This is an interview with Nina Nolan, a Communications Specialist at St. Norbert College. Nina has the unique distinction of being one of the key voices behind the highly ranked social media presence at St. Norbert. Before we get started with the interview, congratulations are in order for Nina and the SNC communications team on the recent recognition for St. Norbert College as 39th in the country for a college social media presence! That’s positively outstanding! Thank you Nina for taking the time for this interview!
Disclosure: I’m also employed by St. Norbert College as an adjunct instructor for social media and marketing promotions classes.
1. The SNC brand has developed a strong presence in social media and now has multiple accounts in each of the channels of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. Can you speak to the overall strategy behind the numerous accounts and touchpoints and how you’re driving results from each of the social media outposts?
St. Norbert College has institutional presences on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In addition, we have quite a few more targeted niche accounts being managed by different departments and units across campus. For example, the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations, the Mathematics discipline, the TRIPS service program, etc.
The institutional accounts exist to serve the needs of our the whole range of our constituents – students, staff, faculty, parents, alumni, donors, friends, etc. The content that originates in these accounts is typically of general interest so as not to isolate any particular group. With our niche accounts, the content a user can expect to get from these channels is specific to the particular organization. For example, if a user opts in to the St. Norbert College Magazine Fan Page they will rightly be delivered content specific to the publication.
Our goals with all of our accounts are twofold: to keep our constituents informed and engaged with the college and to build the St. Norbert brand.
We’ve had some really nice successes through these channels. I attribute these successes to the fact that we are constantly trying to deliver content that is of value to the end user. The specific channel dictates the appropriate frequency of postings and we take care to be respectful with the flow and respond in a really timely manner with those who’ve engaged with us in these environments.
In these environments, the end user is the boss. If you’re not delivering content that is of value to them in the way they expect to receive it, you’re not going to be have their attention and you’re not going to be successful.
2. How has the SNC social media program evolved over the years? I see that the college has done blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and were great at using some of their precursors like instant messaging; surely there are some great lessons here.
We began our social media efforts with YouTube (July 2007), Twitter (Sept. 2008) and then Facebook (late 2008). In our early years, we were very timid and uncertain about the tools. We weren’t sure if they were welcome environments for a college to engage in and we weren’t sure what the lifespan of the technologies would be. We’ve fully embraced the tools now and in marketing large campus-wide events our social networks are considered alongside a poster or a direct mail piece as opportunities to reach our constituents. We’ve come to understand, too, that the environments are very forgiving. If you post a video or an update that doesn’t receive much attention, there isn’t a whole lot lost and you’ve just come to know your audience a little better.
3. What does your role of Communications Manager overseeing Social Media entail at St. Norbert College?
As the communications specialist, I am responsible for all things E-, including the hands-on management of our institutional social media accounts and the general oversight of other campus social media accounts. I also provide consultation and training to departments and units who would like to adopt one of the channels. In some cases, it’s my responsibility to advise departments and units NOT to take to social media. For example where it doesn’t make strategic sense or there aren’t sufficient resources to have a sustainable presence.
4. How do you handle the multiple conversations across all of these different channels across the campus, it seems like it would be a monumental task?
I consider it a fun task more than monumental. I check in across all of our institutional networks a couple times a day to make sure that we haven’t ignored anyone.
5. What techniques do you use to try and facilitate conversations? What are you doing to build the following? Surely, it’s more than just “people like talking about St. Norbert College”.
The college is in a good position because we have many followers and friends who have a vested interest in what is going on at the college. Even the simplest of posts gets alums reminiscing and students chattering. Our alums are definitely our most engaged audiences … unless it’s a snowstorm and students are lobbying for a snow day on Facebook and Twitter.
6. What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from engaging in social media? How has it impacted the way that you do business and connect with students and the college community at large?
We’ve seen many benefits from engaging in social media. They are HUGE community-builders. Facebook and Twitter are excellent campus advisory and crisis communication tools. YouTube has allowed us to share the videos we produce with a much larger audience. Twitter has allowed us to connect with journalists in a whole new way.
7. What do you say to those organizations, whether higher-ed or small business, who are hesitant to engage in social media? Are they missing out on anything?
In general I would say they’re missing out. If you have a critical mass of people who are dying to connect with you and already having conversation about you, it’s prudent to join the conversation.