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Facebook (!)

Facebook is THE top social media platform for connecting and engaging with target publics. Every institution of higher education MUST have an official Facebook page in order to maintain and enhance relationships with prospects, students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff, and other stakeholders via social media. Public relations professionals in the higher education industry should ensure that the institutions they represent are optimizing Facebook to accomplish public relations objectives and social media communications goals.

With over 141,000 Facebook “likes,” the official Texas Tech University Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TexasTechYou#!/TexasTechYou) is bursting with likable content and engaging activity. TTU is frequently uploading videos, photos, and news stories to its Facebook page, and TTU Facebook fans are constantly posting about Texas Tech in status updates, and tagging Texas Tech in photos, links, and comments. From what I can tell, the majority of all user generated content is appropriate, positive, and upbeat. TTU employees, parents, sports fans, and students (prospective, current, and former) are actively engaging in some form of social media communication with TTU via the Texas Tech Facebook page.

I was pleasantly surprised to find so many of my Facebook friends including TTU staff, faculty, students, alumni, and parents (yes, even my own mother) posting such positive opinions, attitudes, and feelings about the institution they so deeply admire and respect. Furthermore, Texas Tech has been very effective in optimizing its Facebook page to promote events, deals and specials, campus updates, and engaging content for publics to participate in meaningful conversations. TTU frequently posts questions for Facebook fans to engage in by providing personalized feedback, such as “Finish this sentence: You know you’re a Red Raider when… Leave a comment below and let us know what sets Red Raiders apart!” This particular post generated over 180 comments from TTU Facebook fans, and was a fun and unique way for fellow Techsans to connect with TTU and other interested publics like themselves via social media, while also enhancing brand relationships with publics. It also allowed Red Raiders to publicly express the reasons why they love TTU, thus improving Texas Tech’s brand position in the market, and promoting and strengthening the Texas Tech brand.

Happy blogging!

K

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Twitter

According to social media blogger Jamie Turner, Twitter is one of the “Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know” (http://60secondmarketer.com/blog/2010/04/09/top-52-social-media-platforms/). With the increasing popularity of social media, Twitter has become a “surprisingly successful tool” for public relations professionals, and is widely adopted and used by companies, organizations, and interested publics to communicate with one another. Twitter is used as a social media tool for everything from business to contests and prizes. As one of the top social media platforms, Twitter has become a key leader in the world of social media and is used by large segments of the population, including institutions of higher education.

With over 23,000 followers, Texas Tech’s official Twitter page (http://twitter.com/#!/texastech/) is a great example of how institutions of higher education can successfully implement this social media platform in order to build, maintain, and enhance relationships with students, prospects, alumni, and other stakeholders. More recently, Texas Tech used Twitter to communicate with primary publics regarding an incident involving suspicious activity on campus in which the TTU Police Department received a report of an individual carrying a rifle. Following a thorough search, the individual was located and it was verified that the individual was carrying an ROTC dummy rifle. After the investigation was complete and the situation was resolved, Texas Tech posted three tweets relaying updated information about the incident within a 25 minute time period. The university also tweeted direct replies addressing concerns from key publics in regard to the situation and the manner in which it was handled.

Overall, from a public relations perspective, I am pleasantly surprised by Texas Tech’s active utilization of Twitter as a social media tool to facilitate engaging conversations, promote involvement in TTU events and campus activities, and provide news, updates, and information to interested publics. Furthermore, Texas Tech uses Twitter to promote the university’s presence on other social media platforms and encourage publics to connect with TTU on all of its official social media sites. Texas Tech also uses Twitter as customer service tool to effectively meet the needs of target publics by promptly responding to both positive and negative tweets, providing answers to questions regarding TTU, and directly addressing any concerns raised by publics via Twitter.

Happy blogging!

K

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TTU Mobile

With the growth of mobile and the increasing number of smart phone users, Texas Tech University now offers a free mobile app (http://mobile.ttu.edu/) for all internet-enabled mobile devices as part of TTU’s social media communications plan. For iPhone users like me, the TTU Mobile suite of apps is powered by Blackboard and available for instant download from the Apple App Store. While allowing users to access the most recent updates and information on-the-go, TTU Mobile features apps for prospective students, current students, parents, employees, sports fans, and other stakeholders and target publics with an interest in TTU.

Best of all, unlike some poorly designed apps, TTU Mobile is seamlessly formatted to be adapted to the technology itself, mobile devices and smart phones. As a TTU student and staff member, TTU Mobile is extremely efficient and effective in allowing me to painlessly access important TTU information. Some of the features of TTU Mobile include campus directory, athletics, events, courses, maps/buses, dining, videos, news, images, help, library, admissions, and final exam information. I’d like to briefly discuss some of the features that I found most interesting and useful for my career as a graduate student and university employee.

