Higher Education Marketing

Successful Social Media Requires You To Fight Your Fear

(Jim Braunschweig, Account Executive for JD Gordon Creative Labs in Sioux City, Iowa, is a guest blogger this week providing his perspective on social media, specifically the hesitation of higher education marketing to embrace and jump into the social media frenzy)

‘Social’ and ‘Media’ – two simple words easily defined and understood when they stand-alone. But together, these words take on a whole new meaning which we’re still trying to fully comprehend. While a definition for ‘Social Media’ exists, it still remains one of the most misunderstood, controversial, and (from the perspective of a business owner) the most complicated and feared strategies to implement within an organization’s overall marketing plan.

Social: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other

Media: a particular form or system of communication (such as newspapers, radio, or television)

Social Media: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)

Why do we fear ‘Social Media’? We fear it because it’s powerful. We fear it because we don’t understand it. But, most importantly, we fear it because as we’ve come to find out – we can’t control it, no matter how hard we try. Let’s be honest – the potential power which Social Media grants to any person who is able to ‘figure it out’ and ‘use it best’ intimidates us. No longer are the highest ranking individuals or most educated people in society able to decide the information that will be shared, control how it will be dispersed, or even whom it reaches. Ever since social media came along, the playing field has continued to level out so much so that nearly everyone has a chance to have their voice and opinion shared with the world, gain attention, inspire people to take action, and if it’s good enough, potentially make a global impact. When you think about it – how awesome is that?!?

But, now think about this… if all this is true (which it is, and there are plenty examples to back this up), then why aren’t more businesses, focusing more attention on how they can get the most out of their social media presence – rather than treating it as an afterthought – with little to no strategy or overall purpose for the content their creating, and the way in which they share it.

From my experience, the answer is simple: The business leaders and other professionals who have the authority to hire the talent, or allocate the funds necessary to implement a successful (not to mention measurable) social media strategy don’t fully understand what ‘Social Media’ is, and as I mentioned earlier – it’s just human nature to fear the unknown.

I apologize if that last statement came off condescending – I assure you I didn’t mean for it to come across that way. To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone ‘fully’ understands it, but what separates those who are successful (or will be successful) with Social Media and those who aren’t (or haven’t been) is the simple fact the ones we consider successful take action, experiment, and ‘play’ with social media – sometimes even making a few minor mistakes along the way, but they don’t let themselves be stricken with paralysis by analysis, nor do they stew on the bad things that could happen. Instead, they think about all the amazing ways in which these tools can help them connect, engage, and better understand their customers and clients, their wants and needs, so they can continually improve their product or service; which will lead to more raving fans, and ultimately, more business.

To be successful with Social Media requires organizations, specifically their leaders, to fight their fears – to be ok moving forward and learning as you go. For a great example of a Higher Ed Institution which has always been an early adopter to the new practices within social media and embraces the possibilities it has to offer I suggest you pay close attention to Texas A&M. Check out an innovative way they used Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and Twitter together back in 2011 to increase real life engagement through a scavenger hunt (Twitter was fairly new at the time). – http://bit.ly/TAMU_SocialMedia.

I could go on and on, and with Joel’s permission would love to do further ‘guest posts’ that go more in depth about how to use various social media platforms, discuss the capabilities of each, and share best practices for engaging with your audience in those spaces. But, for now, I’d just like to end this post with a sincere thank you to Joel for allowing me to be a part of his blog, and say that I know for a fact, Doane College is lucky to have a leader who fits the description of the type needed to help bring about change and implement a successful social media strategy.