25 Case Studies That Prove Social Works For Higher Ed

On Monday, February 25th, nearly two months into the new year, higher ed communicators finally received a sign.Social_Works_C1 (1)

EDUniverse gave us a beacon of hope in the congested, convoluted, and inefficient world of social media (mis)use, when they announced the release of Social Works: How #HigherEd Uses #SocialMedia to Raise Money, Build Awareness, Recruit Students and Get Results, a collection of 25 results-oriented, higher ed case studies.

Brought to you by 17 authors, one mStoner, Inc. team, and chief editor Michael Stoner, Social Works will no doubt serve as a guidepost to those wanting to learn from higher ed institutions that implement and execute successful social media campaigns.

Even if you think you have a patented social media strategy that delivers ROI, Social Works is still for you, providing valuable insight and essential benchmarking to push your social media strategy to new levels of success.

From earned media flash mobbing to 24-hour fundraising, Social Works will be the most valuable book manual in your 2013 social media toolkit. Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll find between the sheets:

  • Florida State University: In its 36-hour Great Give Campaign conducted entirely online, the university raised $186,000 and gained many new donors. (sample chapter!)
  • Johns Hopkins University: Johns Hopkins staged a “Fantasy Reunion” campaign, based on Fantasy Football, to increase giving and participation in its real reunion, increasing registration and giving.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology: RIT added student videos and created a webseries to help prospective students gain a first-hand glimpse at real life on campus.
  • University of Wisconsin-River Falls: UWRF made it easy for students to share their accomplishments with family and friends on Facebook and Twitter, resulting in a significant increase in authentic, target audience engagement and word-of-mouth marketing. (p.s. we’re honored that this specific case study represents our little corner of the book, thanks to Amy Luethmers @uwriverfalls !)

Social Works is a book for every campus communicator interested in how to get results with social media. Cutting to the chase, if you want to learn more about the social media challenges and ultimate successes that 25 of your peers have faced and overcome, head over to EDUniverse and order your copy of Social Works.

Social Works: How #HigherEd Uses #SocialMedia to Raise Money, Build Awareness, Recruit Students and Get Results is the only book that explores how colleges and universities around the world have used social media in successful campaigns. It contains 25 case studies of campaigns from 27 institutions, written by 18 contributors, and has a lengthy chapter on how to develop a successful campaign.

Focusing on “Client” Success in Higher Ed

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 4.08.30 PM

According to Wikipedia, every 4th Monday in January is recognized as Community Manager Appreciation Day. I determined this day was legit after my go-to social media source, Mashable CEO, Peter Cashmore, tweeted about it. Then I gave a shout out to my community management comrades at readMedia.

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 4.20.56 PM

readMedia devotes the lion’s share of its time and brain power to 1) developing a useful product and improving it, 2) ensuring a great user experience, and 3) client success. We have an entire team dedicated to client success, and it’s perhaps the most rewarding part of working at readMedia. Community managers engage audiences online, on a business’s behalf, and provide client support. By proxy, community managers become the voice of the customer inside your organization.

Community management vs. customer service is still being fleshed out in the business world, but higher ed thought leaders have decided to put this idea to work instead of debating the strategy and its scalability to death. Marketing and public relations offices in higher ed are being charged with creating human connections between the institution and their target audiences. This is positive and potentially powerful shift in higher ed communications. We’re seeing campus communicators go beyond personalizing content to getting personal.

Southern New Hampshire University’s Director of Interactive Marketing, Seth Odell hostsed and moderated a Higher Ed Live roundtable, “Looking Ahead: Marketing & Web Predictions for 2013,” with Oberlin’s Ma’ayan Plaut, Harvard’s Mike Petroff and Bravery Transmedia’s Joel Goodman. The hour-long discussion deserves a dedicated blog post, but for the purpose of this post, I want to narrow my focus to minutes 00:51:00 – 00:54:00, where Seth talks about getting back to basics and moving away from what we say, to what we actually do.

