(How) Should higher ed institutions use MySpace? Get answers from the higher ed MySpace advocate: Heather Mansfield, Web editor at Drury University

March 28th, 2007 Karine Joly 4 Comments

My next column about social networking websites will soon be published in the April issue of University Business.

I wrote it a couple of months ago before having a chance to discover a very interesting MySpace page (with 883 friends at the time of this posting): the Colleges and Universities MySpace.

Heather Mansfield, Web editor at Drury University and a MySpace consultant for non-profit organizations at DIOSA | Communications, is the person behind this original initiative.

myspace_highered

1) Why did you start the universities and colleges MySpace profile?

I started the Colleges & Universities MySpace in December 2006 to monitor the trend and watch its progress. Drury University was a very early adopter with its MySpace launched in July 2006. We wanted to see what other colleges and universities were doing on MySpace. Higher education institutions embracing MySpace was so new that there was no information out there. So, the Colleges & Universities MySpace was created to provide some organization and a central place where MySpace early adopters could chat and share ideas. It helped us feel more secure about using MySpace, because we saw the numbers of higher education institutions using MySpace growing daily.

2) What have you learned since you started it?

I have learned that MySpace is highly misunderstood by people who don’t use it. It is the most amazing online communication tool I have ever worked with. It continues to grow by 230,000 individuals of all ages everyday. MySpace is the third visited website in the U.S. and the fifth visited in the world. As far as colleges and universities using MySpace? I give kudos (a MySpace thing) to those early adopters and visionaries. Every target audience that colleges and universities are trying to cultivate are on MySpace in massive numbers – prospective students (traditional, nontraditional, international), current students, athletics fans, parents, alumni, nonprofit organizations, etc.

3) How should institutions use MySpace as part of their marketing strategy?

The first thing every college and university needs to do is set-up a MySpace account and grab its MySpace address, regardless of whether you plan on using or not. I think many colleges and universities will be very surprised when they discover a current student or alum has already grabbed the address and is already representing your institution on MySpace.

Second, get your MySpace profile professionally designed. First impressions are everything on MySpace. MySpace design is a new field and the really good designers are charging a small fortune ($5-20K) and designing mostly for bands and musicians.

Third, pick an individual to maintain the profile. Hire a student who can do most of the maintenance work required. An admissions or marketing staff person can direct the MySpace marketing strategy. There is a MySpace etiquette for colleges and universities which I have learned through trial and error.

Fourth, promote your MySpace on your website and in print materials. I can count on one hand the number of colleges and universities that have progressed to this level. When you get on MySpace and realize how the “Schools” function works, you are going to be shocked that it took your institution this long to get on MySpace.

4) How have you used it at your institution? With what kind of results?

Drury University has used our MySpace mostly to engage current students and alumni. Drury has numerous branch campuses throughout southern Missouri and our students at these campuses often feel disconnected from the main campus community and culture. They are some of our most active participants on our MySpace. Current students like the events information we bulletin, the polls, and the little ways we work to interact with them online. We also use our MySpace to engage alumni. Our alumni email list has grown significantly since we launched. On average each bulletin we send out asking for alumni to join our e-newsletter list generates a response of 10 subscriptions. We will ask alumni to subscribe via bulletins 1-3 per month. Our MySpace community grows by 150 each month. In the next few months we’re going to ramp up our MySpace outreach to prospective traditional, nontraditional, and international students.

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