Social Media Lessons from .edus to .coms
I came across this interesting story in the New York Times about how colleges like MIT are incorporating student bloggers on their Web sites to connect with prospective students and provide them with a peer-based perspective on what it's like to be a student there.
Certainly we're all used to seeing innovative technologies and new trends in social media emerge from the petri dish that colleges and universities provide. After all, Facebook was started at Harvard and the seeds of Google were sown at Stanford.
In this case, we have an interesting application of social media that truly mashes together an organization's official, controlled communications with unfiltered commentary from the customers or users of that organization's service. The story does a good job of outlining the risks and rewards associated with this approach, to embracing user commentary and giving it a voice in helping to define an organization's brand identity.
In my B2B client base, I am happy to say that they have all bought into social media and are executing strategies that fit their cultures and have the ability to create interesting content. That being said, most are still moving cautiously when it comes to involving their most important community in that activity -- their customers. For the most part, companies still seek to control the situation by presenting a communications dynamic that is at least 90% broadcast, with very little involvement from interested third parties. Right now, the biggest obstacle to changing this dynamic may be just finding customers who want to participate regularly.
For now, that is probably the way it should be as companies get their feet under them and become more comfortable with these new communications channels. But given the background, experiences and social media savvy of people coming into the workforce, an approach that allows them to actively participate in the conversation about a product or service is inevitable. Think of it like this -- in traditional PR, the case study has been the voice of the customer in supporting the company's brand. In PR 2.0, more and more it is -- and will be -- the active, unfiltered commentary of the customer that will not just support, but also shape a company's brand.
The .edu world is blazing new paths here. Should the .com world be auditing this course? What do you think?