Impact of Social Media on University Learning and Recruitment - #SMCSTL Recap

The Social Media Club - St. Louis January Meet-Up last night at Gio's downtown sure delivered on its promise to be "an exciting look into how something that has touched all of us in life, education, is evolving and innovating to stay current with today's technology and youth."

I recorded key points and insights from each of our dynamic panelists, and below you'll find their answers and what Erin Steinbruegge (@steinburglar) likes to call "Twuggets" -- little nuggets of gold that are meaningful to understanding social media and also short enough that they are perfect for Twitter. 

The crowd mingles after the panel came to a close.
Speaking of Twitter, it wouldn't be a Social Media Club St. Louis (@smcstl) meeting without hundreds of live tweets, all tagged with #smcstl for your convenient digest. Check out the stream from last night, and let me know what you took away from the event. Don't forget to connect with Allison, Patrick, Jill and Colby. In addition to their in-depth understanding of how social media is shaping higher education, teaching style, recruitment, learning opportunities and collaboration in and outside of the classroom, this group of folks tweets daily (and blogs!) about many things social media. 

A bit of Social Media Club news before we get started with our recap from last night. 
  • Within a month or so, our board will be ready to announce a new website! Right now, directs to our Facebook fan page, but before long, we expect to have a collaborative hub of blog content, images, video and much more. Stay tuned for that!
  • Within the next week, we'll be announcing the February meet-up. Just ask anyone who attended last night's event to find out why you should definitely mark your calendar for February's. Next month's meet-up will not feature a panel or topic. Instead, we're reserving this one for pure networking.
Here's the lovely panel from last night:

Allison Babka - Marketing Specialist for Undergraduate Recruitment at Saint Louis University@AMBabka
Patrick Powers - Interactive Media Manager at Webster University - @PatrickJPowers
Jill Falk - Assistant Professor, Mass Communications & LUTV News Director at Lindenwood University - @JillFalk
Colby Gergen Student at University of Missouri - Columbia, President Mizzou AAF - @ColbyWG 

SMCSTL Moderator Brian Schwartz with Allison Babka & Colby Gergen
Brian Schwartz (@creativereason) did a fantastic job moderating this panel, opening it up with some deep questions and inciting some lively banter when panelists amicably disagreed on a few points. Note that the following is a digest of notes I took during the panel, and it is in no way a verbatim transcript nor is it comprehensive of all of the topics discussed.

One other key observation about the panel which I heard mentioned several times was the value found in including not only marketers on the organization side but also a student and a teacher. I personally think this is probably the most defining factor in the value of this event, and kudos to Brian for gathering a diverse panel so that we could all enjoy earning from the unique perspectives provided from each angle of social media's impact within education.

Brian: What are the most popular social media tool being used by students?

Patrick: Facebook! I see10 times the traffic and I can get people to do 10 times as much using Facebookover Twitter.

Patrick: Median age of student is 31, which runs right in line w/ median age of Twitter users

Allison: Most of our market comes from Twitter, but we get a lot of parents and alums on Facebook.

Jill: Facebook during class (laughs) and she hears that the students are mostly using Facebook.

Colby: Twitter is really catching on but it's a different step to get it to be used in the classroom than it is to use it to connect with friends. Most of my friends and fellow students who tweet, I follow them for the humor. A lot of what's posted is off the wall. So many students checked in at Cornell Hall one day that most earned the Swarm Badge on FourSquare. Students are getting more and more used to FourSquare.

Jill Falk chats with attendees after the panel.
Brian: Are students being given recommendations about not tagging photos on Facebook?

Allison: We don't say anything to students about what to do on Facebook. We're not in the helpful phase, we're in the awareness phase. For students we choose to use in our ads or internal publications, we do vet them on Facebook.

Jill: There's no coordinated effort at Lindenwood to tell kids to be careful about Facebook but some professors are advising students on it. In one of my classes recently, I advised them to Google themselves and do a write up. A lot of them said, "My facebook page came up, and I didn't like a lot of the pictures that were there!.... I didn't know this stuff was public!" You would think that to a lot of them it would be obvious, but it's not, and they do need a wake up call.

Colby: Not sure how I got started in social media. A few of my friends came to me and said check out Twitter so I did, and it great from there. According to my first tweet is "oh man my car broke down" and then 2 weeks later, "my car broke down again" (laughs).

Personally I'm not too strict about what I put out on social media. For me it's a personal philosophy. I am who I am. Take it or leave it. But other students have an opposite view of it.

I think it's important when educating students to tell them they need to be themselves. 

Do a brand audit of yourself. Same as you would do with any business you'd work with. Google yourself, audit what comes up. And find out how to get that LiveJournal from when you were 13 and figure out how to get rid of it.

Lisa Keller (@lisackeller) having fun at SMCSTL.
Allison: When prospective students are a friend of our school on Facebook, after they get accepted, we siphon them off into other more relevant Facebook pages: into the schools they want or the class they're going to be in. Student ambassadors answer questions related more specifically to what they're going to do at school. Then the ambassadors can connect with them over these topics and create a more personalized experience.

Patrick: Prime drivers to website are academic program info, financial aid info, and then fill out the application. We have to create an experience across social platforms that cater to these desires.

