The St. Thomas administration is finding ways to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to its advantage.
The New Media Initiatives Group (NMIG) was recently developed by the administration. It’s a program designed to develop ways to “integrate new technology and media into [St. Thomas] communications efforts,” said Mike Ekern, director of photography and member of NMIG.
NMIG main objective
NMIG’s goal is to combine social networking sites with traditional media outlets to communicate with prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and benefactors.
“The idea is to interact with and engage the St. Thomas community,” Ekern said. “In some cases this will be on a more niche level like the Career Development Center on Twitter, in other cases it will be on a larger scale like the St. Thomas fan page on Facebook.”
Web and Media Specialist Eric Drommerhausen said he believes social networking sites will keep the St. Thomas community informed and allow its members to interact.
“The idea is to deliver information about the university, be it news, events, history in a convenient and conversational format,” Drommerhausen said.
According to Ekern, the main question asked by institutions like St. Thomas is “What is the return on our efforts for being in the social media sphere?”
“For an experience-based place like St. Thomas, it becomes about community engagement,” Ekern said. “To that end, I think you can see some real results on, for example, the St. Thomas fan page.”
Members of the Tommie community are already actively participating as St. Thomas currently has more than 2,100 Facebook fans.
A St. Thomas YouTube channel will soon be available in addition to the university’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
“YouTube has a micro-site within itself of all education, of all schools, so we’ll have one of those up and running very soon,” said Mike Cassel, senior admissions counselor. “We are also building our photo gallery on Flickr as well.”
By creating Web pages on social networking sites, the NMIG aims to inform interested prospective students.
“Our main mission is to get students more information about St. Thomas,” Cassel said. “We’re looking at recruiting students out of high school as well as transfer students, so we’re trying to present them with opportunities to learn more about St. Thomas.”
Those who work in the admissions office view St. Thomas’s social networking accounts to get a sense of the types of students interested in the university in order to tailor information to suit their needs.
“It’s just an attempt to be more visible and to really go where they’re at,” said Marla Friederichs, associate vice president for Admissions and Financial Aid. “If something happens to trigger a little bit of interest on their part then we’re a step ahead.”
Student groups and clubs take advantage of social networking
Social networking pages are being used to help promote on-campus clubs and organizations.
Leaders of the performance arts club PULSE use Facebook to stay in touch with club members. Senior Derek Porter, founder of PULSE, uses Facebook “as an advertising tool to spread the word about up coming shows.”
Facebook is an effective method because according to Porter, “all PULSE members have friends who access Facebook daily.”
Senior Brett Mernin, a leader of SHINE, also uses Facebook to encourage students to become involved in the program as well as to update current members about important events and meetings.
“People seem to connect better socially on Facebook than through e-mail,” Mernin said. “I feel most people are more likely to get into a group that they were invited to be a part of rather than sign up for a group or an e-mail list.”
Rebecca Omastiak can be reached at email@example.com