Seth calls attention to a new social CRM initiative he’s heading up with the team at SNHU.  They are tracking and purposefully interacting with a handful of SNHU students on Twitter. SNHU is making a conscious effort to know what programs these students are enrolled in, what classes they’re taking, and even how they’re performing. They’re cultivating relationships on a more personal level. Seth provided a great anecdote about how this new initiative is being received by students:

“We got a direct message from a student we’ve been checking-in with on Twitter. The student wrote, ‘…I told my children I would try, I wasn’t sure I could do it, but to know I can, and I’m not alone has meant a lot to me.’ We’ve been reaching out and maybe this effort doesn’t scale, but it still kicks ass.” – Seth Odell

Higher ed is experimenting with taking time to focus less on technology and more on, as Ma’ayan put it, “being a human.”

readMedia is proud to be supporting the community management efforts at more than 450 higher ed institutions. Recognizing students with personalized stories, strengthens an institution’s connection with current and prospective students. Giving students a platform to share their good news, achievements, and praise for your institution is evidence of your commitment to your students. Acknowledging your students as unique individuals, and personalizing the way you communicate with them, further supports your community management strategy.

Here are some great examples of students reacting, sharing, and praising their institutions for recognizing them as people not numbers. When students share positive comments about their school with friends and family by tweeting, posting, or emailing, they’re personally endorsing your institution and building brand affinity with new audiences. The personal connections higher ed communicators are making with students, on behalf of their institution, is a sign that community management is worth it and is scalable – thanks to social media.

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 12.48.01 PM

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 12.38.47 PM

Screen Shot 2012-10-23 at 11.53.26 AM

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 11.13.57 AM


Screen Shot 2012-11-07 at 1.57.51 PM

Has your institution made community management a priority in 2013? If so, share some of the strategies your using to be more human with target audiences.

Three reasons higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and
thinking what nobody has thought.”  – Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

PredictionsIn early January we started to pull together a “trends in higher ed 2013” article. It’s a perennial no brainer. From Forbes and food to mom blogs, everyone with a communication channel is a soothsayer in January, the month of predictions and trend reports. Then it hit us. We shouldn’t rely on the current standard, we should wait, read, and identify the trends that nobody is writing about.

First reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
Doing what everyone is doing isn’t relevant, it’s easy.
2013 should not be about following trends, it is about pushing ourselves to “think about what nobody has thought.”

Innovators and early adopters have spoken. We now know what the minimum standard is for marketing success. How do we know? Higher ed conference organizers report record breaking attendance in 2012. Campus communicators hit the conference circuit hard last year, and they came equipped with tablets and iPhones. Backchannels boomed with #tweets about keynote stats and inspirational quotes. You might have even used your tech-savvy know how to curate and Storify these big ideas. Social media has made trends more accessible. This transparency makes it easy to determine what’s new and what’s been talked to death.

Second reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
As it relates to innovative thinking (and doing): If you know it and it’s been done with some success, it’s not a trend anymore, it’s a new standard.

So what have we seen, what do we know? Many 2013 trends and predictions are rooted in old strategies that have honed. Here is a selection of  higher ed standards disguised as trends for 2013.

Content Management Systems: It’s proven to be the best way to manage and maintain campus content. The structure and flexibility make it possible for colleges to accomplish more in less time with less people. CMS talk and evaluation is a trend from 2010 that is still trending now, three years later. CMS adoption isn’t a trend, it’s a new standard.

Collect data + report results: The echo chamber of descriptive analysis. The plethora of free and paid analytics tools to track campaign performance has been presented on for years. Let’s get real, maybe the channels we’re using have increased in complexity, but  collecting data and reporting results to show evidence of progress and increased engagement is a standard practice that’s been around for years. Move onto reporting real ROI.

Storytelling & content quality: The art of leveraging online and social media networks to tell stories, connect with audiences, and cultivate conversations. This 2010 blog post, more specifically the two comments at the end of this post, pretty much sum up the storytelling trend. You should already be creating quality content. You should know what you’re going to saying, how you’re going to say it, curate it, brand it, and refine the distribution channels you use to get that content out. Storytelling and content quality should be a standard that fuels your everyday marketing communications and supports your institutional strategy. Which brings us to another “trend.”

