As the new Social Media Manager of the Rhatigan Student Center here at WSU, I embrace the fact that social media is more and more becoming an integral part of not just society in general, but specifically of young colleges students. The Millenials have grown up with online forms of communication and enjoy online communication as much as they do in person. Connecting through virtual platforms such as Facebook is almost second nature. Consequently, our RSC team should be even more encouraged to partake in social media use to help in branding ourselves as the “center of student life” as described on the website. Social media is an excellent opportunity for us to reach out to staff and students so we can provide a more connected, cohesive and relevant social environment for this community.
I’ve taken a look and analyzed the RSC’s current social media efforts. As a way of conducting the research, I did what any student in the university would do. I went online, knowing well that any student interested in RSC events and/or services would do just this. As Brian Solis continuously repeats in Engage!, go where your customers are and not where they are not. By doing this, I was able to find the RSC page within the school website and their Twitter and Facebook pages. A couple of issues quickly stood out after perusing these online platforms.
The first of these regards the website. While necessary information such as “events calendars” and “operating hours” are easily located, the website lacks cultural perspective. It accurately informs, but it does not provide the welcoming character that has become so appealing and effective with online communication. It’s simply not engaging. Here I must agree with Tom White’s statement that as users of social media, we must focus on listening to our audience just as much as we speak to them. The website simply does not do that.
The second of these issues concerns the Facebook and Twitter pages. Within these, the RSC has made a stronger attempt to appeal to staff and students by creating a friendlier and more engaging voice. The problem with these pages is that the audience is not reciprocating. The Facebook page in particular consists of the RSC’s wall posts, with minimal involvement from the people who “Like” the page. These platforms give a more accurate picture of the lack of involvement on behalf of the students than does the website. As sites that favor complete 2-way engagement, Facebook and Twitter should be more successful at this that the university website, but this clearly is not the case.
The biggest concerns with the RSC’s current social media efforts are that: 1) few people are responding to the two current platforms in use, 2) it lacks a consistent and memorable online image for the RSC and 3) as a result there is not much trust in the RSC as an online brand.
I propose a strategy that would focus on exactly what the RSC states in their mission statement, which is to “foster the cultural… recreational and social needs of a diverse university community.” Social media, so capable of being engaging and relationship-focused, provide the best means by which to make the RSC’s mission a success, particularly in today’s online-oriented lifestyles. This strategy consists of three critical steps: creating and maintaining a blog, bringing focus to the employees, and creating advertising campaigns to entice students to be involved.
The first step involves not creating a simple one-page blog, but a blog with multiple pages dedicated to separate cultural sectors within the university community. Let’s call it “TheShockerNook.com.” The main page would focus on the RSC’s ambiance by including a Twitter feed, similar to the one Andrea Anglin from the Red Cross describes on one of their company pages. In this way, topics would be posted and staff/students can respond to them, in real time. The conversations would range anywhere from “SAS handing out free school stuff and a chance to win a free iPod Shuffle. Check them out today on the second floor!” to “What’s your favorite food stop at the RSC?” The goal is to create an online group that both informs and learns from others’ tweets on RSC events and information. The sub-pages, on the other hand, would include forums for specific groups with page names like Interestingly International, Parents’ Place, Freshmen’s Field, and so forth, that speak specifically to students in these groups. Each of these pages would include a blog created specifically for that group, with articles offering tips and advice based on their needs (example: “5 Kid-Friendly Study Spots on Campus” or “People You Should Know at the Registration Office”). This kind of blog would provide students with fun and useful material, and would invite them to give their own advice/thoughts/opinions. The use of photos and video to illustrate these ideas would further the blog as an entertaining and useful resource for students. The blog would also easily track the number of hits and activity the site receives, which will help in determining how successful it is or project needed change at any given time.
The second step in this transformation involves bringing attention to the employees. It’s a simple idea that necessarily changes the students/staff/employee dynamics. Brian Solis emphasizes this point when he says that once dived into, social media actually changes the company culture. This is exactly what the RSC needs. The way to focus on the employees is to provide a link on “TheShockerNook.com” to a separate blog that focuses on the employees running the RSC. Employees who get to share their experiences and be recognized for their work become much more enthused about their jobs and audiences love to see a glimpse into the lives of the people “behind the scenes.” It’s a win-win situation. This blog could include bio sections for janitors, office secretaries, and kitchen cooks. By providing such information to everyone, it humanizes the building and creates a much more socially meaningful environment than we see now. It’s about personalizing and creating new sets of relationships.
The third step in this proposed plan is making these blogs popular with marketing campaigns. This step is crucial. Done carefully and honestly, it will help create and build trust in the RSC. The marketing campaigns would involve a recognizable and consistent visual brand for the RSC that creates an emotional connection with the audience. Such a brand would also need to be present on “TheShockerNook.com” Whether it is a catchy logo, a phrase, or bold and memorable graphics that consistently appear on all RSC marketing efforts, branding the RSC is a much-needed advertising element. The results of the campaign could be effectively measured by conducting on-campus surveys before and after the campaign to see how significantly the image of the RSC was altered.
These three steps are critical in the RSC’s transformation. By creating and maintaining these blogs and establishing their presence with a strong marketing campaign, the RSC would be creating an online abode for its online-oriented community. Most importantly, it would gain trust. Once we have the community’s trust we can be sure that they will be attentive to upcoming RSC-related services, events and programs. We create an honest and useful online community, we gain their trust, and we change the campus community from one who currently knows little about what the RSC offers, to one fully engaged and invested in the RSC, the real “center of student life.”