Social Media and Higher Education: Interview with Kevin Grubb

Social Networking Concept

With the continuing growth of higher education in the online environment and the explosion of social media websites with millions of active users comes an unmistakable connection between the two. The power of social media in brand awareness and relationship development has caused institutions of higher education to change and adapt accordingly. Many universities have created Twitter and Facebook accounts in order to connect socially with current and prospective students, faculty, and staff. Utilizing the resources they have at their disposal (faculty, research, alumni, etc.) universities can produce effective social media strategies and reap the benefits of connecting to an immense audience.

Here at the Higher Ed Marketing Journal, we have touched on this subject with the post Social Media and Higher Education – Tips for Success, but this week wish to dive a little deeper with help of a thought leader in the industry. We have attained an interview with social media consultant and expert career coach Kevin Grubb , co-founder and contributor to socialatedu.com, a leading website covering social media in higher education. In the interview, we aimed to have Kevin shed light on the growth and influence of social media in higher education based off of his experiences. Without further ado, here is the Higher Ed Marketing Journal’s interview with Kevin Grubb. 

Do you see social media becoming more important in higher education?  If so, how?

Without a doubt, yes.  It’s affecting so many parts of the academy now.  In the 2012 Social Admissions Report conducted by Zinch and Inigral, 68% of college-bound high school students reported using social media as a method of researching institutions.  A professor at UT Dallas found that Twitter was an effective method for engaging more students in her classroom discussions.  LinkedIn’s Alumni tool is often the best method for getting current data on career outcomes for an institution’s alumni.

We can start looking at how social media is a means to an end now and not the end itself.  Gone are the days when you create an account just because “students are there” and then figure out “how we’ll find time” to do that social media thing.  Social media is a way to do work and an effective one at that.  I think we’ll see social media continue to integrate into all that we do.

You recently published The Career Counselor’s Guide to Social Media.  Why should college career counselors start taking advantage of social media?

I think most career services professionals would agree that one of the best ways to help students in their career development is to be a good model for them.  If we’re suggesting something about interviewing skills, resume writing or networking, it would be good if we did the same.  Social media is no different.

In a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey, 77 percent of respondents (all in recruiting or staffing roles for their organizations) reported using social networking sites to recruit candidates.  I continue to see that trend up in my work in the field.  I’ve also read about and guided students in successful job searches using social media myself.  It’s important for us to know the tools available to help students make meaningful social media presences.

For the complete guide, visit the National Association of Colleges of Employers website where they are published.  Special shout out to Shannon Kelly and Megan Wolleben, my co-authors.

The connectivity and social media usage of our younger generations is higher than it’s ever been.  How can undergraduate admissions and marketing departments effectively prepare for this?

This is going to be an ongoing challenge, especially because new networks and features pop up all the time, and it’s important to be on top of the trends.  I recommend adding a social marketing blog or professional association membership to the regular rotation of reading and interacting.  Some of the best ideas develop when the inspiration comes from outside of your direct field.  I read Mashable regularly – even the headlines can give me a quick snapshot of what’s trending.

I’ve also heard of offices that have been successful when they spread the responsibility for learning.  For instance, an office can list all social media – those they are using and those they are considering using – then allow members to research and become the “expert” on a network of their choosing.  Getting more than one person involved allows for greater brainstorming, creativity and effective social usage down the road.

What is your advice for admissions, career counseling, and/or marketing departments who are looking to more effectively leverage social media in higher education?

I’d first say that it’s important to focus.  One of the most disappointing things to see, as a social media user, is an account on any network that has no updates or outdated messaging.  So, I think it’s important to be willing to try and willing to fail, but there is certainly something to be said for the other old adage: “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  Get comfortable with a network or two and then move on to another one when you’re ready.

I’m saying this again because I can’t say it enough: social media is a means to an end and not the end itself.  One of the best ways anyone, any department can leverage any social media is by thinking of it as a communication tool, and then deciding how its unique features can best help you communicate what you want to.  Many of the effective ways higher education professionals can leverage social media have yet to be seen.  Look at best practices and talk with colleagues, of course, but if you get out of playing “catch up” with someone else’s good idea, you may just come up with your own.  Then, we’ll all be writing about you.

kevin grubb

Kevin Grubb is a social media and career expert, speaker and writer.  His advice has been featured on Inside Higher Ed, US News & World Report, USA Today and more.  For more on Kevin, visit www.kevincgrubb.com and www.socialatedu.com.