Category Archives: Facebook

September 6, 2013

Admissions Ethics & Social Media

Increasingly, admissions departments and universities are using social media to their benefit by connecting with students and becoming more accessible. A recent Chronicle article even discussed how more students are turning to social media to inform their college search. Social media is becoming an obvious means of information and collaboration within higher education and admissions. But living in the age of social media can be a detriment when the social media profile of an individual undermines the larger efforts on an organization, as in the case of Nadirah Farah Foley, a former admissions employee at the University of Pennsylvania.

Admissions Ethics and PrivacyMs. Foley lost her job at Penn soon after screenshots from her personal Facebook page were anonymously sent to the Dean of Admissions, Eric Furda, and the school newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. The screenshots showed posts in which Ms. Foley mocked prospective students. Penn has a strict policy of not making public statements on personnel issues, so officials will not comment as to whether her firing was a direct result of her Facebook posts. However, this is assumed to be the case.

In her posts, Ms. Foley shared excerpts from essays that she found amusing. For example, one post cited an essay in which a student shared his experience in overcoming a fear of (ahem) relieving himself outdoors. Another essay told of a student who had “deep” roots at Penn because he was circumcised at the campus Hillel. She also shared photos of gifts that she received from prospective students, as well as poking fun at a Midwestern student who expressed interest in Penn because of the proximity to the ocean, saying “Gotta love recruiting in Kansas!”

Although Ms. Foley seems to have been fired as a result of these posts, Penn currently does not have a written policy addressing admissions confidentiality. However, the topic is ostensibly covered in the school’s “Principles of Responsible Conduct,” under the heading “Respect for Privacy and Confidentiality.” Currently, the Office of the Provost is in the process of creating a clear policy that specifically accounts for the privacy of applicant data in admissions.

It is interesting to note that Penn has publicly shared excerpts from student essays in their own orientation activities. In 2010, current student Kai Tang was attending an accepted student’s event when the speaker shared an excerpt from his essay (and others) to playfully demonstrate the diversity of the incoming class. But the students didn’t seem to mind the breach in privacy as long as their words were painted in a positive light. “I wasn’t angry or anything, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that,” said Kai.

The ghostwriter behind the “Admissions Problems” tumblr page (the champion of higher education admissions satire) has also weighed in on the topic. While most admissions officers say that joking about applicants is common, but that those jokes should not leave the admissions department, the voice of “Admissions Problems” defends Ms. Foley’s right to post whatever she pleases on her private profile page. Indeed, she defends the right of admissions officers to say whatever they please to whomever they please, whenever they please;

Isn’t it a little ridiculous to think we can sit around and giggle at those silly things internally, but people outside of admission offices can’t be privy to those laughable moments? How elitist you sound. What if we went home and shared stories with our spouses? Unethical? What if our spouses tweeted about it? Really unethical?

An admissions officer from Penn has anonymously admitted to submitting content to the blog. But I have to point out that there is a very clear distinction between what the tumblr page does and what Ms. Foley did. The Tumblr page is painstakingly anonymous; contributors do not identify themselves, schools are never named, and students are never named. All contributors, schools, and students are protected by a veil of anonymity.

The major concern in Ms. Foley’s case is that she is a direct representative of the University of Pennsylvania. By posting applicant information and making fun of prospective students, she has brought bad press to her employer and jeopardized the reputation of their admissions department. Ms. Foley posted this information on a page under her own name. Some may argue – “But her Facebook settings were private!” To which I would say; “Don’t be naive.” Although her settings are “private,” it should be assumed that anything shared online under your name can easily be made public.

In short, this is simply a case of poor judgment and bad business sense. People in any profession can learn from Ms. Foley’s mistake. Joking about your workplace anonymously, with friends, or with co-workers is one thing – but putting it in writing? Online? Under your name? Where anyone could snap a screenshot and get you fired? That’s just silly. Like my dad always says - “Think before you act.”

March 14, 2013

Social Media in Higher Education: Teach what you Preach

In the past several years, colleges and universities have almost universally accepted the importance of social media. Increasingly, schools are actively using social media outlets to recruit prospective students, maintain relationships with current students, and build their brand identity. The administration “gets” social media, but does the curriculum reflect this cultural shift?