Support institutional goals: Many higher ed institutions have implemented an integrated marketing plan to support institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and advancement. Concepts and strategies that support institutional goals are standards, evidence of tangible ROI is the next trend.

A majority of higher ed institutions, 85%, are using social media as a viable tool to build brand affinity. And more than half of campus marketers have a communications and content strategy in place for using social media to engage target audiences. These are facts not trends.

Third reason higher ed marketers should not follow trends in 2013
What conference topics, industry research, or blog posts inspired you in 2012? Are they the same topics and trends for 2013, just repackaged?
If it’s predictable, if it’s been thought of, if it’s been done and done successfully, chances are it’s a new standard not a trend.

Some campus communicators aren’t in a position to put everything they have into being an innovator. In many cases budget and manpower inhibit innovation in higher ed. Campus communicators are often trying to play catch up to the standard, making standards seem like trends. But if you’re a lucky marketer in higher ed, in, there is still a lot of ground to cover. Moving away from talking about standards to demonstrating outcomes related to performance and investment in efficiency is still in its early stages.

When I look Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 10.47.00 AMinto my crystal ball, I see ROI and measurable outcomes making the hottest trends for 2016 list. My magic eight ball agrees.

Anticipating Higher Ed Hibernation

There is an art to granting student achievements. Writing another article about “creating an achievement calendar” would be beating a dead horse. For this best practices article, we’ll go over ideas for getting the most out of readMedia before, during, and after the winter break mass exodus.

The end-of-semester crunch puts pressure on campus communicators to push a ton of content out to the media, students, parents, and other stakeholders before higher ed hibernation sets in.

Marketing communications offices have two weeks to get content into the periphery of target audiences before the four week holiday hiatus. Of course, there are a handful of spirited students that take advantage of the short winter course session, but typically, around the third week of December through the second week of January, you can hear a pin drop on campus.

Readership, online, and social media engagement takes a nose dive over the winter break. Studies claim winter break is the high season for drop outs. Even content from the Chronicle of Higher Education slows down.

No one is really checking their college’s Facebook page or Twitter feed and student newspapers skip or combo an issue. The solution for keeping your brand in the minds of target audiences has everything to do with timing.

Let’s segment winter break into three tiers communication:

  • Pre-break: Weeks one and two of December
  • Hibernation: Post-final exodus. When students, faculty, and administrators take some time off to enjoy the holidays.
  • Re-entry: When students restart the academic engine, usually the week (or weekend) before school.

Check your academic calendar, when do exams conclude, when do students leave campus? Timing is everything. Here are some examples of achievements you can get out in early December:

readMedia clients have the greatest success when they grant these achievements over weeks one and two of December. If you’re feeling the crunch, you can hold off, but timing is critical.

One week after exams through the final week of winter break – NOT the right time to send dean’s list and commencement announcement – period! You do not want to grant achievements out during the first half of winter break. Students and parents unplug from .edu emails and social media posts and focus more on travel, friends, family, work, and relaxation. As move-in day draws near and students start making their way back to campus, your audience will expect contact from you, this is the ideal time to send December news.

Grant achievements that focus on the handful of student still on campus or those who continued their academic activities over winter break, this includes:

  • International students that didn’t travel home
  • Winter-sports athletes
  • Work-study students
  • Alternative winter break or civic engagement achievements like this one from Saginaw Valley State University (my vote for Best Custom Badge Set).

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 10.10.49 AM

Have you had success or challenges with campus communications over winter break? If so, share them with our readers by adding a comment below. In closing, our client service and success team is here to help you get the most out of your readMedia subscription, call us anytime! 1.800.522.2194.

Best of readMedia 2012 | Higher Ed

More than 450 colleges and universities are turning student achievements into a powerful brand communications strategy that successfully targets, tracks, and measures audience engagement in local, online, and social media networks.