The directory is something I use at work on a daily basis. Prior to TTU Mobile, I’d flip through my bulky paperback directory to find the contact information for the person I needed to contact. Now I can simply type the name of the individual I’m searching for and instantly view the person’s title, department, phone number, and email address. From here, I can touch the phone number or email address to contact the person directly from my iPhone, and add the person to my favorites, add to existing contacts, or create a new contact to save the contact to my iPhone.

The “Help” app is another great feature about TTU Mobile, as it instantly provides access to important phone numbers via the emergency dial contact list. This feature includes direct access to the Ombuds Office, TTU Operator, IT Help, Student Judicial, Campus Police, Lubbock Police, maintenance emergencies, vehicle assistance, and several other key contacts. The “Events” feature is effective in allowing users to locate information regarding campus activities, and with the “Maps/Buses” feature, users can not only locate the event, but can also gain access to the bus route that will get them to the event in the shortest amount of time. Furthermore, the “News” feature allows higher education PR professionals to instantly provide accurate TTU news and updates to publics.

With mobile, PR professionals in the higher education industry can communicate instantly and directly to those publics who are interested in the institution by allowing key publics to opt-in to receive mobile alerts. For PR, the growth of mobile offers a new level of immediacy in which PR professionals in higher education can communicate with target publics in real-time, and allows for the facilitation of targeting small groups of people and those publics who are interested in the institution.

Happy blogging!

K

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TTYouTube

With over 1,150 subscribers and over 1.3 million video views, the Texas Tech University YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/texastech/), also known as the “TTYouTube” channel, is another example of how institutions of higher education can gain brand awareness and build valuable relationships with publics via social media. The Texas Tech YouTube channel allows publics to view “featured playlists” that consist of hundreds of videos related to topics such as, academics and research, campus life, ask the experts, and videos submitted by students and target publics.

The “Ask the Experts” playlist is an effective way to connect with publics on topics beyond the realm of just school. These “expert” videos feature a range of topics that students are interested in learning more about, such as Thanksgiving cooking tips, relationship advice, and even fashion recommendations, in which TTU experts and professors from various TTU colleges answer questions they receive from target publics. The “Ask the Experts” videos are then uploaded to the TTU YouTube channels for viewers to watch and comment on after viewing.

Another great feature about the “TTYouTube” channel is the ability for target publics to make their own Texas Tech videos and submit the videos to the TTU YouTube channel. Some of the events and topics included in these TTU fan made videos illustrate the annual Carol of Lights event, flags at memorial circle, and of course, Red Raider football games, events, and tailgate activities. This is a great way for public relations professionals in the higher education industry to facilitate conversations with customers and get target publics to actively engage in their brand via social media.

The “TTYouTube” channel also features an “About Texas Tech University” section that promotes the TTU brand, in addition to a link to the Texas Tech main Web site. The “Campus Life” featured playlist seems to be the most popular, most engaging playlist within this channel. After viewing TTU campus life videos, target publics are interactively engaging in conversations and promoting the TTU brand by “liking” TTU videos, sharing these videos, and posting comments related to the featured TTU videos about campus traditions, school spirit, football season, and other campus events.

Clearly, YouTube can be an extremely valuable public relations tool for promoting brand awareness, influencing positive brand attitudes, facilitating action, and building loyal brand relationships with publics via social media.

Happy blogging!

K

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform that is primarily targeted to the professional business market industry. With over 5,600 followers, the Texas Tech LinkedIn site (http://www.linkedin.com/company/texas-tech-university) is a great way to stay in touch with fellow university employees and stay up to date on the most recent company news updates. LinkedIn is the most widely used social media network for business professionals to communicate and stay connected in any business industry.

One of the main reasons why LinkedIn is so popular among business professionals is because the social network provides its users and members with a number of helpful features and resources for job-related networking opportunities. Furthermore, LinkedIn recently launched and updated their social media applications for the iPad, iPhone, and Andriod mobile devices, which led and continues to lead to increased membership growth. Not only does LinkedIn give members the ability to join professional work-related groups and follow companies and businesses within their preferred job industry, but it also allows job seekers to search for jobs, enter their personal skills and expertise on their LinkedIn profiles, upload professional résumés to their individual user profiles, and even submit job applications to various employee seeking companies. Moreover, LinkedIn gives companies the ability to post job openings and search for LinkedIn users with specific talents, skills, and expertise.

