I recently read that a Web site is now considered "a little gem from the past.”1 This is a frightening thought, since many of us just got our Web sites up or are still working on getting there. We all need a Web site, but there's a paradigm shift in its use. Today's Web sites are static hubs offering social media tools that lead to more interesting, interactive areas. The best part is most of the social interactive tools ar efree.
Your job is to determine which social media work for your program and focus on developing one or two or three, depending on your availability and willingness to commit. The worst you can do is set up a tool and ignore it. All tools can and should be linked to your Web site (using those little widgets with links) for easy access by users. Here are my five favorite tools that give our program connectivity with students and businesses and offer value.
Facebook Fan Page
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Set-up: 1-2 hours
Maintenance: 5–10 minutes per day. 1–2 entries weekly.
Having a presence on the most-used global social networking site (with over 400 million users) exposes your program to an audience you might not be reaching without it, and reinforces your activities to an existing clientele. Facebook is a "broad use” application. I use it to promote my events, post videos, links and pictures, press releases, and blog entries and to start discussions and interact with businesses, students and other fan pages. NACCE has a very active fan page and re-posts members' Facebook entries. I always post a new blog entry on my fan page, and to my delight I notice it gets re-posted on the NACCE page, giving my blog entry a little unexpected national attention. This is just one example of the viral affect of social media marketing.
Facebook Tip #1:Avoid confusion. Do not open a personal account using your program's name – thus inviting "friends” to join. Instead, create one page for your program: "a fan page” so people can join your page as a "fan.” To do this you will first have to create a page from a personal Facebook account that does not have your program's name on it; otherwise you will end up with two pages for your program – one with friends and one with fans.
Degree of Difficulty: Medium. Requires inspiration and writing time.
Set-up: 4–8 hours
Maintenance: Minimum one entry per month
Blogging is an essential tool used to educate and inspire your audience and, surprisingly, is not about directly selling anything. It engages your audience by offering a short, but meaningful and thought-provoking read – and indirectly reinforces your program's image as a valuable resource or as offering expertise in a particular area. Today, blogging is such a mainstream (indirect) marketing tool for businesses that your program may appear dated or out of touch without a blog.
Blog Tip #1:Create a separate concept for your blog, which has its own URL. This is an opportunity for creativity and to give users an interesting place to go. Mine is called Look Forward to Monday.
Blog Tip #2: Only write when inspired. A blog entry should reflect the writer's unique and authentic voice and, above all, be short!
Blog Tip #3: Is there anyone in your department or program that loves to write? Make blogging a team effort.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Set-up: 20 minutes
Maintenance: 2 minutes a day (or automate it)
Twitter has been likened to a micro-blog that forces you to make your point in 140 characters or less. At the Governor's Conference on Entrepreneurship in California, I met the vice president of Twitter. I still have trouble with two-way interaction on Twitter, and the VP says he is working on making this more intuitive. Twitter is the perfect platform for mini-news, press release links, announcements, awards, and conference or event attendance. I tweet at events to give my followers some educational information about what is being discussed, in real time.
Twitter Tip #1:You can link your Twitter account with Facebook so it automatically tweets your Facebook status.
Twitter Tip #2:You can organize all your tweets and Facebook entries using HootSuite.com – a free social media management tool – offering you one place to post to your accounts. You can schedule entries in advance.
Twitter Tip #3:For a free "Twit-Torial,” visit www.webmarketingtherapy.com/cart/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=23. You can find other useful social media tutorials on www.webmarketingtherapy.com.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Set-up: 1 hour
Maintenance: 10 minutes every couple of weeks
LinkedIn is often referred to as the professional's Facebook. Your program can have a page on LinkedIn and start discussions on topics of interest or you can announce events or courses. I like to use this platform to connect with other professionals, view their resumes and work history, join groups and participate in discussions. I am not the most pro-active user on this platform and usually join in others' discussions. LinkedIn is the first to go when I don't have time to keep up.
LinkedIn Tip #1:To get membership going, join other groups, and you will find members of other groups will join yours. Start discussions on your group, but also start discussions on other groups. It will gradually build awareness of your program.
Degree of Difficulty: Hard
Set-up: 40 hours
Maintenance: Up to 5 hours per week.
If you really want to blow it out of the water in terms of connecting your program to social interaction, you can create your own network. We used the ning.com platform – ready made open source networking software. We were fortunate to receive a modest grant from the Coleman Foundation to get this launched. It allows students and businesses to interact and is intended to build a database of localized information for start-ups and small business.
Ning Tip #1: Pitch your network idea to a prominent business community member or organization to get some help in terms of funding and building the site. After it's built you might get others to endorse your network. We recently received the local chamber of commerce endorsement – which will give this network some real traction.