In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, part of my summer’s intention is to immerse myself into the social media culture that’s all the rage with the young folk. Nothing’s worse than a “we have to have better social media for the university” pronouncement from someone with a Blackberry who relies on Outlook for most of her online conversations. Not that I am describing myself, but due to a focus on the conventional meaning of what a web communications professional does, I’ve been only a hair’s breath away from that. I’ve dipped my toes into social media, but never dove in.
Email is where I have to live for the mechanics of my job. It’s not, however, an entirely habitable space when it comes to conveying larger ideas and for connecting beyond my comfort zone. I have found that traditional web conferences, which are rich in information about technology and trends, tend to not push creative boundaries beyond the immediate group of self-selected web developers, all talented and capable for sure, but not largely discussing what I’d like to be discussing, which is the notion of connecting people and ideas as the goal, with technology as a way to do that. When ideas about effective higher education web communications arise, they are frequently in service to marketing, which implies that the web is nothing more than a marketing space. I believe that this is deadly on the web, particularly the increasingly mobile web, and that universities who think they can formulate an effective social media strategy from a marketing perspective have essentially lost the battle before it is even fought.
Nothing smells more phony than marketing in social media, and the prospective student knows it. IMO. FWIW.
So what to do? Well, to me, Twitter is now feeling like a game of jump rope where the rope is turning, turning, turning and it’s up to ME to hop into the conversation. This past week, I’ve made a point of jumping in, getting back to blogging, creating an alter-ego presence on the web, and participating in conversations about stuff I’m wholly unqualified to converse about! I’m doing this in service to the joy that comes from the connected mind.
This is an entirely different mindset than my familar one which sits in the office and pours over information architecture and page layouts while answering email. Those are mechanical tasks that must be done, for sure, but done in the consciousness that what we create when we create a web presence for a university is not to pander, but to invite, not to preach, but to inspire, not to tell someone to “click here,” but be vulnerable enough to put out authentic experience and deeply held, half-baked ideas, trusting that someone new and interesting will want to jump in and play, simply out of the joy of discovery.
Gotta go check my email now.