Confab EDU

Takeaways from the 2015 Summit in New Orleans

The content strategists at Confab hosted Higher Ed social media folks from around the country in New Orleans last week.

Some Key Takeaways:

1. What you do online matters less than what you do offline.

A key theme of #confabEDU that I left with is that, as we become more familiar with our arsenal of tools, and as social media becomes further ingrained in our daily existence, social media managers (especially in higher ed) are shifting their priorities.

When our profession began, the industry was almost solely focused on growth. Mangers were constantly asking, “how can we get — and retain — followers?” As audiences stabilized, the bulk of strategy focused on engagement, often a ratio portraying what percentage of your audience is interacting with your content. We became obsessed with GA, custom URL parameters, tracking link clicks and RT’s. As with any field, higher ed social media has now found itself in the enviable position of asking more existential questions — namely “What does it all matter?”

Boiled down, we’ve seen strategy shift from a focus on growth, to engagement to impact. We’re now asking, “what kind of effect does this content have on my audience?” “How are people impacted by the work we’re doing?” “How can we highlight our people?” “How can we humanize?” “How are we making a difference with these channels?”

Tim Nekritz of SUNY Oswego pointed out the paradox of our society: We are more connected than ever, but we also feel more alone than ever. I was left wondering how we, as community managers, can foster a sense of inclusivity for our audiences.

2. The Decline of Off-Platform Navigation

It’s a common predicament in the social media sphere: You’ve created a great piece of content (be it a press release, YouTube video, news article, infographic, etc) that lives on your owned web presence. You share it widely across your social channels but direct clicks to your content are down from the past, despite a growing audience. Way down, in fact. Why?

While a cynic might say we’re getting lazy, a realist can tell you that as the amount of information available for our consumption only continues to grow, we gravitate towards the information that is easiest to consume. Put simply, audiences want the content they receive to be available on the platform they’re on.

You may have noticed Facebook’s new mobile update makes this in-platform navigation seem much easier. It’s a trend across the web, especially on mobile. As content publishers, we must soon face the question: “Do I give my audience what they want where they want it — and relinquish control (i.e. having them visit my beautiful, branded website) or do I maintain course?”

My prediction is you’ll begin to see much less links on social and much more on-platform content distribution. We’ve started doing this on Facebook with the use of native video and have seen some fantastic results.

3. The Increased Importance of In-Person Contact

As technology makes instantaneous communication ubiquitous, the power of face-to-face contact has only increased. This quote from Jeff Stevens on cross-campus collaboration resonated with me:

“Be a continual presence. Don’t leave it to email. Build bridges.”

I’m not calling for an increase in meetings where decision-making could easily have happened over email. I’m calling for increased person-to-person contact. If you want to represent your University/department/student group/school, you need to be immersed in it. Make yourself a resource to your community members. Stroll campus, wander into buildings and make your presence felt. Not only will you increase your collaboration from fellow communicators on campus, but it makes our often (buzzword) “decentralized” campuses, seem much more centralized.

This “face time” also helps you from a management perspective as you get to know your users. Rather than project qualities on to them (i.e. “I think our students like this”), you’re getting to know them, putting faces to them, and hearing from them. By bringing people together from disparate parts of your campus, you’re always learning and by meeting people, you’re connecting your content strategy be more reflective of your entire constituency.

I left Confab feeling inspired and ready to implement some new strategies here at BU. Summed up in one very concise quote from University of Florida, my mission is as follows:

By: Emily Truax, Digital Engagement Associate, Boston University

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