Friday Five: Social Media Summit afterthoughts

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

3 thoughts on “Friday Five: Social Media Summit afterthoughts”

  1. Andrew,

    I am the Director of New Media at Abilene Christian University and the one who has created the live stream for these events. Since May ’09, we have provided a stream of graduation, Opening Assembly (Chapel), a lectureship series and a few departmental events (e.g. guest speakers)

    It is true that the steaming broadcast has had a huge impact to our alumni and friends of the university. To help fill in some numbers, Opening Assembly was watched by just over 1,100 people in 40 states and 11 countries. More important was the understanding of where these people were coming from, not just a generic comment of “Thanks, this is cool”. One participant wrote, “I have not seen this event in 30 years” but we were all shocked when a alumn who now serves as a missionary wrote, “I am watching this from a village of 400 in the Ukraine”. The technology alone is powerful, and something that those of us are tasked with creating online community respect. However, the human aspect of the conversation we are enabling takes the sense of ‘family’ at a university to an entirely new level.

    Not all of our growth on facebook is attributed to live streaming, we have actually found that too much is NOT a good thing. Still our fan page has grown from 300 in March to 8.056 at the time of this writing (10.21.09) We have seen variations in that growth as we work with different variables; rich media, content type, advertising, etc.

    I hope this helps some. I am glad and a bit jealous that you were able to make it to MUSM but hope that soon we can find a common conference to meet and discuss these events and more.

    -Scott Kilmer
    Director of New Media
    Abilene Christian University

  2. Scott – Thanks for commenting and sharing more background about your efforts at Abilene Christian University. Sounds like you and your team are doing great work engaging your alumni. (By the way, Brad did share that vignette about the missionary in the Ukraine who tuned in. That’s terrific.)

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