Karine Joly 4 Comments

Higher Ed Experts Faculty Voices by Karine Joly

Teaching is the best way to learn.

I’ve learned so much (and keep learning) about social media marketing in higher education with your colleagues who’ve enrolled in the 8-week professional certificate I teach since 2011.

How I fell into teaching…

I stumbled into teaching social media marketing almost by accident in 2010. At that time, I was an early adopter, heavy user and passionate observer of social media in higher ed marketing.

One day, a subscriber of my newsletter gave my name to the person in charge of developing new graduate online courses at her school. SNHU had planned to launch a new concentration in social media marketing for their MBA program. They were looking for a subject expert to develop and teach the capstone course. I jumped at this learning opportunity right away.

After teaching a couple of sessions of the 11-week graduate online course I developed for SNHU, I decided to launch a course focusing on social media strategy and campaigns in higher education, the industry I knew the best.

This 8-week professional online certificate program offered by Higher Ed Experts welcomed its first students, people like you working in colleges and universities, in February 2011.

More than 150 of your higher ed colleagues enrolled in my course have now spent 8 weeks with a group of peers developing their expertise in social media marketing by studying best practices but also by working on their own higher ed social media campaigns.

Your colleagues often say they have learned a great deal from the course materials I keep updating, our weekly online class discussions and the social media initiatives they’ve run during the course.

As I read their course evaluations, I can’t help but think about all I’ve learned teaching this course – about social media marketing, but also about the biggest challenges digital professionals face in higher education.

So, let me share with you 5 things I’ve learned teaching social media marketing for higher education.

#1 Social media can be an overwhelming job, because it changes all the time

While many institutions still think social media should be treated as an afterthought, it’s often a full-time job in higher education. Social media has changed – and matured – very fast during the years I’ve taught social media marketing for higher ed.

Nikki Synstrum keynoting at eduweb17

Many of my students feel overwhelmed at the beginning – no matter how much they know about social media. Whether you are a total social media beginner or a seasoned social media strategist, you can’t fall asleep at the wheel and go into autopilot. You have to keep monitoring, learning and experimenting with all the new developments in platforms, tools and best practices.

#2 Higher ed marketers and communicators have less and less time to do their job well

I often joke about the fact that our professional online school, Higher Ed Experts, is not called “Higher Ed Dilettantes” for a good reason: our higher ed marketing online programs are NOT walks in the park. All the Higher Ed Experts graduates have worked very hard to earn their professional certificates. Just showing up and listening won’t get you this blue ribbon 😉

However, I’ve noticed that the time many committed students can spend on this course has shrunk by 20% to 30% on average over the past few years. Blame the general rise of distractions, the advance of Netflix or the never-ending list of work requests, but it’s increasingly difficult to find time to think, analyze and plan for these fine higher ed marketers.

Your colleagues often tell me how much they love that this course keeps them accountable and has them complete strategic documents they can use at work as graded assignments. As I review their work to grade it, I always provide constructive feedback, suggestions and ideas – thus learning a great deal about the major roadblocks for social media in higher education. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the more time my students invest in the early stages of their marketing strategy, the more they end up saving down the line in the implementation of successful social media campaigns.

#3 Social media measurement & higher education, it’s still complicated

In my course on social media marketing for higher education, the 4th week focuses on measurement and analytics. The topic is at the core of this course, because I’ve learned it can take time for anybody working in higher ed to ease up into a measurement mindframe.

With so many shiny and exciting options to distract ourselves in social media, it’s easy to keep busy and churn out funny and engaging Facebook posts, Instagram stories, Snapchat photos or Twitter updates – without even thinking why we do it. In our class discussions about social media analytics and measurement, I’ve heard several stories about the difficulty to measure success — or failure — in institutions where “analytics” is still seen as a “dirty” word.

In higher education marketing, the question of measurement still looks scary for many. No wonder: there’s never time to tackle it when it’s seen as an afterthought. I don’t know about you, but when I’m scared of something, I tend to procrastinate – a lot.

Things get even more complicated for measurement in higher ed marketing, because vendors want you to think what their tool will measure is exactly what you need. In a similar way, don’t the latest fitness machines or hot new diets always claim they will get you in shape in no time? Doing measurement right takes time, but all this hard work will make a huge difference for your school — and your career — as many of your peers in higher ed are still on the couch.

#4 We have great (quieter) professionals with amazing talent in higher education

We live in the age of self-promotion as a way of life, right?

While I’m always impressed by the wisdom shared at conferences, in blog posts or even in shorter social media posts, this course gave me the opportunity to meet a few of the hidden gems in our professional community. I’ve been lucky to meet incredibly talented people with great strategic and creative minds that haven’t made their way to the conference circuit yet – unfortunately.

What’s been the most exciting for me is to watch their expertise developed even further during and after the course. It’s been really amazing to witness such talent in seasoned professionals but also, sometimes with very young professionals. Higher education definitely got talent!

#5 Social media platforms and tools change, but the basics stay the same

Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… it never stops, but it doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch either.

I’ve updated a great deal of my course materials over the years, but its overarching structure hasn’t been put upside down.

It’s so easy to see the latest developments as game changers that we tend to forget this simple truth: a good foundation can help us live through many storms or renovation projects. Things get a bit more challenging when the foundation is not there, but this is another story…

With my students I’ve learned it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel every time a new platform pops up. I’ve also learned it’s really important to keep playing and experimenting with new platforms and practices.

That’s why I love to teach this course on social media marketing for higher ed. And, although I can only teach a few sessions per year (I do have a professional online school to run), I always try to find the time to do it. It keeps me aware of the challenges our students, your colleagues working in universities and colleges, face on a daily basis. It’s also a great way for me to experience first hand the daily work of our faculty team who teaches Higher Ed Experts other professional certificate programs.

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4 Responses

  1. Really impressed by your candor. Feel like you read my mind. I’m a communications professional with 20+ years of experience and, well, social media management remains a weak spot for me. Karine, after reading through the syllabus and intro, I think you and your course may be the cure I’ve been looking for. Very keen to move forward. K

  2. Ashley Hart says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’m a bit overwhelmed with the course and idea of social media at work, but I’m ready to get started.

  3. Hi Karine.
    Really looking forward to learning about all the different aspects of social media. In particular I was wondering if you might consider requesting the survey(or) to incorporate those at the graduate level as well? What is the top social media conduit that they use?…I think to be able to see that breakdown would be helpful. It would be of great interest to my 100% ONLINE program GLEMBA at UTD. Thank you in advance for considering.