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Social Media

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.

In a previous column published in the June issue of University Business, I shared a few anecdotal examples of how universities and colleges had started to use online analytics to inform their marketing and communications decisions. Unfortunately, there was no available data on analytics usage across institutions at that time. I decided to survey practitioners, thus testing my hypothesis that a change of attitudes in higher education toward web and social media analytics was required.

Social media is not just for students. Faculty, administrators, campuses, and departments can leverage social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to communicate and enhance services to candidates, students, parents and alumni. Our Web seminar panelists, Nicholas Wormley, director of alumni and parent relations at Quinnipiac University, and Karli Grant, of Campus Management, offer guidance on how to implement a smart social media strategy.