My department has been active in Social Media for 4 years now since our first MySpace and Facebook attempts. That said, we have had periods with a lot of success as well as periods where success was a little hard to come by. Throughout all of it the common thread was participation on the part of the department. When I have help it shows.
For example, during our career days our ambassador students have tweeted the progress of the events to help parents and students coordinate as well as to ease the fears of parents who, for the most part, are sending their children on their first flight on their own. In addition, we have an entire Twitter accounted devoted to our weather call system which helps instructors and students determine their lesson for the day as well as helps them plan upcoming lessons and other activities. Finally, when we have a social media employee who’s job it is to talk online and be an evangelist for our department we can see the results in applications and other forms of contact. The common theme here, all of the content is added and monitored by those who are in charge of the content, not by a single person who is removed from the day-to-day operations that generate the content in question.
On the opposite end, when it is just myself we see some success, but in everything from contacts with prospective students to buzz about our department in general our presence just isn’t what it could be.
With that said it amazes me how so many institutions rely on a sole individual, usually a tech person or someone of similar level, to handle their entire social presence. In effect someone without real working knowledge of the material is in fact the voice of the material. What’s even worse is when that person will not take any input from those who do know or others in the field in general. Not only does this hurt the institutions brand, but it can be felt throughout the entire college community from the prospective student to the alumni and even faculty and staff.
Social media uses the word social for a reason folks and that word in and of itself does not indicate a sole point of content. If your social presence is doing nothing but imitating your official website you are doing it wrong.
I’ve said this message time and time again and usually I get the same response “we can’t afford someone to do this for us.” My answer to this is simple. You don’t have to afford anything. The people with the knowledge and content are already in your organization and in many cases are trying to get their message out and interact with students themselves. Empower them. Give them access to your social properties and let them do their jobs. You can still monitor content and counsel where necessary, it doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. Making your social media a social process however will go a long way to bringing you students and increasing your reputation among those already using the technologies.