This year, CASE created a new category, Best in Social Media, in its Awards of Excellence Program. I led the judging for social media, which was held in conjunction with the judging for websites at George School in Newtown, PA, in early April. [Here’s a blog post containing results, comments, and a downloadable version of the Judges’ Report for Category 11, Websites.]
Eight of us judged the social media category. Judges represented American colleges, schools, and universities, both public and private. The panel included people with experience in design, web strategy, web content development, admissions, student recruitment, social media, web technology, and marketing. Some members of the panel have considerable exposure on social media, including significant number of Twitter followers.
According to CASE,
Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards may be given in each subcategory to recognize best practices using social media within new and established programming. One overall category Grand Gold award may also be awarded for superior work. Eligible programs may come from any area of institutional advancement. Programs may be on-going or new in 2009 but must have been in place long enough to have produced well-documented results. You may also enter best uses of social media in the following categories: Alumni Relations Programs: Creative Use of Technology and New Media and Fundraising Programs: Technology Applications and Creative Use of New Media.
So there may be awards for social media coming from entries in these other categories: stay tuned.
Here are the number of entries in each subcategory and the awards given:
12a. Best Uses of Social Media in Alumni Programming: 12 entries, no awards
12b. Best Uses of Social Media in Fundraising: 5 entries, one award
Silver: Children’s Hospital Trust Boston Social Media Portfolio: Facebook (English); Facebook (Spanish)]; YouTube (English); YouTube (Spanish); Twitter: @helpkids
12c. Best Uses of Social Media in Student Recruitment and Marketing: 19 entries, 2 awards
Silver: Northfield Mount Hermon School NMHBook
Bronze: Brock University Both Sides of the Brain [url=http://apps.facebook.com/
12d. Other Uses of Social Media: 25 entries, 3 awards
Gold: College of William and Mary Mascot Search
Gold: Oregon State University, Powered by Orange: Facebook page; Twitter: @poweredbyorange; YouTube; LinkedIn; Flickr.
Bronze: Tufts University, The Beelzebubs on NBC’s The Sing Off: news package and chat.
Comments and Trends
Social media is new enough that there aren’t a whole lot of precedents for great uses of social media. But there are some. Last year, for example, several initiatives that used social media won in various categories, including Flight of the Flyers from Nazareth College and Emory University’s Blue Pig campaign, both of which won awards. [I wrote blog posts about Flight of the Flyers and the Blue Pig.]
So before we began viewing the entries, we agreed that just having a Facebook page or a Twitter account—or even both of them along with a LinkedIn presence—wasn’t enough for an entry to qualify for an award. We wanted to see strategic goals set—and accomplished through the use of social media along with, perhaps, other channels. We wanted to see some evidence of engagement on the part of a target audience—blog comments, retweets, wall posts. And we wanted to see something that was new or different, not something that every other college or university was doing.
Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect and in general, we were relatively disappointed in the submissions. We did see a number of institutions that thought having a Facebook page or a Twitter presence was significant. It isn’t, not today.
From the award-winners, we gain an emerging sense that “best practices” in social media do involve multiple channels. Sometimes these are multiple social media or online channels. Northfield Mount Hermon’s NMHBook mashup is an example of this approach: it aggregates social media feeds into the school’s website. Powered By Orange, OSU’s impressive awareness campaign, mashes up social media with many other channels, including banners, signage, and face-to-face events. [Powered By Orange is an awesome campaign; here’s a blog post I wrote about it last year.] The College of William & Mary used multiple online channels in its search for a new mascot and did it brilliantly.
These are great examples of the kinds of social media-focused programs that institutions should emulate.
In judging social media, as in judging websites, written submissions are essential. Comments in the submissions help us to put what we’re seeing on-screen in context. A well-articulated strategy, supported by results, helps us to understand that social media can achieve institutional objectives. We’re keenly aware that these award winners will serve as models for other institutions and can help to convince reluctant administrators that social media is a safe channel to advance institutional goals. In this context, results are essential.
Here’s a copy of the complete judge’s report for this category, with comments about each of the award winners.
Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?