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Margin Notes

The siren song of social media

University recruitment offices must contend not only with blogs and Facebook, but also Flickr, YouTube, iTunesU and now Twitter, to name the obvious suspects. I feel your pain.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | MAY 20 2009

University Affairs web editor Phillip Todd has pushed me to start tweeting on Twitter (http://twitter.com/Margin_Notes), particularly during the upcoming Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Ottawa.

(You can see my latest tweets on the right-hand side of this page by scrolling down a bit. As well, you can follow all tweets related to Congress by going to our Careers page and scrolling down to “Who’s saying what at Congress.”)

I’m not exactly what you’d consider an early adopter of technology, but I’m no Luddite and do get the idea of social media (I’m blogging, right?). But I do wonder where this all is leading.

Like most other sentient beings, I have e-mail, and my inbox is constantly overflowing. I also have an RSS feed aggregator where I attempt to keep track of all those interesting blogs that I’ve bookmarked. I’m also on Facebook, although I really haven’t done much with it – I just don’t have the inclination to start amassing all those virtual friends.

And now, with Twitter, I can follow the scattered thoughts of dozens – or hundreds! – of people, most of whom I don’t know.

It’s not so much the utility I’m questioning, but the time element. Where in an eight-hour working day am I supposed to fit all this in? Keeping track of and engaging in social media is a portion of my job, but it is emphatically not supposed to be my entire job. Yeah, I know that sounds soooo 20th century, but I’m certain most people feel the same way.

I was thinking about this all recently as I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the challenges universities face in using social media for student recruitment. Recruitment offices must contend not only with blogs and Facebook, but also Flickr, YouTube, iTunesU and now Twitter, to name the obvious suspects. As the article states: “As technology evolves, colleges feel pressure to be present in every possible way.”

I feel your pain.

But there was an eye-opening little tidbit in the story that made me stop and think. According to a recent survey by the Art & Science Group, a higher-education consulting firm, roughly one-quarter of students became more interested in a college after visiting social-networking sites. Not bad. However, 88 percent said the same about actual, in-the-flesh campus visits.

Among those quoted in the article was Bruce J. Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Referring to social media, he said: “There’s some version of this that is going to be crucial.” The rest he calls faddism. But how do you know which is which?

Mr. Poch says he is going to watch social-media pioneers for now and see what patterns emerge. “I don’t know whether it’s lazy or wise,” he says. “Maybe somewhere in between.”

Thoughts, anyone? (Of the Twitter variety or otherwise.)

ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Kemp Edmonds / June 19, 2009 at 18:03

    Good article, interesting to hear from art and science group. Keep up the info on Social Media and student recruitment.