The Project: Social Media for the Ferguson Center

12 01 2009

Over the Christmas Break, during a shift at the Tech Support center in the Ferguson Student Union, my boss contacted me to ask me what I knew about Twitter.

Little did he know, I knew quite a bit. I’m no expert, but I do use it often to talk with PR contacts and acquaintances with a wealth of information.

So I told him I knew a bit about Twitter and then led on to tell him I could, in fact, work on Social Media, because I hope to get a job with the university doing so when I graduate or at least get a good recommendation towards another job that allows me to work with social media.

He then proceeded to tell me that if I could form a series of workshops explaining how to utilize social media, he could pay me and an assistant of mine for our efforts.

Pending approval of the project overall, said assistant/partner will be none other than Jessica Ayers, friend and colleague.Outside Ferguson

What has transpired is my attempts to put a communications plan together. I shortly realized that this wasn’t entirely necessary, as the University and Ferguson Center itself has paperwork explaining this. Rather, I needed to put this in the shortest format possible and still have it meet the criteria my boss set before me.  In the process, I have formed some useful ideas.

First, as Mack Collier points out:

“I think it greatly depends on what the company’s larger comm plan is. A Fortune 500 co has different needs than a startup.”

Then, to start, I simply need to lay out what my client is/does. The Ferguson Center is the Student Union for the University of Alabama. Students and staff congregate here for food, paperwork, banking, printing, SGA questions and more. Students and staff are employable here. Students and staff come here to get help from other students and staff. The “Ferg” is the hub of campus, whether all students like to admit it or not.

So, my first question should then be…

What are college students into the most, social media wise?

Here on the University of Alabama campus, we have:

Facebook (Heavy Use)
Twitter (Light Use)
Juicy Campus (I would not touch this with a ten foot pole.)

These are mainly the only platforms. However, my boss insists on being bleeding edge, but still useful. So, while Twitter and others aside from Facebook might not be in full use now, it might be necessary to begin to implement them now in order to be more established when a revolution here at UA of Twitter followers might take over.

So we are essentially left with Facebook and Twitter.

The problems with Facebook are that students already feel inundated with the layout, inundated with student organizations spamming them and with companies spamming them.

The way to fix this problem of Facebook is to make it more personal. However, no one is going to treat a friend called “Ferguson Center” like their real friend. They won’t want to chat with them, invite them to groups or post on their wall. Part of this is due to the image of the union as being the cheesy or boring place to be, and part of this is due to the nature of a company having a profile on Facebook.

This could be fixed easily, I came to the conclusion, by dividing duties. Any good brander knows that overloading any one portal will leave consumers stuffed and unable to move on. Therefore a Facebook page/site/fan page/profile might serve as the information source for students and the Twitter, being more personal and social, might serve as the face of the organization.

But, then, how does this affect the staff who serve at the Ferg who would be the minds operating the Social Media and with whom it might interact as well?

To this end, Twitter is definitely the first choice. Many of the staff who are 40+ years of age at the Ferg often complain about how complicated Facebook can be –  and looking at it now, I would have to agree. I enjoy being able to do just about anything on there… but you can do just about anything on there. It’s loaded. Almost too loaded.

To prove this, we signed up one worker there, and showed her how to use her account. In no time, she was using it and understood it far easier than Facebook.

So, Twitter is the winner. Facebook still serves in an auxiliary capacity and Twitter serves as the face. It is both accessible to students and staff and easy to use.

In addition, it has already been determined by my boss and backed up by myself that a blog is appropriate. After all, if we want to provide useful information in a timely and friendly manner without spamming, its easy to put it out there without forcing people to look – on a blog. This, does, however leave Facebook hanging, and maybe properly so. With a Twitter account and a blog run by either a relatable student or staff member, we can be both personal and have all information readily available.

Our next, then, is to decide what all information we need to fill these sites with: what’s appropriate, what’s not, what’s helpful, etc.

In the meantime, recap:

The media needs to be helpful to students and staff.
It needs to be easy for students and staff.
It needs to be easily accessible and preferably already in use by students and staff.

Sites we didn’t use: Juicy Campus, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, Blogger

Sites we did use: Facebook, Twitter, WordPress

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3 responses

12 01 2009
Michael Bertoldi

Jacob,

Nice job with your research and post about this. You did the right thing by asking people like @thebrandbuilder and @MackCollier for help with your project.

I think you’re on the right track with this. Make facebook an informative page, updates on things happening at the ferg, etc… and make twitter the place students can go to actually communicate with the ferg, ask questions, make suggestions, etc. Even though lots of students are not on twitter, if you guys could make a poster to put on the ferg doors that says something like “Talk to the ferg” or “The ferg is on twitter!” it might persuade students to find out about twitter and join it.

A lot goes on at the ferg and given the right amount of attention your social media efforts could help. Man, I miss those poster sales…

-Michael

12 01 2009
jacobsummers

Thank you so much, Michael. You inspired me as well and I appreciate that. I think the posters will be the next step. Part two of this blog will be about more specific phases of execution. That will tie into posters being an extension of the brand identity and will need to be carefully considered. (So look forward to questions from me.)

As per the poster sales… that just finished up its first week, but we all know they always come back for another week because of the great business they get from us.

–JMS–

13 01 2009
The Project: Part II « Giving Something New

[…] recap, in case you didn’t read my last post explaining […]

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