As of 2011, a whopping 98% of schools had a dedicated Facebook page, with many also owning accounts on YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, and other social media sites. According to a Zinch survey, a majority of prospective students are using social media to research their schools of choice – 70% of prospective students go to Facebook, 40% look at Twitter, and 20% browse YouTube. Gil Rogers, director of College Outreach for Zinch, suggests that universities should be aware of these findings and reevaluate their social media strategy. “While it might be free to create accounts on these new, popular social media sites, universities should focus recruitment efforts on where they’re going to get the highest return on investment,” Rogers said.

When utilizing social media, schools need to focus on engaging with students. Simply creating a Facebook page isn’t enough; there needs to be a human behind the page to maintain the page, answer questions, give advice, and offer means of connecting with other students and the campus as a whole. Guest postings from financial aid officers, admissions representatives, and professors are ways to offer credibility and variety to social media efforts. Efforts to humanize the ivory tower are paying off for many schools.

Dr. James Nolan of Southwestern University can personally vouch for the positive results of an engaging social media campaign; “With social media as an enormous powerful ally, we broke all enrollment records this past year, for each quarter, and overall, and our credit hour production was great as well. (That record will be broken next year. I can see that already…) Prospective students now show up routinely, saying “I feel like I know you guys already from your videos and blogs and Facebook page … I’ve been following you for months…” It is gratifying, and it is good business, and it is authentic.”

So, it is clear that the admissions and marketing departments of schools understand that social media is now a necessary part of doing business; but does marketing and business curricula reflect the change? For the most part, no. “Overall, the higher education system is failing to prepare students with the needed digital and social skill set in any meaningful way,” says Dr. William Ward of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.  ”Higher education, like business, needs a culture shift.”

Dr. Ward teaches social media courses at Syracuse University and approaches the subject methodically to show that social media, like other marketing efforts, can be applied in a business setting in a results-driven, goal-oriented, and measurable manner. His approach to social media education prepares graduates for the growing demand for media-competent employees. Of 2,100 companies  surveyed by Harvard Business Review, only 12% of those using social media felt they were using it effectively. Schools with a solid social media curriculum are uniquely positioned to attract students looking for a degree in a field that is in hot demand. “Learning how to use social media smartly gives employers a reason to hire,” Ward says. “Helping individuals and organizations harness digital and social communication to their advantage will become one of the fastest growth segments.”

Syracuse University and Dr. Ward are on the cutting edge of preparing students for lucrative and in-demand jobs, and many other schools are following their lead. Harvard, NYU, and Columbia (among others) have already added social media classes to their offerings. In the near future, businesses (and schools!) will no longer use trial and error in their social media campaign. Soon, there will be a new class of professionals manning the computers behind corporate social media accounts. It will be interesting to see the evolution of social media’s place in the higher education classroom; maybe we will soon see BA’s in social media alongside majors such as marketing, advertising, and business development.

How does your admissions office utilize social media? Has your school added any courses on the subject?

September 25, 2012

Taking Social Media to the Next Level

In a survey conducted by The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, researchers found that 100% of Colleges and Universities are now utilizing social media. Now that everyone has recognized the importance of social media, the question becomes: How will your school’s social media efforts rise above the noise of the crowd?

So, how can your school distinguish itself and take social media to the next level? The answer may not be as complicated as it seems. To answer this question, we looked to the Top 100 Social Media Colleges list.

Harvard topped the list with their All Harvard Social Media page. Using a dashboard-style layout, you get a quick, easy-to-swallow overview of what’s happening with featured tweets, Facebook “likes,” and YouTube videos. Because it is featured in the footer, this social media dashboard is easily accessible from any page in the site. My favorite feature? A menu to organizes all Harvard-affiliated social media profiles in one elegant, easily to navigate location.

Harvard Social Media Directory
The University of Oregon has taken full advantage of Foursquare’s features by creating a robust profile with helpful descriptions of campus landmarks. No time to take a tour? No problem! You can guide yourself through the campus with the help of a smartphone.University of Oregon Foursquare

And, last but not least, Emerson University has done a great job in promoting social media both for the university and in the classroom. Each semester, Emerson’s social media class targets a well-known person who would be impossible to contact via traditional means, and then use Twitter to communicate with them directly. Their Fall 2011 efforts were very successful, and they had the opportunity to have a social media Q&A session with athlete Chad Johnson (formerly known as Chad Ochocinco) and his ex-wife, star of “Basketball Wives,” Evelyn Lozada.

Emerson Students meet Chad Johnson