Making websites more social

The Buzz Bin has an interesting post about web design that is worth talking about, or at least blogging about. In Tear Down the Web Site, Geoff Livingston makes a strong case for putting social media front and center in our organizations’ online presence.

The brochure approach doesn’t work. We know that. So blogs, podcasts and new social content has been added to the conventional web site, but the conversation is usually buried on sites as a simple link. Why bother? Why not reverse things and make brochure content a simple link, and the social content the heart of the web page?

Many campuses are using social media for student recruitment, solidifying relationships, or promoting special events. Some are also putting their news content into a blog format. Yet too often, these sites are hidden. That’s largely the case at Missouri S&T, even though we do link to one blog from our gateway currently.

Why is it that we hide our social media behind brochureware? Discuss.

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Now playing: The Mountain Goats – Lovecraft In Brooklyn
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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “Making websites more social”

  1. Great point. I was actually thinking about traditional advertising this morning. Tell me the last time you saw a Coca-Cola ad on TV or even on a scoreboard.

    I can’t recall, but my best guess was the Christmas holiday??!

    New technology like web 2.0 needs to be an extension. It should be about engaging. 12 years ago, I did not choose my college based on a brochure, but talking to others that went there or who had graduated.

    Social networking out front is the rage right now, but many colleges are not willing to take the legal risk of using web 2.0 tools. There are too many unknowns.

    News blogs are great, but you are dealing with traditional news being distributed in contemporary formats. You risk alienating those that actually would read it. What 18-22 year old actually reads news blogs posted by their school? They want news from the students, things they feel they can trust.

    At the end of the day, you need both. I can still download, save, print, etc. a brochure and share it with mom and dad – because they pay the tuition right!

  2. Maybe we hide social networks because we don’t want people who aren’t aware of the benefits to shy away or run away from our website. I’ve discovered that those students who want the social network will know how to seek it out/find out about it. However, those who don’t know about them and are skeptical may see them as a detractor. Just thinking though, feel free to disagree. We are going to be making use of a social network more frequently, so when we do, maybe we’ll advertise the heck out of it and see what happens!

  3. Parents need print media, because they’re comfortable with. But the real reason I think there are too many people on campus who are tied to doing things the way we’ve “always done them.” There are other concerns too, mostly about an inability to reach those students who don’t have broadband in their homes and perpetuating the digital divide.

    But I think the problem is more related to how we deliver the content rather than it being about the content itself.

  4. Lots of great points here. Thanks, Andy, Tiffany and Ron.

    To Andy’s point about news blogs delivering traditional news in a contemporary format: I’m not certain that’s always the case. On our campus, we’ve tried to use blogs to deliver stuff that wouldn’t make it into a news release, as well as to repackage newsy stuff for blog readers. A good example is a blog we’ve been using to promote the 100th anniversary of our St. Pat’s Celebration (now under way), http://bestever.mst.edu . We link to the event schedule, news releases, mainstream media coverage, etc., but we’re also showing a more humorous side of this century-old tradition. (See, for example, http://bestever.mst.edu/2008/03/man_vs_wild.html .) Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t do social media well in academia is because we take ourselves too seriously?

    Tiffany – I appreciate your point about not wanting to scare people away with our social media. Perhaps there needs to be a mix of new and traditional approaches integrated on a university website/gateway. It boils down to understanding the audiences we serve and how they prefer to receive messages. And just because students know how to seek out the social networking doesn’t mean we have to make it too challenging for them. (They may not be motivated to find the sites.)

    Ron – “The way it’s always been done” is a powerful paradigm, isn’t it?

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