One week ago today I was lucky enough to speak at Higher Ed Open Mic put on by Eduventures during the American Marketing Association’s Higher Education Symposium in Boston. It was a fantastic event with a great crowd, drinks, snacks, prizes and yes, great speakers.

I told myself that I was going to tone down my ‘dirty pirate mouth’, but the vibes, crowd and passion of the week (living vicariously through others at #ConfabEDU as well as taking part in #AMAHigherED it was an epic week for learning and being around likeminded people) got the better of me. In true Jess fashion, a few – OK more than a few – F Bombs were dropped. But, I like to think they were well placed points of exclamation. :)

My brief riff focused on the importance of #RealTalk in social media: from ourselves as brands as well as from our consumers in higher ed. This means negative social media as well. Here’s the list of reasons I gave as to why I feel this way:

It’s Real. If you don’t listen to what your consumers are saying, what’s the point? Listening to negative social media shows you what people may be saying about you, but not really willing to say to your face. Ever have a friend not tell you that an outfit was unflattering until after you realized it? It’s that kind of ‘keeping it real’ that social media can help us achieve as brands. Be willing to listen, especially to the hard stuff.

It’s A Customer Service Opportunity. Social media has come a long way in the minds of institutions. We now know that we can listen to negative comments as a way to continue our personal touches in our service to customers. If you do not respond via social media, yet it is a channel you use to ‘push’ information out? Well, that’s just bad manners. You do not get to choose when and how social media are used if you have them in place. Be aware and respond accordingly. It’s huge for brand perception, and reactions, however small, remain in the minds of the consumer, but beyond this, they may spread like wildfire across the net.

It’s a Chance to Nip it in the Bud. If someone is telling lies about you, you want to set them straight, correct? By having things bubble up via social media, you’re given a chance to put out fires before they’re really smokin’. Lies, inappropriate information and other untruths uncovered early and diffused while small are something to be thankful for. They are opportunities you may never have brought to you in person.

It’s a Chance to FIX IT! If a problem is presented, you can resolve it. Even if you cannot resolve a particular problem – for instance, in financial aid or acceptance decisions – you can at least listen. Sometimes, listening is the ‘fix’ that people seek. You misspelled something? Fix it. Thank the person for caring enough to point it out. Move on.

It’s an Opportunity for Program Development. As mentioned previously, social media become a place where people feel more comfortable speaking their minds. Maybe they think you aren’t listening. Maybe they think you won’t respond. But if you can glean any information from social media about your programs or events, wouldn’t you use that to make them better? Any negative comment about your programs could just be a criticism and something that you can do better. Build better programs with more honest feedback.

Let others Speak Up on Your Behalf. We all know the power of the community in policing itself. Letting others speak up on your behalf is perhaps the holy grail of social media for brands. People believe in what you do enough to come to your defense. When they can feel that type of allegiance and brand affinity, well, you’re doing your job right.

It’s the perfect opportunity to apply the brand. If your brand stands for something and is somehow a voice or entity in social media, how better can you showcase who you are and what you stand for than by dealing with a situation seen as negative? By speaking up, one-on-one, you’re given the opportunity to be the thing you speak of. To show rather than tell. It allows your brand to come to life – this is where we see the majority of big wins in social media. Think Tesco’s Twitter account. In higher ed, if we are doing our jobs well as educators and mentors, why are we so worried about what our students and alumni are saying about us. If our product is as great as we say it is, should we really fear social media? Are we doing our f&*%ing jobs?

To me, negative social media is a grand opportunity: to be better. To be human. To listen.

 Let’s Work Together

1 Comment

  1. Loved this talk, Jess. So nice to be introduced to your viewpoints that night, and I look forward to learning more from you! :)

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