship efforts, you are not alone. “We haven’t found a lot of schools with entrepreneurship centers that are doing a great job with social media,” says Brad Kleinman of WorkSmart Integrated Marketing, a NACCE Gold Sponsor located in Beachwood, OH.
Kleinman, who ran two NACCE webinars last summer on how to use Facebook, adds, “People feel more comfortable sticking with what they are currently doing in marketing. They also worry about whether adding social networking into the marketing mix will be resource intensive, and they aren’t sure what the return on that investment will be. It’s important to remember that new media cannot be measured with old metrics. Instead of ROI, consider using a measure of return on engagement (ROE). People conversing, interacting, and eventually developing relationships and then acting on those relations will result in more students and more support for your program.”
Some higher ed professionals fear a loss of control if they use social media. But the truth is that the conversation will go on with or without you. Students comment on their Facebook or MySpace pages and tweet about their school experiences; they share videos and photos about their school activities on YouTube and Flickr. Unless you join in, you miss the opportunity to present your side of any issue.
When Melissa Crawford stepped into the new position of director of the Sheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Santa Barbara City College last January, one of her first efforts was to create a Web site. She made sure it was social media friendly because as she says, “You can’t ignore the staggering statistics of the number of people on Facebook; we’re calling it the Facebook nation. If you’re a business and you’re ignoring the opportunity to reach these sheer numbers of people, you’re missing the boat.”
The Center’s Web site (http://scheinfeld.sbcc.edu) has links to the Fan Page Crawford created on Facebook, her Twitter feed (@SBEntrepreneurs), an RSS feed, and Crawford’s blog, which is called “Look Forward to Monday.” Crawford also started a LinkedIn group for the Center and set up a channel on YouTube where she posts videos of Scheinfeld Center events. She also posts these videos on the Center’s Web site, where she maintains a library of inspirational videos for entrepreneurs that she’s pulled from YouTube.
Crawford announces Sheinfeld Center events and promotes courses via the Facebook Fan Page and Twitter. Her blog also feeds to the Facebook page. She uses Twitter for quick bursts of information, such as reminding people to RSVP for an upcoming event. She has also tweeted when she is attending entrepreneurship-related events such as the MIT Enterprise Forum, and she has promoted events being held by other organizations that would interest her audience.
Crawford also started a small business and student networking site called South Coast Biz Connect (http://southcoastbizconnect.ning.com), which serves as a hub of entrepreneurial activity at SBCC and the South Coast community. “Studies have shown that to be successful small businesses need to network, but there wasn’t a mechanism for that in our community,” she says. “So I set up this network with the goal of accelerating small business awareness of the need to be on-line. We’re trying to get people to post video profiles instead of building text profiles, and we’ve gotten local experts to answer basic business and start-up questions on the site. Eventually we will have a database of localized information for small businesses and students.”
“We are practicing social media marketing because we believe small businesses need to be practicing social media marketing,” sums up Crawford. “We’re also teaching social media marketing. We built an event around a nationally recognized expert who is local, Lorrie Thomas of Web Marketing Therapy. The event is called “Healthy Web Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Small Business.” Lorrie’s lecture will be supplemented with four breakout workshops on Sustainable Web Strategies for Your Business; How to Tweet, Facebook and Blog for Your Business; What Is SEO and Where Can I Get Some and Making Web Stats Work for You.
In Dallas, Colleen Lin, senior rich media product/developer at Dallas County Community College District (http://www.dcccd.edu ), jumped into the social media arena in mid-2007 when she set up an account on YouTube, where she posted commercials for the seven-college system. “At the time, I was a graduate student in the University of Texas at Dallas’ Arts and Technology program,” Lin says. “Our professors were showing us how social media was changing communications. I thought we should be there. Aside from the time commitment, social media are free so nobody was going to be out any money for us to experiment. I found that some people had already posted our TV commercials from our previous ad campaign on YouTube. So I figured if people want to see this, then I’m going to post all of our commercials. I started with YouTube then moved to MySpace and then Facebook and Twitter.”
Now, Lin manages the District’s accounts and trains the personnel who manage the social media efforts of each college. Much sharing is done of material between the districts and the individual schools. “Most of what I do falls under customer service,” she says. “We want to engage students and show them that we are where they are and we understand their means of communication and will communicate with them in the way they prefer to be communicated to.’
“We started this as a grand experiment, asking ourselves ‘Is it going to work and is it going to get us anything?’” says DCCCD’s Director of Internet Publishing Georgeann Moss, who is Lin’s supervisor. “Just like when the Internet started, the more we use it the more we learn that this is a critical part of our communications matrix. The four reasons we continue to use social media is to engage students, provide customer service, distribute emergency communication if needed, and encourage transparent communication.”
Easy Learning Tools
Here are a few short informative videos suggested by Lin that explain social media and its vast impact around the world. They may also be used as teaching tools to help entrepreneurship students see how social media can help them support their careers goals or promote their businesses.
• Social Media Revolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8
• Social Networking in Plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/video-social-networking
• Social Media in Plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/socialmedia
You should also download WorkSmart Integrated Marketing’s whitepaper on social media at http://worksmartim.com/whitepaper_form.php. Entitled “Social Media for Continuing Education and Contract Training, it contains information the firm presented at the recent NACCE Conference.
Rachel Reuben, director of Web Communication & Strategic Projects in the Office of Public Affairs at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has a whitepaper entitled “The Use of Social Media in Higher Education for Marketing and Communications: A Guide for Professionals in Higher Education.” Download it from the Publications/Press section of her Web site at http://rachelreuben.com. The site also includes other articles on the topic of social media and higher education.