The customer service and strategy team at readMedia works with higher ed institutions all year long to ensure their success. We’re constantly monitoring usage, stats, and audience engagement. When we see great results, we grab a screenshot and shoot the good news around the entire office. Everyone feels fantastic about delivering on our promise to give higher ed communicators a platform to transform content and social media marketing into a measurable strategy that gets results.

Around November we dive into the archives and sift through piles of great results. Now it’s time for you to see how your institution stacks up against your peers. readMedia is pleased to bring you the “Best of readMedia 2012.”

No. 1  Best admissions initiative
Two institutions are augmenting admissions marketing by using readMedia to create an early connection with prospective students.
Harding University granted high school junior Lorenzo Sukhdeo an achievement for attending a summer pharmacy camp.
Ashland University sent an “Accepted” achievement to prospective students and as you can see in the post below, one commenter posted, “They are going to make it hard not to attend AU…

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.40.36 AM

No. 2  Best alumni Achievement
Many higher ed institutions use readMedia to shine the light on alumni accomplishments.

The University of Toledo granted Chinonso Agubosim an achievement for being featured in an Ad Campaign.

No. 3  Favorite custom badge design
We have had so many colleges and universities create amazing badge sets, it was hard to choose a victor. To make it fair, we sent an email with screenshots around the office and the team casted a vote for their favorite best badge set. The judging criteria included: detail, aesthetic appeal, and brand consistency. Here are the results:

Greensboro College and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette tied for first!

Custom badges

No. 4  Tear jerker award
When students post their achievements in their personal online networks, friends and family respond. We see achievement shares draw out some really sincere heartfelt comments. Here are three encouraging interactions:

Columbia State Community College


Shawnee State University


James Madison University
COngrats mother of 3 TEAR

No. 5  Top student profiles
These students use readabout.me to create a robust and positive online identity; adding activities, work experience, and personal information to their readabout.me profile.

No. 6  Most unique achievements
We often talk about getting creative and using achievements to advertise some of the unique programs and activities going on at your school. Here are some of the more unique achievements we’ve seen this year:

Butler University granted 152 achievements to the “Newest generation of legacies.”

Butler Legacies Caris

How about granting an achievement to your institution’s mascot? We’ve has a few universities do this. This year, Randolph College takes the silver by granting an achievement to Wanda WildCat.

No. 7  Favorite landing page 2012
Many colleges and universities do a great job customizing their readabout.me landing pages. We put this year’s landing pages to a vote. Similar to the custom badge category, we  had everyone in the office cast a vote with this criteria in mind: detail, aesthetic appeal, and brand consistency.

No. 8  Best of getting the word out to students
One of the strategies critical to an institution’s success with readMedia and readabout.me is getting your students to use it! You can turn students into your most valuable marketing asset by giving your students personalize content that they want to share in their personal online and social networks. You can achieve this by marketing readMedia to your students. By communicating the benefits of having a positive online identity, your students will see “what’s in it for them.”

Here are some of our favorite examples of institution’s going the extra mile to get the word out about readabout.me – and these schools are seeing 119% more engagement from their students than other readMedia users.

Saint Louis College of Pharmacy $50 iTunes card

STLCOP tweet promo

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette positioned readabout.me as a new student recognition program and they made this great video available to students.

University of Wisconsin-River Falls created an informative, how it works, video.

No. 9  Achievements with the most comments and
No. 10  Achievements with the most “likes

Reading great comments and seeing “likes” from family members and friends is one of the more rewarding experiences at readMedia. When we see positive engagement, like what you see below, we know readMedia is helping connect students to their school and community. We’re also helping institutions build brand affinity in target markets that they would otherwise never be able to reach.

Christy Smith a 2012 RIT graduate posted her achievement to Facebook, garnering 156 “likes” from friends and family.


Angela Key Woolridge of Northern Illinois University received 69 ‘likes’ and 24 comments from family and friends for posting her son’s scholarship achievement on Facebook.


Finally, Christine Smitt posted her Berklee College of Music dean’s list achievement to Facebook, which prompted 65 “likes” and 12 comments.


Wondering how the 2011 winners compare to this year? Check out the results from 2011.

