This year's Association of College and University Housing Officers - International (ACUHO-I) Annual Conference & Exposition (ACE) was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. A location that was probably the warmest place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Thank goodness for air conditioning and elevated, in-door passageways. With more than 1,000 people in attendance at ACE, housing and residence life professionals from a variety of places came to NOLA to share ideas, celebrate their successes and engage in a fantastic amount of professional development.
My role at the conference was two-fold. As the Social Media Educator in Residence (SMEIR), I met with attendees to discuss social media basics, strategy, and implementation. A lot of people wanted to talk about Twitter. I generally shifted the conversation back to strategies and programs before delving into the "tools". A major theme was the amount of time that it takes to successfully engage with students via social media. My advice: If you "go small" then you will have small results. It's far better to "go big," even with one channel (eg: Facebook), and work on generating conversations. "Broadcast" does not work with social media any better than it does on our overloaded bulletin boards. I encouraged several practitioners to think about adding social media into the job descriptions of their employees. Social media engagement should not be an "extra hat."
In addition to serving as the SMEIR, I had the opportunity to present an interest session on how housing and residence life professionals can use social media to market their programs and build community with their residents. Privacy and risk, important considerations, were both asked about at the end of my talk. My response, given the time that I had left, was that social media does not equal a common sense lobotomy. Create guidelines or policies, stick with them, and be ready to shift with the technology. Overall, it was exciting to know that many of the ACUHO-I ACE attendees were thinking (and planning to act) strategically about how they could utilize social media in relevant ways within their programs.
The conference backchannel was exceptionally vibrant. Using the #ACUHOI hashtag, participants posted insightful thoughts, asked questions, and provided links to resources. I showcased the backchannel tweets during my consultation sessions and alongside my presentation slides using Twitterfall.
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