Two Questions with Lindsay Nyquist

What are higher ed institutions doing right when it comes to digital engagement?

“One thing that I see colleges doing well is BEING CREATIVE. This is one of the most fun parts of working in digital communication—experimenting with new platforms and apps; making fun videos, time lapses, and Boomerangs; and finding interesting ways to bring that engagement into real life. One of my favorite examples of this is from Eastern Kentucky University. They saw this tweet from a prospective student, letting them know that their competitors at UK had sent him a box of chocolate.

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“Not to be outdone, representatives from EKU drove 50 miles to that student’s school, and their mascot brought him some chocolate in person. What a great way to translate digital engagement into real life!

“Another great way to digitally engage with students is through social care, or online customer service. Most schools are probably aware of Facebook (and other platforms’) messaging service and use it to answer questions. But there are opportunities for social care on so many other platforms, too. The University of North Florida uses Twitter in a unique way to give students updates on their applications—applicants can tweet their name to UNF’s Admissions Twitter account and they will tweet back where the application is in the decision-making process! This is a fun and creative way to reach them on the platform they want to use.

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“Another thing to keep in mind about engagement is knowing when to engage…and when to step back. Fort Lewis College uses SchoolsApp as a private social community for our admitted students and the students love to chatter away about their residence halls, majors, and expectations. After our first year using the product and creating this community, we learned to step back a bit. While we always volunteer answers to specific questions (especially those related to college processes), sometimes the students need to have conversations with other students rather than administrators. We want them to feel comfortable and make connections in the community and not feel that we’re watching them through a microscope.

What are higher ed institutions doing wrong when it comes to digital engagement?

“The institutions that I see struggling with digital engagement are those who don’t want to embrace social media for what it is. It’s a quick, creative, experimental medium without a lot of control or structure. Colleges that use overly formal language or only professional photos stand out, and not in a good way. Similarly, institutions that try to automate too much—using auto-responses on Facebook messages or tweets—are missing the amazing opportunities that social media affords us of building relationships with individuals and break down barriers.

“So in your online engagement with constituents, whether they’re alumni, current students, or prospects—be authentic, be honest, and have fun!”

Lindsay Nyquist is an adjunct faculty member and director of digital communications at Fort Lewis College. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nyquistify.