Developing a Social Media Strategy with Communications

I’ve been working with staff in College Communications, College Advancement and the office of the Vice President for Administration to develop a coherent strategy for managing the College’s social media networks and engaging with people through them. I’ve been asked to update you on our progress so far and where we hope to go from here. We have some exciting work ahead of us in the Spring and are always looking for new ideas and inspirations, so please feel free to ask questions and make suggestions about any of this.

The Social Hub

We’re going to create a space where people can see messages from the Middlebury community on various social media networks. Here are some examples of this from other schools: William & Mary and Tufts. This site will also feature a social media directory like at CMU and the University of Oregon.

I’ve tenatively named this the Waterfall. This is actually an idea I pitched White Whale for our homepage back when I visted MIIS in 2009. The inspiration comes from Twitterfall and the fact that one of our town’s most prominent features is the waterfall. The idea wasn’t used for our homepage (or was it?), so I’m recycling it here. The idea is that new updates would appear automatically on the page, as though coming over the waterfall.

Mission Statement

Middlebury should participate in online social networks to foster and extend our community by generating honest discussion of our activities. Social networks can create an engaged community to generate materials that exceed the limits of what can be created via a centralized top-down model of dissemination. By creating a robust and participatory online space, we can engage a broad array of individuals and allow them to become part of something bigger, a vibrant and active community that cuts across boundaries of nation, language, time zone, age, and social divides.

This is lifted, almost verbatim, from the Internet Strategy Task Force Report of 2008.

Goals

  1. Start a community discussion. See the participation goal from the Internet Strategy Task Force Report.
  2. Create a space that encourages a diversity of thought, a broad conversation, a forum for students to express their thoughts on important topics. This speaks to addressing some student concerns. Can social media help out here?
  3. Increase gifts, both monetary and donations such as art, and increase engagement through event promotion.

Values and Voice

Middlebury’s social media presence should aim to replicate and remind of the experience one expects at Middlebury College and its affiliated institutions. To that end, we will aim to project the following:

    • Scholarship.
    • Authencity.
    • Nostalgia.

These don’t need much explanation, but I will expand on the ‘honesty’ point. I think that authenticity goes a long way in making online communication relatable. We have thousands of extremely smart and capable students, much smarter (if one is to believe the standardized tests) than I was at the time, who we trust enough to engage in academic honesty through a simple pledge. I simply don’t believe the concern trolls who say we can’t let the community speak for itself. We can and we should be honest about our community and I believe that only in doing so will we achieve our first goal above.

To support this, we will allow anyone to register for the Social Hub under social media accounts in their own name. We will not remove posts or comments by people, so long as they do not violate the College Handbook policies. We will craft a statement about the type of dialog that we would like to encourage: a respectful tone that promotes honest and open dialog. Tufts has an example of this on their site.

Platforms

We’ll concentrate on these platforms initially to focus our project. While I think there are really, really interesting things that we can do with LinkedIn and Google+ (which we can’t really use anyway until the Google/MSLive evaluation is done) and other platforms, it makes sense to engage in fewer options nitially.

  • Blogs, hosted at http://sites.middlebury.edu
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • foursquare
  • flickr
  • MiddMedia

Our group is now working on developing platform-specific strategies and connecting with staff in administrative offices so that we don’t duplicate work. Again, if you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

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