Mollie, I finally took the plunge and signed up for Facebook. The University Relations office helped set up a page for me, and last fall I signed up for Twitter, mostly to keep up with scores of Phoenix athletics teams. Are you proud of your old dad?
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I am oh-so-proud. Welcome to the 21st century! But, you know, there are a lot of other ways you can use social media besides checking the latest game scores. Facebook and Twitter can be great for networking and keeping up-to-date on topics in your field by following people and organizations that are related to your career and interests.
Actually, Andrew Bennett '08 of the Young Alumni Council was the first young alum to encourage me to become more involved in social media. Already, I keep in touch with alums in a more personal way and, of course, with current students and parents, too. I enjoy taking a moment to comment on something interesting on campus or on a student accomplishment that deserves special attention – but I think I have a lot to learn.
There is a lot to learn. You’ll want to have a social media plan and understand the message you want to give to other people. This is as important for businesses as they think about online branding as it is for college students as they are about to post photos on Facebook from a wild night out. A recent study I saw showed that one in 10 college admissions officers look at applicants’ online profiles. The same study showed that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are being used in college classrooms to enhance the learning environment. What are some of the ways that Elon is using social media?
You saw that many students Tweeted during Convocation for Honors. And I think Facebook was a huge reason the IGNITE Young Alumni Challenge by Kerrii Anderson '79 was so successful, raising nearly $70,000 in just a month from our young alums. On Facebook, lots of people have “liked” parts of the university in which they are especially interested, ranging from Phoenix athletics to Belk Library, or have “friended” faculty who post on their walls often about scholarly topics. Mollie, you and some other media students attended the South by Southwest conference in Texas last month, a huge gathering of people thinking about the future of communications. How do you see universities changing because of social media?
SXSW was an amazing opportunity to learn about the latest digital trends from industry leaders. Current social networking trends are changing the ways that universities market themselves to prospective students, alumni and community members. One trend I heard a lot about at SXSW was the idea of incorporating “game layers” in communications, giving people the opportunity to have fun and earn incentives through their online activities such as social networking or even through their online educational activities.
On one hand, I am awed by the power of social media, as we have seen the influence of Facebook in Egypt and other parts of North Africa and in the Middle East this spring. But I do worry about how both the complexity and subtlety of ideas can get lost in short messages. As with the addition of any new tool, I suppose the challenge here will be to separate the powerful applications from the trivial ones.
I agree. The skills of reading complex texts and writing longer papers are still important for students to learn. But with the role of social media in society, knowing these skills alone is no longer enough. Students need to be able to communicate their ideas in a variety of forms and outlets. All of these are vital tools. Our toolbox is just becoming bigger.
Mollie Lambert is a student in the master of arts program in interactive media at Elon. You can follow her on Twitter @mollielambert.
Like President Lambert at facebook.com/leolambert.