It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to get to a conference, so when I heard that the web communications folks at my alma mater were sponsoring a half-day Social Media Summit, and bringing in two powerhouse presenters within driving distance, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Adding to the allure: finally, I would get to meet Brad J. Ward, whom I’ve known for years via his blog and Twitter, and the legendary Michael Stoner (@mStonerblog), whom I’ve followed (via his blog, print articles and consulting work) even longer. Plus, I’d get to reconnect with Elizabeth Allen (@lizallen) of Caltech (one word, little “t”), whom I haven’t seen since an April 2008 CASE conference where we both presented, and of course, Lori Croy of MU’s Web Communications (@croyl) and many other wonderful communications pros from Mizzou and elsewhere.
So, I went. And I was not disappointed. While both Brad and Liz did a nice job outlining the basics of social media to a mixed audience of newbies and those further along the social media journey, they managed to keep it lively and engaging enough for us old-timers. (For those who couldn’t attend, check out the hashtag #musms09 for the Twitter back-channel comments that ran throughout the event. Also, presentations should be posted soon at the Social Media Summit webpage.)
Friday Five observations from the event:
- It was cool to learn about how Abilene Christian University used the free video service Ustream to live-stream (broadcast) the university’s opening chapel service via ACU’s Facebook fan page. The campus only promoted the event over Facebook and drew a hearty following. (I was too busy tweeting to write down numbers but I recall Brad mentioning a significant increase in new fans to that page.) The live-streaming also generated a lot of interaction and comments. I’m thinking this would be a cool thing to do for some of our own campus traditions, such as our annual St. Pat’s Week festivities. What traditions from your campus could tie alumni and others back to your school via a live-stream?
- Liz showcased Oregon State University‘s Powered By Orange campaign as a stellar example of one university leveraging social media and bringing it all together into a nice package, and consistent with the university’s online look and brand identity. If you haven’t explored this site, you should.
- Based on the questions and comments following Liz’s presentation, it’s apparent that university communications people are still struggling with the issues of control in the realm of social media. There were many questions about how to deal with inappropriate comments on Facebook fan pages, etc. It’s tough on Facebook, where fans can post without moderation. (With a blog platform, comments can be screened and approved before they show up live on the forum. But it doesn’t work that way with Facebook.) This is an issue that colleges and universities will have to contend with for some time, but the idea that transparency and openness should prevail seemed to carry the day. The audience and speakers agreed that it’s worse to censor than to allow for open expression, even when comments are inappropriate. Better to contact the individual directly, explain why such a comment was removed, and then move on than to expunge it from the site with no communication.
- It was the first time I’d seen anyone use Prezi in a conference presentation. (But as I said earlier, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to a conference, so Prezi may be all the rage these days.) Brad Ward seemed to handle it well. I may have to play around with it sometime.
- Liz Allen seems to be a big fan of Hootsuite for measuring and analyzing Twitter activity. So am I. But Brad seems to think CoTweet is a little simpler. I need to check it out.
And two bonus observations:
- It’s apparent that walls and silos still abound in higher ed communications and marketing — even though social media could facilitate the dismantling of those walls. This, too, is about control and turf protection. This seems to be a way of life among universities, but campus offices and departments are going to have to learn to work together to be more effective in the realm of social media and to ensure consistency of a campus’s brand identity.
- Don’t ever try to be a social media soothsayer. Brad Ward will call you out on it.