College students are big users of social media and use sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to post opinions - good and bad - about their schools. Our Web seminar panelists, Karli Grant, of Campus Management, and Fritz McDonald, of Stamats Communications, provide insights into what is happening online and how you can monitor and influence your cyberspace reputation.
Senior Market Strategy Manager, Campus Management
Searching for some schools on Facebook, you see a couple college and university logos and click on one. It has the school’s motto, colors, and images; it looks legitimate. But then you investigate a little further and realize it’s not the institution’s page at all, but the page of an unhappy student. The first post is “So, who wants to start crabbing?” This is just one example of how popular social media sites can affect the reputations of today’s colleges and universities - without them even knowing about it.
If we look at StudentsReview.com, you’ll see that students can leave comments that are positive in nature, or negative, or neutral, and they can provide advice. But the point is that when people can log on and leave negative information, that is what others are going to look at. They are not just going to look at the positive comments; they want see what people are "really saying" about the institution.
What can you do? The very first thing is to be aware. You are no longer in complete control of your online image. It is really important for you to do the searches that you don’t want to do. Use those words that you would never want to use in conjunction with your institution’s name. Do your searches and find out what people are saying about you.
It is really important to have an institutional policy in place, to make sure that it is published, and that it is known and accessible to students, faculty, and staff particularly in regards to using your trademark, logo, or image.
Vice President for Creative Strategy, Stamats
Social media listening is an emerging field, and there are numerous tools you can use. There are free tools, like Google Alerts and Google Blog Search, which give you a pretty broad view of conversations, and Technorati, Blog Pulse, and a relatively new one called Collecto, which gives real time information on blogs and videos. There are also paid alternatives.
It is very important to make this someone’s job. I would look at someone who has a great facility in social media. They are regularly creating content and interacting with others on the social Web. Then you need to establish a listening schedule. I would recommend three to six months, because you need some time to gauge what you are hearing and how much it has changed over a certain period of time.
You need to act on what you hear. In order to influence the conversation and reinforce your brand, you need to act pretty quickly, but you also need to act constantly and regularly. You need to add your voice to the other voices out there, because that is really the only way you are going to turn around any kind of negative opinion.
I think the key points, again, are to become an active regular presence and to find a way to turn this into a real job someone has to do, and to listen on a regular basis. I think it will go a long way towards helping you not only influence the negative conversations, but to build your brand on the Web.
This web seminar was originally presented on Jan. 5, 2010. To view it in its entirety, please go to http://www.universitybusiness.com/campusmanagement
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