This month’s topic is Pinterest — is it a valuable tool for social media strategy in higher education?
MALLORY WOOD, marketing manager, mStoner
Let’s stop chasing the shiny object and focus on institutional goals before deciding what tools to use. Unless your target audience are female’s interested in fashion or wedding planning (paging FIT, Parsons, and institutions with event management majors!) focus your efforts elsewhere. Research shows traditional prospective students are looking for you on the “major” social networks like Facebook and YouTube. Your time is better spent creating a unique and engaging video or any other content that can be repurposed in multiple places, boost SEO, and show the spirit of your campus community on social media. That’s not to say that I don’t commend higher ed marketers for giving Pinterest and other new tools a chance. But there are limited hours in a day.
Can I vote for a different “smaller” social networking tool that I think is worth trying out? If so, I’d vote for Instagram. Brands and institutions are seeing strong ROI and engagement on the mobile app. University of Florida, for example, has nearly 2000 followers. And after posting 58 photos they’re averaging 38 “likes” per photo and 2.6 “comments.” Most Facebook Pages don’t see that type of engagement! And I can bet most higher ed Pinterest pages aren’t seeing those results either.
TIM NEKRITZ, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Director of Web Communication, SUNY Oswego
Pinterest in higher education, like use of social media in any field, makes sense if you have an audience and goals in mind. As I recently wrote in a blog entry on this topic, we launched the SUNY Oswego Pinterest account — spearheaded by a couple social media students — thinking toward particular questions we receive, audiences we look to communicate with and how that media can help us deliver content.
One of my students, Jenna Hanson, immediately thought of answering the popular incoming student query of “What do I bring to college?” with images of recommended items. We also compiled photo boards of campus activities, sports, living options and even what to bring for our famous winters. I invited the alumni office to join our effort, and they responded with some boards — including a very popular one involving acts who performed at Oswego before they were famous. Thus we’re appealing to both ends of the lifecycle, but also finding interest from audiences in between.
I know there’s a tendency out there to treat the next “it” thing — Pinterest, in this case — as a shiny object that demands attention because it’s trendy. But when I consulted my students and they were excited over the opportunity (this doesn’t happen as much if I mention Foursquare or Formspring), I knew the project had potential. And because team members focused on goals that could be fulfilled and audiences to reach, I think the project is finding success.
LOUGAN BISHOP, Social Media & Web Marketing Specialist, Belmont University
My opinion on Pinterest is still up in the air. Pinterest can be a great way to promote a university’s brand, as Aaron Jaco touched on this in his article for HigherEdLive. While I personally think it’s fun to use, I’m hesitant to use it as a primary social media marketing tool.
Currently, I manage multiple networks for the university: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, Flickr and Google+. I will continue to focus these networks in new and innovative ways to advance our marketing and communication efforts. As I vet new social media platforms, I have to be realistic and ask myself if it’s worthwhile to take the time from other projects to launch and maintain a new presence. Right now, I don’t feel that it is.
I think that Pinterest has value and the potential to be a great tool. I do not think, however, that it is a tool worth utilizing at this particular time. For many of us in higher education, time and resources are extremely limited. I think you have to have a balance between jumping on the newest thing and effectively using what you already have.
About the Contributors
Mallory Wood joined the mStoner team in August 2011 as marketing manager and is responsible for thinking of new, innovative ways to marketing the company and manages business development activities. Her favorite project is EDUniverse.org. Prior to working at mStoner, Mallory worked at Saint Michael’s College in both admissions and marketing and communications. Mallory developed and executed a social media strategy for St. Mike’s; provided training for social media users on campus; created and managed content for various social networks; managed an online student ambassador program, and produced web video. Mallory has presented at HighEdWeb, .eduGuru Online Summit, NEACAC, SUNYCUAD, and other conferences and has been a guest and a guest-host on HigherEdLive and AdmissionsLive.
Tim Nekritz is the associate director of public affairs and director of web communication at SUNY Oswego, as well as an adjunct professor of communication studies. He welcomes questions, feedback and music recommendations.
Lougan Bishop is the Social Media & Web Marketing Specialist for Belmont University’s Office of Marketing and Special Initiatives. In his role, Lougan is responsible for strategy and oversight of all aspects of Belmont’s social and new media presence. He also serves as chair of the Social Media Administration Team, which oversees the University’s Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts and provides leadership in departmental marketing efforts using social media. Lougan also serves as the ex facto advisor to the University Strategic Marketing Team in regards to social media. In addition, he manages university blogs and serves as a point-of-contact for video projects and productions executed through the Office of University Marketing and Special Initiatives.