Although LinkedIn users have the ability to “like” news and updates posted by the university, I do not see a lot of potential for promoting interaction, involvement, participation, and engagement in dialogue. Additionally, seeing that the LinkedIn social media network is primarily centered on the professional business industry, from a public relations industry perspective LinkedIn does not provide effective resources for engaging in conversations with other key customers and stakeholders. While LinkedIn is effective in allowing institutions of higher education to connect with potential and current internal customers (university employees), there is little room for institutions to receive feedback from the primary target publics (students). Then again, are public relations efforts more successful and effective when communication platforms and networks are separately implemented and strategically designed for specific groups of target publics?

Happy blogging!

K

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Instagram

As most of you probably know by now, Instagram is becoming pretty popular these days, and has been since it first launched a couple of years back. Instagram was originally designed as a social media application offered exclusively to iPhone users. Why the iPhone and not Android? Being the ultimate Apple nerd that I am, I am a proud iPhone user myself and cannot imagine my life without it. The quality of the iPhone’s camera is unbeatable in comparison to any other camera phone.

When was the last time you purchased a disposable camera? For that matter, does anyone actually use digital cameras anymore? Some of us may every now and then, but for the most part the iPhone has eliminated the need to purchase, use, and carry around a bulky digital camera with you everywhere you go.

Two of the greatest yet simplest features about Instagram include first, the fact that the app was designed specifically for mobile users, and secondly, Instagram takes photo-sharing capabilities to a whole new level. Instagram gives public relations practitioners and institutions of higher education the ability to tell a story through photos and captions, and just like Twitter, this social media network allows users to “follow” one another. Users can also “like” photos they are interested in and post comments on other users’ images. Not only does Instagram feature some amazing photo manipulation capabilities such as customized photo filtering, but Instagram can also be used in conjunction with other popular photo enhancing mobile applications, turning ordinary photos into breathtaking images.

The Texas Tech “Followgram” site (http://followgram.me/texastech) appears to be very well-developed and effective in engaging followers and target publics in conversations. Texas Tech also uses Instagram to promote social events that are hosted on campus and encourage publics to get involved in campus activities. Not only is Instagram effective in creating conversations with current students, but TTU parents, prospective students, recently accepted students, and incoming transfer students are also actively participating in the Texas Tech “Followgram” site. Furthermore, the general Instagram community is a very welcoming, friendly environment, thus, making it less likely that customers will post negative or inappropriate comments on photos. Instagram is undeniably another budding platform for public relations practitioners and institutions of higher learning to establish brand presence, awareness, and relevance, build relationships with valuable stakeholders, create dialogue with consumers, and increase loyalty and visibility through social media.

Happy blogging!

K

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Flickr

When we think of social media, what typically comes to mind? Facebook and Twitter. We do not normally think of photo-sharing sites when we think about social media. However, with the ability to add tags and descriptions for grouping, customization, and categorization of photos via Flickr, institutions can ensure that photos are visible to users searching for keywords related to an institution’s chosen tags.

An additional feature that is offered to Flickr users is the ability to upload photos to industry-specific groups, which if utilized appropriately, can be a useful public relations tool for enhancing relationships. If institutions optimize this feature by posting significant brand images in relevant groups within the industry, these efforts can be effective in positioning the brand, increasing brand exposure, and enhancing brand awareness within search engines. Flickr users also have the ability to upload photos to Flickr and Twitter simultaneously, send updates to Facebook when Flickr photos are added, and directly post from Flickr to external blogs. If managed correctly, Flickr can be a useful public relations tool for higher education in that it can provide two-way communication between the university and its audience. With this in mind, it is important for institutions to monitor activity and frequently respond to user comments.

With over 590 photos, “Texas Tech Today’s photostream” via Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/texas-tech/) consists of several photo groups, including categories ranging from campus events, history, and traditions, to public art, academic teams, and research projects. Flickr is a great way for colleges and universities to tell their story, giving prospective, current, and former students the ability to visualize the brand and the environment of the institution, as well as the opportunities and possibilities the school has to offer. From a public relations perspective, photo-sharing sites such as Flickr can also be useful for higher education institutions to occupy digital space, provide information for media, and provide additional information for interested publics to see behind the curtain and get to know the institution. With that being said, however, it appears as though the most recent TTU Flickr photo was taken in July 2011, which means the site administrator has not been actively uploading pictures this past year. Furthermore, I was able to locate a whopping total of five comments on the TTU Flickr site, none of which indicate any responses on behalf of Texas Tech Today.

What does this tell us about the involvement? What does it tell us about the Texas Tech public relationship that is being built via this network? What does it tell us about the amount of communication here? Does it do more harm than good to let social media sites float around without any updated content? Is there value in having a collection of older content and photos on a site with little interaction? Ultimately, is it better to have a presence within a social media network with lower levels of involvement and activity; or is it better to have no presence at all?

Happy blogging!

K

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