EDUCAUSE, Social Media, and Us

An opportunity for leadership.

January 25, 2015
EDUCAUSE does many (most) things very well, and a few things not so well. Social media, or really digitally mediated conversations and community building, may be an example where EDUCAUSE has room to improve.
In many ways EDUCAUSE’s strengths and weaknesses mirror our own in higher ed. It may be unfair that we hold EDUCAUSE to higher standards than we seem to be able to apply to ourselves, but there it is. We look to EDUCAUSE as a leader, as an exemplar, and as a guide. If we are critical of EDUCAUSE it is only because so many of us are so invested in EDUCAUSE, and in our emerging discipline at the intersection of higher education and technology.
Where EDUCAUSE does best, and where EDUCAUSE does worst, are on both sides of the same coin. EDUCAUSE hires wonderful people. The people whom I know at EDUCAUSE (and I know a good many) are leaders in our field. They are amazingly hard working (EDUCAUSE is extremely productive for the size of its staff), professional, experienced, and mission driven. When you talk to an EDUCAUSE staff member in person you quickly learn that they have strong smart opinions and ideas on every aspect of higher education. EDUCAUSE may be a postsecondary technology association, but the people at EDUCAUSE are expert and passionate about every aspect of higher education. 
It is the quality EDUCAUSE’s people that makes the illegibility of the Organization’s social media strategy so befuddling. If EDUCAUSE does have a social media philosophy, or a social media strategy, I certainly can’t figure out what it might be. Going to educause.edu offers very little help. There is a Social Media Directory page that lists the Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, and YouTube accounts.  Some of the Twitter accounts listed are active, but some (like EDUCAUSE Policy  and EDUCAUSE Studio) seem to be inactive. EDUCAUSE does have a blog page, but it is somewhat hidden and maybe a bit quiet (in terms of strong opinions, debate, and dialogue etc.).  
More troubling seems to be an EDUCAUSE communications philosophy that stresses a unified message under a corporate brand. Nowhere can I find on the EDUCAUSE website a list of social media places for the people who work at EDUCAUSE.  The larger higher ed tech community, the people that go to EDUCAUSE conferences and read EDUCAUSE publications, would benefit from the opportunity to learn from and interact with EDUCAUSE professionals.  
Credibility and trust in our field is gained by the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and opinions. It is a good thing if we disagree, from time to time, with the opinions and ideas of the people that make up the organizations that are important to our disciplines. The biggest risk of all for an organization like EDUCAUSE is not controversy amongst its constituents and stakeholders, but of not being part of the conversation. Social media is really about dialogue, sharing, thought leadership, and community building. By not having a social media policy that provides training, incentives, and visibility for EDUCAUSE employees to participate and contribute as individuals, EDUCAUSE is underutilizing its primary asset (its people). 
Again, to be fair, most every higher education institution is just as guilty as EDUCAUSE in failing develop a coherent social media strategy. Too many of our institutions understand social media as yet another public relations channel. Rather using social media to extend and highlight the diversity of ideas and opinions that our faculty, staff, students, and alumni may hold - many institutions continue to insist on only promoting official channels and unified messaging. Rather than thinking about social media as an opportunity to have authentic conversations, many of our schools attempt to use social media as mostly a one-way broadcast medium.  
Does your school have a directory that aggregates and links to the social media platforms of everyone they can find that is affiliated with your institution? I’m guessing not. EDUCAUSE could provide real leadership with a progressive employee social media policy, and a website that highlighted the various contributions of those who work at the organization.
The other social media areas where I wish EDUCAUSE could be more active, more part of the dialogue, is in online conversations that are not taking place on EDUCAUSE platforms.
I am always a bit saddened, but no longer surprised, when I completely fail to engage EDUCAUSE in a conversation in this space. Maybe it was appropriate that nobody from EDUCAUSE to comment on, or even talk about (tweet) on any EDUCAUSE platform when I wrote about 3 Priorities for EDUCAUSE’s Next CEO(It makes more sense for the new CEO to engage one he starts his role).   But why did the people at EDUCAUSE think that it made sense to forgo a discussion about the website 3 Wishes for www.educause.edu, or the future of the Annual Conference -  3 Ideas for Future EDUCAUSE Conferences.  EDUCAUSE is even silent when I try to have a little fun at the Association’s expense:  7 New Lounges at EDUCAUSE to Complement the CIO Lounge.
An honest question to the people who work at EDUCAUSE is if they would feel comfortable, supported and even maybe rewarded, for responding to this post? For talking about what they think should be EDUCAUSE’s social media future? 
EDUCAUSE produces an amazing amount of high quality research and content (although I often find it hard to find on educause.edu), hosts our must-go-to edtech conferences, and has a wide portfolio of professional development resources and events. EDUCAUSE is great at creating opportunities for members of community to contribute back to the organization and the discipline.  (I’ve been an ECAR Fellow and on the Program Committee for the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference). Where EDUCAUSE needs a rethink, I believe, is in its social media (its online community and thought leadership) strategy. Do you think this is wrong?
Where do you think EDUCAUSE has opportunities to set a social media example for the rest of higher education?


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