Brian: Do people who don't get into the school complain on your Facebook page?

Allison: (SLU) says no, but Patrick (Webster) says yes.

Patrick says it's important to Webster to always approach students or rejected students as human, even if the exchange occurs online: be compassionate and be understanding.

Allison says she's fearful of the day that they have to deal with an angry student who doesn't get in.
Says they've had no negative content generated other than media related fires they've had to put out.

Jill: There's always going to be haters out there. I take advice from Scott Stratten not to worry about the "trolls" out there. We try to tell students to be authentic.

Question was raised as to how social media impacts classroom assignments. 

Jill: has all students keep a blog, and all assignments for "Intro to Social Media" class are submitted online.
In the last year or so, been incorporating video and other more dynamic content and links. Jill says she asks herself and her students: what can we incorporate into our blogs and into the assignments that will expand their horizons a bit.

If you're going into communications and you don't understand social media, who's going to hire you?

Jill's classroom actually communicates and collaborates about classroom curriculum and assignments publicly on Twitter: #com130 @com130

Jill: Media changes every day, and here's a textbook, here's all my years of experience, but all of a sudden, I'm old and I don't know anything. Now I can send them links after class is over, and it's really become an expansion of learning.

Colby: If you're a teacher, be on Twitter and pay attention to it. It has opened up so many roads for me. Teachers are constantly available instantly for questions. There are teachers who I've never had in class yet have been the best teachers I've had by supporting me on Twitter.

Jill: Instead of coming to me during my office hours, when they have a question about blogging or media, they ask a question on Twitter, and before I even answer, my other students are jumping in with answers.

Panelist Allison Babka
Brian: Do universities monitor current students' online presence for bad behavior?

Alison: I watch but I don't do anything about it. 

Patrick: (to the rest of the panel) Do you friend your students or fellow teachers on Facebook?

Jill: I say to my students, "When this class is over, if for some reason you think I'm cool enough to friend me on Facebook, send me an invitation, but while we're in this class, I'm not that comfortable with it."

Colby (student): Yes, I do. But if you do friend your students, make sure you trust them and there's a relationship there you trust or it may backfire int he end.

Patrick: We tell admissions counselors not to friend their Facebook students. We have a policy. Some have said "Well I'll just start a second profile and friend them" and we tell them this is against Facebook's terms of service to have two profiles. 

Valerie Jensen is an admissions counselor. Val doesn't want to friend the 15 year-olds she's talking to and engage in conversation. It might be inappropriate in some cases. So instead, the way our university handles this is that Val has set up a Facebook page (not a profile) that has her name, with Webster University tied to it. It's a fan page. They can like her, and she can message them. But it takes out the personal and risky elements of friending students via your personal profile. This way she can operate as the employee via her page and via her personal profile she is her true self.

Questions ensued in the audience, largely from Eliot Frick, regarding how "authentic" this is - to have a "fan page" that is not fully representative of yourself. He asked the panel if this makes them uncomfortable or if they find this activity redundant rather than just allowing the teachers to connect directly with their students via their own Facebook profiles.

Brian: We're always talking about how social media breaks down barriers between universities and people or between companies and people. Where do you draw the line? Where do you want/get to lock down any private content?
How do you protect your online self and offline self? I don't check in on FourSquare at home, for example.

Jill: One of the advantages of Twitter over Facebook is that it is more public. I can respond more openly to a student's question on Twitter at 11:00 at night, and it's okay. It's not creepy, because it's public.

Patrick: Facebook is where the numbers are. That's where the students are, and if that's where they are, that's where we need to be.

This is me, tweeting up a storm on the #SMCSTL hashtag.
Responses about how each handles blogging:

Allison: We're finding that people are reading the blogs and then they're going to the sections of the admissions site where we want them to go even though we get very few comments on the blog posts. That's how we know it's working for us.

Colby: As much as I think it's great to get students blogging, it's one of those things where I feel like if students are not that into it, it's a question of "Do i really want to invest their time in it?"

Allison: We have students blogging, and it has worked out well for us. In the same way that we select students for advertisements, we vetted them and made them apply to be bloggers. We very, very carefully vetted and selected our bloggers. We make sure we cover various disciplines.

Brian: How do you vet candidates for admissions?

Allison: If there's a whiff of anything not wholesome, we won't consider them. 

Patrick: Who determines wholesome?

Alison: (without hesitation) Me!

(Audience Laughs)

Brian: Do you change your tone and approach to adjust to different audiences in your social profiles?

Allison: I'm gonna put on my 16 year-old 'dude' voice when I'm writing for kids, but I'm going to be professional when writing for parents.

Brian: As a journalism thing and a writing thing in general, people don't write in AP style all the time. How do you handle the "disingenuous" factor of writing for your audience? Is writing in a more conversational tone becoming more prevalent?

Jill: Definitely. 50% of my classes are on the broadcasting side, so I am encouraging them to be more conversational. Sometimes I have had issues with blogs being too informal, and they're writing text message style or with very poor punctuation. I don't get upset. I advise them to look into it and consider these things. I try to respect their style and their tone when they're writing on blogs.

Colby: There is an important difference between conversational typing or conversational style and plain old laziness.