Social networking content management: the next big thing to recruit and retain college students?

October 18th, 2005 Karine Joly 3 Comments

It might be.

And, you’d better keep reading if you want to find out what Social Networking Content Management is all about.

You already know that social networking websites LiveJournal, Xanga and MySpace have become central in the life of our main target audience: prospective and current students. They spend hours and hours on these sites connecting with friends who share the same interests and exchanging information about what matters to them.

So, when it’s time to make a decision about their education, high school seniors keep listening to this wide technology-powered network for information about colleges and advice on how to fit in.

“Millennials are concerned with fitting in. The only way they know whether they fit in is if they know the people they are going to be joining. Any two-way communication between prospects and current students facilitates their knowing,” explained Dimitri Glazkov from Gandalf Inc. and Robertson-Boyd from Capital University in the presentation titled “Social Content Management,” made last week at the Stamats conference in San Francisco and recapped on Fuzzy Content, a wiki created for this occasion.

Universities and colleges have started to respond to this need by launching their own student blogs to offer some real insights about the whole college experience at their universities. Student blogs sponsored and promoted by admission offices have been cast as the best way to provide prospective students with information from the only expert sources they will trust – current students – while allowing the employers of these bloggers to monitor easily what’s said about their institution.

Even if these controlled student blogs offer an interesting alternative, they will probably never replace the social networking websites. This is why admission offices should work on a larger and more comprehensive “Social Content Management” strategy.

Dimitri and Bob made the following suggestions to delve into this new practice of “Social Content Management:”

  • Listen: “You can use blogs as customer research tools to help you learn what your students like and dislike. And to learn how you are doing in their eyes. This is a great opportunity for all of us to research our audience. “
  • Get comment-enabled student blogs on your website: “You can also use blogs on your site. Sure you can find a few students to post messages to your site, but do you allow commenting on those blogs? That’s the key because that makes it a two-way communication medium between your best advocates and some promising prospects.”
  • Respect your audience’s right to intimacy: “What if we started using the sites that our students are already using. What if we followed them there? Why not post campus events on thefacebook? Well. For one, it could all blow up. They might find another place to play once they know we’re watching. I think that’s very likely if we handle ourselves inappropriately. We have to tread lightly and with great respect. Administrators should not step in unless invited.”
  • Manage, don’t try to control: “In a world where everything is knowable, you can’t control the message. The best you can hope for is to influence opinion of how you handle what is said. If you stand up to it and respond professionally, you save face and make friends. If you bury yourself and cover up, you’ll only prolong the inevitable and look more foolish in the end.”

Personally, I think it might be a good idea to send a few student ambassadors on these social networking websites with the mission to answer questions and point prospective students in the right direction when they feel lost. Some universities have already started to pay (with cash or tech-toys) students to post on their admission blogs. So, why not hire a few current students to browse the social networking websites and help prospective students to find out if they can fit in?

What do you think?