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University Web Developers

I attended an internal workshop today where a handful of folks from all across our university were invited to participate in a day-long workshop on social media. The concept of a "social media ambassador" was raised, i.e. having someone participating in the social media landscape as ambassadors for the university - not hiding behind an avatar of our school's crest and some ambiguous username, but actively participating in the space as themselves (in a similar vein as Comcast has done with Frank Eliason

Is anyone out here already dipping their toes into this idea of a "social media ambassador" or even a full team of social media ambassadors? I realize many of us probably do this informally, but has anyone here been involved in setting up a strategy or plan for this level of engagement online?

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We used a grad student to be our ambassador. She was the point person for all social media sites and personnaly answered all questions (after running to get the answers). She worked with specific point people in various departments (financial aid, admissions, student affairs) to get answers quickly. And she would post items to facebook, twitter, ning, orkut, from our news and events database.

We wanted to try to put one face on this area of the university. We are currently trying to measure how successful she was in this area. Initially, I am inclined to continue this way of communication.
Thanks for your reply, Bill! Hope you don't mind me asking a few more questions...

- How much time was your grad student putting into this role, and was she hired specifically for this set of tasks?
- To what extent was she already active in those different sites? Was she already immersed in those environments or did it become something she picked up along the way?
- What will you do when she graduates?
- Any thoughts on how you're measuring success?

On one hand I think there is a real need to formalize a role or part of someone's role with these tasks, but at the same time we need to find people who naturally participate in these channels. Students are ideal for this role - not only because they are naturally going to be active in the spaces that other students are active in, but also because they tend to focus on their tasks and worry less about whatever departmental lines they cross.

Another thing for us is that we are a large and decentralized university, which makes it important for us to have some continuity that allows us to continually build on the connections that are made - both externally with the online communities, but equally so with the internal connections that get made between departments across campus. In this regard, if we were to hire students to be ambassadors, we would likely need to build in some mechanisms to ensure that the work that happens one year isn't lost heading in to the next...
We're discussing doing something similar, with our undergraduate tourguides acting as "concierges" in various Facebook groups, helping people answer questions and encouraging potential students to apply, etc. (This is an admissions-oriented project.)

One issue we've come up with is the Facebook profiles of these students--either making sure they're clean (no videos of that time down at the bar) and/or setting their privacy settings so that those profiles aren't available to potential students or their parents. Also, perhaps the need for setting a friending policy--no friending prospective students?--to avoid exposing their personal information. But that, of course, guts a central activity of Facebook and makes us look unfriendly, which the opposite of the intended effect.

Did any of these issues come up with the grad student ambassador? I'd imagine they'd be less of an issue for grad admissions.
@mjpowers - Why not just create new FB profiles for the students? Keeps it separate from their personal lives and removes a lot of the potential issues you list.
We're definitely considering that, but I was under the impression that it was against the Facebook ToS (whatever they are this week!). I'll have to read them over.
If they catch you... :) Many schools just create a general 'blogger' account or use a name like Brad Tourguide.
it's definitely against their TOS....I did it to run facebook ads at dartmouth and they found out and deleted the account, along with all of our data....they also threatened to delete my personal account.
Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan just hired someone to do just this. Her position is Social Media Director, I believe. She just started a couple of weeks ago. You can look her up if you like or I can connect you (I am loosely connected to her via Linked In).

I attended Blogwell in NYC. As a result one of the takeaways was to establish a Social Media policy to determine who is authorized to speak for the institution. Something to consider.
We are planning to hire a student intern in this position in the fall. Currently, our alumni department has a student intern doing this.
We are currently developing such a position for our department. We have a student group that has traditionally done this as "Aviation Ambassadors" in person and we are currently looking to help them expand online both as a marketing tool for the department and a networking tool for the departmental community.



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