Rolling right along with the new SMC Bloggers page. I’ve spent the last two days in CMS hell during this redesign, but I’m almost satisfied with how it’s coming.

Why Rebuild?

1. Because our blogs are good. They’re better than good. They’re great. They averaged over 2,000 hits a piece last year.

2. Because our other efforts are bad. Real bad.

We (the Office of Admission) rolled out a Facebook group specifically dedicated to high school prospects interested in SMC. It bombed. It has 35 members, 4 are SMC Class of 2012. The rest are alums and current students.

Our online photo albums are weak. Not a lot of photos, and not easily accessible. I’m not even sure where it is on our website.

We were in what I call the “Old Marketing Approach” when we built these things originally. They were all done before Facebook really took off and we didn’t have a good understanding of it. We thought that all we had to do was build it and they would come.

That’s clearly not how it works.

I have this article that was sent around my department posted on the wall in my office: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/06/03/facebook as a reminder of that old mentality. It’s an article in a higher education marketing magazine praising this new, revolutionary, initiative on Facebook.

Number of users: 0.

Again it is that old we’ll build it, you come mentality. It’s gimmicky and the kids who are on Facebook see right through it.

What I hope this rebuild will do is cut through the marketing junk. The only “marketing” that will be going on are honest conversations with our students, faculty and staff. And the blogs will help to initiate that conversation.

Introduction: Blogs; Building the relationship: Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and more(?)…

Regular blog readers begin to develop an emotional relationship with the writer wether they realize it or not. You can’t help but not to. These students are giving prospective student and families and glimpse into life at SMC. Extending the glimpse into other social media will help to strengthen these experiences.

Blog relationships tend to be one sided however. That really is the nature of the format. Certainly there is the ability to post comments, but it isn’t a fluid conversation.

Adding Web 2.0 applications like Flickr, will give the blog readers a wider view of the bloggers experience at SMC and that of a typical SMC student by providing visual evidence of these experiences. The benefit of Flickr over other e-web albums is the social aspect. Users can post comments on the photos and discuss and share with others.

YouTube is much the same except in video format.

The tricky one here really is Facebook. The new Facebook page will be centered around the SMC Bloggers. It’s all about them. I don’t want the Admission Office to be there first association when they visit the group. I want it to be a means for them to connect with the bloggers and continue to grow that relationship. No admission marketing speak. Honest conversations are more valuable.

My hope with this new webpage is that prospective students and their families will have access to all of these social media through one site. They’ll be able to read the read the blogs, connect with the writers on Facebook, see their photos and videos, and get up to date info on what their doing through Twitter.

Implementation

Building these things are easy enough, but how I’m going to teach the bloggers how to use these tools?

Teach really isn’t the right word because I think they already know how to use the technology or it at least won’t take them long to figure out. I need more of a guided exploration experience. So how to do this?

1. Summer homework

I have started by asking them to upload some photos of “Summer Fun.” I gave them a lot of freedom to go out and get photos (appropriate for our audience) and upload them into our Flickr account (SMCBloggers).

I will also ask them to take video of their first week on campus. Moving in, seeing friends for the first time, first night of homework, first day of practice, that sort of stuff.

2. Geek Session on campus

We’ll probably have a meeting during the second week of school to which I’ll have them bring their laptops so we can have a real geek session (hopefully we’ll have wireless by then).

They all have Facebook accounts, but I will have them all set up accounts in Blogger. This way they can customize them, giving them a feeling that it really is their blog.

I will also have everyone surf around each other’s photos on Flickr and post comments to them.

I will also work with them to upload the videos they made of their first week back on campus to YouTube.

From then on it is up to them to keep blogging, uploading, posting, etc.

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