Friday Five: why colleges and universities should blog (part 1)

As social media tools go, blogging is not the coolest thing around. It’s also been around for a relatively long time, and to some observers, has become passe, even irrelevant. Some social media experts have said that blogging, if not dead yet, is certainly on its way out. (Remember that 2008 Wired piece proclaiming that blogging was totally uncool?)

Yet blogging marches on. Despite the great success of Facebook and Twitter, bloggers continue to churn out virtual volumes of content, day in and day out. And for many ardent tweeters and facebookers, that’s a good thing, because blog posts form the foundation for many social media efforts. Without blog posts to link to, tools like Twitter and Facebook would be less valuable.

And even though blogging has been around for awhile, surprisingly few colleges and universities are taking advantage of the platform. In this, the first of an occasional Friday Five series about blogging for higher ed, five veteran higher ed bloggers answer the question:

Why should colleges and universities blog?

This week, we start with five who also are either involved in managing blogs at their own institutions or providing consultation about blogging to others on their campuses. In other words, they all have practical experience in dealing with institutional blogs.

1. Blogging offers the inside story

In my experience, blogging at a higher ed institution is the single most important way to get insights and information about what is happening on campus at any given time.

For prospective students, they can see what life as a current student is like, from classes to athletics to extra curricular activities. The college experience is more than just classes, and showing prospective students what it is really like up front will set their expectations and ensure they are ready before they start.

From an internal communications standpoint knowing what faculty are doing is invaluable. Faculty can often be hard to get a hold of and having them send a status report about their research is usually out of the question. Blogging gives them a platform to brag about their work and advancements. This bragging serves both the external and internal audiences, helps with SEO and can lead to potential media stories.

As university funding hits an all-time low having the communications for an institution “crowd sourced.” The act of blogging also brings a lot of inbound traffic into the institution from various audiences and interests.

— Nick DeNardis, associate director of web communications at Wayne State University. A member of the .EduGuru crew and the guy behind EduCheckup, Nick also contributes regularly to Wayne State’s communications and marketing blog.

2. Blogs facilitate conversations

Institutionally, I recommend blogs to departments who want to have an ongoing conversation with their target audiences. The conversation piece is important because 1) they have to commit to listening and responding to their reader’s comments and 2) it’s an ongoing commitment to post and keep the relationship up with the audience they want to build. For our admissions office and library, blogs have made sense because they already communicate frequently with their audiences, and blogs have simply served as another useful communications vehicle.

— Davina Gould, director of publications and online communications for Stetson University College of Law. Davina posts her insights into marketing and higher ed, with a focus on graduate school marketing, at her Grad School Marketer blog.

3. Frequency and immediacy

Blogging is by its very nature a more informal and real-time means of publishing. So, if you identify a need to 1) communicate in a shorter, more conversational fashion and/or 2) be able to share content, information or commentary on a frequent or immediate basis, blogging is a great solution. Also, as far as CMSes or publishing platforms go, blogs are relatively easy to install or use, which can be great when someone with limited or no access to IT resource has a need to begin publishing to the web.

— Georgy Cohen, manager of web content and strategy for Tufts University, which provides access to its many official blogs in a single blog directory. Georgy also blogs at GeorgyCohen.com and the new site Meet Content.

4. Show what’s behind the happy facades

Prospective students want to see what actually happens at your institution — behind the happy photo facades (and they know a posed photo when they see it) and the open house events which put your best face forward. They want to see what life is really like at your college — the good days as well as the challenging days that everyone knows are a part of life. Would you rather have someone else provide them this information — and believe me, they can find it — or give them this window through your best and brightest students?

— Tim Nekritz, associate director of public affairs and director of web communication at SUNY Oswego. Tim coordinates the efforts of a small army of student bloggers and also posts reflections about higher ed, social media and, more recently, roller derby on his blog Inside Tim’s Head.

5. Real-life stories

I find that having current students blog about their experiences in the classroom and in the city of Boston add real-life stories to all of our marketing initiatives. When I want to speak about our urban campus environment, I can draw from actual student experiences in their own words. Blogging gives the audience access to the stories behind the curtain of brochures, catalogs and slick marketing videos. It gives them a taste of the what our current students see on a daily basis.

— Mike Petroff, web manager for enrollment management at Emerson College. Like Nick, Mike is a member of the .eduGuru gang and also has his own blog, MikePetroff.com. He manages a couple of blogs at Emerson, one featuring the stories of undergraduate students and one that does the same for graduate students.

* * * * *

Coming next Friday: More thoughts about blogging from more of your favorite higher ed bloggers.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Friday Five: why colleges and universities should blog (part 1)”

  1. Point #4 (by Tim Nekritz) is extremely important, yet the exact reason that people have trouble just letting their bloggers blog!

    Yes, our viewbooks show lovely girls under trees and very happy students hanging out in beautifully decorated dorm rooms… and yes that is sometimes the reality. Our viewbooks do not show frustrations when you can’t sign up for a particular class or when you can’t find a parking spot… and these are realities too.

    In fact, when your bloggers speak to the negatives they actually gain credibility in the eyes of a prospective student.

    The wise Tim Nekritz once said “prescreen your bloggers, don’t prescreen their posts.” This is up there with the Golden Rule for me. And guess what? It works.

  2. As usual, lots of great wisdom from the community. I’ll be forwarding this one around. Happy weekend Andy. Hope your Tigers get a good coach. ;)

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