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Social Media

In our wired, social media-saturated world, many of us are connected to family and friends on Facebook and to business colleagues and other professionals via LinkedIn. These connections are undeniably meaningful and beneficial to each of us personally, and potentially, professionally.

But what about networks that may exist for gaining access to a deeper, more sophisticated level of expertise, information sharing, timely guidance, or shared interests? The implications could be huge for those of us in the education space.

The tornadoes that ripped across the South in April devastated everything in their paths. Some institutions had to close their doors before semester’s end.

Ever wonder what Facebook does with the information it collects about you? Ever wonder what you could do with that same information? Economist Richard Thaler of The University of Chicago recently raised the notion that consumers could benefit if companies would turn the data they collect over to the public. His mantra is, “It’s my data--give it back!”

Transfer used to be what happened when students realized too late that they picked a college or university that wasn't right for them. It wasn't until recently that the valuable market of transfer students has started being studied and really tapped into.

"For a while, transfers were kind of looked at as extra," says Bonita C. Jacobs, executive director of The National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Texas. Admissions offices began realizing they'd be left behind if they didn't start recruiting transfers.

Based on Twitter, blogs, and web conferences, it looks like everybody in higher education is talking about check-ins, Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, and SCVNGR. No matter where they work, from liberal arts colleges to big state universities, many web communication and online marketing professionals have already adopted location-based services (LBS). More and more have been busy claiming the Facebook Place for their institution, creating a Gowalla tour, applying for the Foursquare University Program, or setting up their first SCVNGR trek.

Medieval castles were protected by moats, fortified walls, and small villages, yet enemies sometimes still snuck through using disguises.

A similar multilayered approach is needed to protect the modern campus IT infrastructure. Only this time the enemy is malware and viruses and the disguises are links on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

A friend recently told me that she had deactivated her Facebook account because of security concerns. Just last month we heard that some Facebook applications, such as the extremely (yet inexplicably) popular Farmville game, were causing identifying information to be sent to advertisers without the users' consent.

Bill Tyson has been advising colleges and universities on getting media attention for more than 30 years through his firm Morrison & Tyson Communications. Now he's taken some of that knowledge and put it into Pitch Perfect: Communicating with Traditional and Social Media for Scholars, Researchers, and Academic Leaders (Stylus Publishing, 2010), a how-to guide for thoughtful communications planning that can increase the likelihood of national media coverage.

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