From all of us at readMedia – have a most enjoyable holiday season.

We’ve got you covered with 11 awesome gift ideas

The readMedia blog, strictly speaking, is committed to higher ed topics that further campus communicators’ ability to do their jobs strategically. We’ve never blogged about anything “off-topic,” but I was inspired by The Chronicle of Higher Education’sProfHacker 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.”  It is an opportune time to break away from tradition by contributing to the perennial tradition of gift giving.

For babies

For families that place good food high on their list of priorities, a set of Amy Wilson Sanger books are a perfect gift. $11.95 each.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.37.58 AM

This unbelievably awesome pacifier ($13.96) will put a smile on your face every time your wee one uses it. Where were these six years ago?

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.41.05 AM

For tots

Colorful Sevilla building blocks by Haba, $69.99.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.16.35 AM

Architectural blocks by Haba, $44.99.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.27.49 AM

For tweens & teens

New head gear: Skull Candy and Beats by Dr. Dre are hot right now. Prices range from $70 – $300+.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.35.10 AM
Get tickets to see your child’s favorite band. A road trip and overnight would make the experience even more memorable. How do you spring it on them? Whether you have the tickets in hand or write an I owe you for when the tix go on sale, throw it in this ticket stub diary ($11) and watch your child’s jaw drop when they finger through and find the surprise.

For him 

Norwegians know how to stay warm. You can’t go wrong with a weatherproof  Dale of Norway sweater. They run $300 – $600, and last forever.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.46.31 AM

An old school straight razor shave makes a great stocking stuffer for “him.” It’s an inexpensive luxury. I’ve been purchasing gift certificates from a respectable hole-in-the-wall for years. It’s $17 for the full treatment, from hot towel to after shave application. Joe’s been doing it right for decades. Grab a coffee and go on a hunt to find the Ritmo’s in your town.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 1.51.03 AM

For her

One gift to rule them all: Wantful!

It’s a site I came across last year and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Wantful helps gift givers assemble a custom catalog, of up to 16 different items, that fall within a pre-defined price point, $30, $50, $75, etc… Once you choose from a number of boutique items ranging from bow ties and champagne to scarves and non-profit donations, Wantful delivers the book — electronically or as a gorgeous physical copy — to the recipient of the present; then ships the gift recipient the product he or she chooses. Trust me, visit the site: https://wantful.com/

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 2.04.49 AM

For the party host

Pottery Barn sells one of my favorite candles, Mission Fig. It has a long lasting musky fragrance. $19.50

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 2.07.30 AM

If you like eBay, search for “brass legs nutcracker” and you’ll find a spin on the traditional, wooden soldier nutcracker. There are many, cheaper, modern day knock-offs, but the authentic 1920s nutcrackers make a great bar/conversation piece.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 2.14.10 AM

Is your readMedia content strategy working for you?

For many readMedia champions, granting Achievements and distributing news is a primary focus and critical part of the marketing mix. For users looking to take their communications strategy to the next level, this post is for you.

readMedia has an entire team dedicated to customer service and client success. Three, and only three, items are on the weekly agenda:

Item 1: Report on readmedia usage
Item 2: How are our users performing, are we helping them achieve their goals?
Item 3: What can we do better to ensure their success?

That’s it. We’re not salespeople, we’re success people. When we conduct your 90 and 180-day review, we look to see how you’re doing and want to understand any roadblocks you’re facing with readMedia.

This month, we’ve heard a lot about content strategy, creation, and management. A handful of readMedia users have asked about tips on where to start and how to be more successful with readMedia.

We’re bringing you #12 from the readMedia Best Practices Playbook. It’s all about using readMedia to develop a measurable content strategy that ties your efforts to institutional goals. In other words, low-risk, high-reward. Here’s the play-by-play on how to make readMedia work for you, your students, and your institution.

1. Choosing Achievements
Take a look at your institution’s mission statement, value proposition, boilerplate, and strategic plan.

  • Are you positioning your students as leaders?
  • Is diversity and a multicultural environment something you promote?
  • Have you started to focus on research and science-based programs?
  • Do athletic or community service programs attract prospective students?

