EDUCAUSE and Social Media

5 Questions for Ron Zwerin.

March 2, 2015
Ron Zwerin, EDUCAUSE’s Director of Marketing & Communications, graciously agreed to participate in a Q&A about the association’s social media philosophy and policies. 
I’ve been a (friendly) critic of both the current EDUCAUSE website 3 Wishes for educause.edu, and of how EDUCAUSE has leveraged (or failed to leverage) social media beyond EDUCAUSE controlled channels for thought leadership in higher education - EDUCAUSE, Social Media, and Us.  
I’ve made these critiques explicit in my recommendations to John O’Brien in 3 Priorities for EDUCAUSE’s Next CEO
Therefore, I’m encouraged and heartened that Ron would take the time to answer my questions, and to engage with our IHE community directly in any questions that you might have about EDUCAUSE’s communication and engagement strategy.
Question 1: How does EDUCAUSE connect on social media? Does the association's staff use social media to connect with the EDUCAUSE community? 
Answer: Social media is an important element of any communication strategy. We see our social channels and networks as a great place for people to turn content into conversation. The association and the community we serve are very active on our social platforms.
As an association, we concentrate our efforts on providing relevant information at all times. If it’s not our original content –– and we share a lot of interesting content every day ­­–– we amplify appropriate content that is fitting and interesting to our diverse audience, while also creating opportunities for the community to continue the conversation with one another.
The EDUCAUSE staff is focused on providing our members with information and data they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. However, not everyone is comfortable engaging on social media as individuals. So, EDUCAUSE maintains that link directly through our official profiles and social handles.
That said, many of the EDUCAUSE staff are active on social media and have insightful things to share. For example, @StefanieBlouin, @datadeeva, @ReallyKristi, @AndrewCalkins, @DrVDiaz, and @MbBrown, are just a few of our staff members who are active thought leaders on social media and I encourage you to follow them on Twitter.
Question 2: Since you took over the role of director of marketing and communications about a year ago, what changes have you made to the way the association approaches social media? How do you anticipate EDUCAUSE's social media presence will change in the year to come? 
Answer: Social media offers EDUCAUSE a powerful platform that lets us have an ongoing conversation with the higher education technology community. At EDUCAUSE, we realize that we can optimize the use of our social platforms to meaningfully engage in conversations and spark rich dialogue within the higher education community and beyond. In fact, we recently conducted an audit of all of our social platforms and began implementing strategic and sustainable growth strategies that allow us to connect with our audiences directly through our EDUCAUSE social networks. Our strategy centers on distribution of meaningful content. We are growing our audience by creating and sharing sticky content that tells a meaningful story. Content is always king, but distribution is the ace.
It is really important to note that social media isn't a stand-alone initiative. We are taking a thoughtful look at all of the ways we communicate with our membership and the audiences we serve across the higher education landscape. In 2015, we will be making some needed updates and changes to the EDUCAUSE website, streamlining our marketing practices, enhancing visibility and consumption of our content before, during, and after our widely attended annual conference, and expanding our social media presence. These efforts are long-term investments and will grow over time, and much of the work is happening behind the scenes, but we are excited to share these improvements with the community as they come online this year and beyond. 
Question 3: Has EDUCAUSE considered creating a directory of social media locations, blog sites, Twitter handles, etc, for connecting with EDUCAUSE staff? Some sort of fresh and frequently updated site that tracks the writing, talks, and goings-on of the people that work at EDUCAUSE?
Answer: It’s an interesting idea and we have given it a lot of thought in the last year and your recent blog post was very interesting to us. Ultimately, as we consider our role as a membership association, we think it is best if we continue to encourage staff to engage in social media on their own terms. We wouldn't want to put expectations on our staff that they need to be active on social media when they may not have time or interest in engaging frequently, especially when we're active on EDUCAUSE's official profiles and handles. In addition, it can get into tricky territory when it's a personal profile since what one might share may not always be related to their professional role. While it isn’t likely we will create a directory in the near future, we are always exploring new ways to connect our staff with the community and we welcome your thoughts. 
Question 4: The EDUCAUSE website is rich in links to research, reports, and professional development opportunities - but is not a place that I go on a daily basis for timely analysis, opinions, and discussions. Is there any thought in leveraging the quality of the EDUCAUSE staff, and the power of the EDUCAUSE member network, to create a site that is on the daily must-interact-with list for our edtech community? 
Answer: As I mentioned, we are in the process of redesigning the EDUCAUSE website. A big priority is improving the way our members and others in the community find, consume, and share content on our website. We are also considering how we will increase interaction and make it more of a destination. We are in the discovery stage and this will be a multi-year process –– but what you highlight is definitely top of mind. 
Question 5: As far as I know, EDUCAUSE has never really participated in any of the discussion about the association that I’ve tried to start in my blog. Nobody from EDUCAUSE comments on blog posts where I write about EDUCAUSE, or points to these posts in any EDUCAUSE social media platform (such as Twitter).  Why is that? 
Answer: There are terrific conversations happening all over the web around EDUCAUSE and the issues that matter to our membership –– many on your blog. We have tools that identify them for us and we share the links internally so everyone has their finger on the pulse of what is being discussed. However, it would take more staff time than we have to engage in the comments section of all of them or to re-tweet links (and we wouldn't want to favor one outlet over another). We focus our efforts on engaging directly in blog posts (like this one –– thank you!) and articles than in the comments sections. In addition, our in-house experts and leadership spend a fair amount of time providing essential information for those who seek our insight. We are available for interviews and frequently speak with reporters, bloggers, and other influencers directly in order to share their insights and perspectives. To request an interview, all you need to do is send me an email, at rzwerin@educause.edu and I will help you get the information you need.
What would you like to know about EDUCAUSE and social media from Ron?
What would you like to see EDUCAUSE do with its website and its social media strategy?
What can we learn at our colleges and universities from EDUCAUSE to inform our own website and social media strategies and practices?


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