The state-of-the-art with social media and college planning was summed-up with a single strategy: avoidance. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a college to see and just because you know how to fire-off a tweet doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. The problem with avoidance is that it does not address the root cause of the social media problem: ignorance. Avoiding social media just postpones the inevitable. All students hope to be employed someday. Ironically, future employers will likely screen these students through their social media before the hiring decision is even made. What will they do then? Sooner or later, we need to have the social media conversation and we need a plan today instead of tomorrow. I quickly realized that avoidance wasn’t really a strategy at all. We were just “kicking the can” down the road.
What I shared last week was that we (the higher education industry) are all going about this the wrong way. I discovered Social Assurity not too long ago and they helped me understand the full scope of social media and college. This was the only organization I could find that was taking social media and college planning in the direction it needed to go. The state-of-the-art with social media and college planning has changed. The strategy has shifted from avoidance to acceptance. They transformed social media ignorance into awareness. Social media is not a problem but an opportunity when planning for college.
So what are they all about? I have discussed Social Assurity’s long-term vision with Alan Katzman, their CEO. We also recorded a couple of podcasts together. With the time spent with them, I can say that I have more than a passing idea about this organization. I’ll skip to the ending right now: Social Assurity needs to be a core component of your practice if you are in the industry of preparing families for higher education. If you are not having an intelligent and meaningful conversation about social media with your students, you have a serious and expanding flaw with your practice. We can’t be experts at everything nor should we try to be.
Here is a three point overview of their social media strategy...
1. LinkedIn and Twitter are the social media accounts that will tell the colleges who you are and that you are in the running for a seat at their institution. Here, we show colleges who you are and who you hope to become. These tools allow you to engage and communicate directly not only with the college, but with specific departments and professors. There is a huge opportunity to leave your mark, make a positive impression, and show an unmistakable expression of interest.
2. Facebook and Instagram are opportunities for the university to see your character. Do your online posts align with your stated values and the values of the college. Where do you spend your free time? Are you someone with an open mind? If there is anything questionable with your online presence, we'll probably find it here and we need to ensure that we are sharing the right message to the college and taking steps to correct any past mistakes.
3. Be aware of your audience. You can continue to post for your friends and share life's crazy moments. That's what social media is for. Students, however, need to understand that a free expression of thoughts and ideas comes with responsibility. Their audience is not necessarily the people they know, but include people and institutions that are going to make decisions about their future.
Why work with this organization? They can help teach your students about social media and college. Alan and his team are launching Social Assurity University, a collection of interactive and engaging online courses that will give every family and student the necessary competencies to manage their online presence. I have taken these courses and you should too. As a standalone introductory course on social media, it’s worth the investment for almost anyone. This course would be great for a job seeker, an entrepreneur, a business owner, a seasoned professional or even a grandparent looking to stay connected with their grandchildren. I shared what I learned from these courses with one of my clients, an experienced and successful business owner. As a result, he started his own LinkedIn page and Twitter account. The power and value of these courses cannot be overstated.
I have made the decision to incorporate these courses with my college planning practice and I suggest that professionals working in the same or related fields do the same. In addition to these courses, Social Assurity can also help families on a more personal level. They can help families that want more specific tuning of their social media strategy. I don't want my message to come across as a paid endorsement, because it's not. As a college planner, I have a duty to share with families any resources that can help them with a successful college planning experience. There just isn’t anyone out there that is doing this. Social Assurity stands-out as a new and revolutionary approach to college planning and I have decided to integrate their approach within my planning process. I can now offer my students a more complete solution. I hope to be a part of the college planning and social media revolution and I hope you all come along for the ride whether you are a student, a colleague, or even a competitor.