Choosing Achievements is a piece of cake; simply align your Achievements with your institution’s strengths. You should grant achievements to students whose scholarly accomplishments and academic activities match your marketing plan and current content strategy.

If you want to position your students as leaders, focus on achievements like student governmentdistinguished scholars, and orientation leaders. Institutions that successfully brand their students as leaders, provide evidence, in the form of an Achievement, on how their institution helps their students become leaders.

If you’re looking to showcase hands-on opportunities or strong research programs, focus on internshipscommunity service, research and conference participation.

2. Creating an Achievement Calendar
Successful clients, like James Madison University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, are reaching thousands of students and parents in target markets because they sync their Achievements to their marketing and communications academic calendar. By forecasting the granting and distribution of Achievements, you can create templates in advance and save them in your account, so they are there when you need them. These templates can be reused semester after semester.

Creating an Achievement Calendar 1) saves you time, 2) helps you support office and institutional goals, and 3) makes it easy to coordinate content across multiple channels of communication.

In an attempt to make your job easier, here is a link to a sample Achievement Calendar with over 30 activities that take place on campus during the academic year. Copy and paste our templates into your readMedia account, add a couple of unique sentences, slap your boilerplate on the bottom, and call it a day.

Here are some examples of Achievement Calendars being used at Carleton College and Emporia State University, and here is one we created.

3. Obtaining student information

We hear that getting buy-in from other departments can be a real challenge. But act early and act fast. Reach out to the appropriate activity coordinators, department heads, and the registrar. Give them an overview, here’s a deck you can use. Provide them with a sample spreadsheet, so they know what data to pull. Inform your colleagues that the information they are providing is FERPA compliant. Once you have a workflow in place for obtaining student data, you’re well on your way!

SUNY Adirondack has mastered the art of distributed workflow and data collection. The Marketing and Community Relations Department, led by Mark Parfitt, reached out to IT to develop an online application that allows the campus community submit a “readMedia Success Story.” This includes everything from writing the content for the story to uploading their own spreadsheet. This project deserves its own dedicated feature, look for it in 2013.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse SUNY Adirondacks readMedia submission pages: http://www.sunyacc.edu/search/node/readmedia

4. Execution
If uploading a spreadsheets, creating templates, and editing mistakes after an Achievement has been granted, are child’s play, there’s only one feature I’d like to bring to your attention: sending a web-only Achievement. readMedia gives you the capability to grant your students an achievement that they can share in their social networks without inundating the media with content that’s not “newsworthy.” Here’s how. >>

For readMedia users that blow the dust off of our platform twice a year, we encourage you, and any new readMedia users to take advantage of our weekly online trainings. They’re free and they happen twice a week. Register today.

When it comes down to it, execution is about building brand affinity with prospects in target markets by getting relevant content into the hands of students, and the media, so it can be shared with thousands of people.

*Tip: Our most successful readMedia users promote readabout.me to students. Here is an article that showcases some clever ways your peers are getting the word out.

5. Report on Results
After you grant an Achievement, we recommend logging into your readMedia account to view your Web Stats and Delivery reports. readMedia has robust analytics built right in, making it easy to demonstrate, to leadership, how you united a content and social media strategy that is effective AND measurable.

readMedia gives you the capability to monitor and  measure outcomes, tying your efforts back to institutional goals like: enrollment, retention, brand affection, and engagement. For more on how to access and interpret your readMedia Web Stats and Delivery Reports, visit our Online Resource Guide.

Our number one priority at readMedia, is to prove your value and showcase what a cutting-edge innovator you are. This is accomplished by offering you a few key strategies that will help you to be exalted and modeled by the higher ed community.

If you have a question, hit a roadblock, or just want to bounce an idea off us, don’t hesitate – contact us!

Danielle Valenti, danielle@readmedia.com
Jenn Connally, jenn@readmedia.com

Technical Service:
John Pjontek, john@readmedia.com
Dave Casali, dave@readmedia.com


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.