Fragmentation or segmentation?

Fact: you work on a college campus and social media is a key element of your communication strategy.

Sound familiar? Let’s continue.

Probably true: your university’s social media setup includes more than one official Facebook page and probably a number of official Twitter feeds.

Are you concerned about the overlap? Should you be?  Is the approach fragmented when a university has what experts in the corporate world might call duplicate channels? Or, is embracing a perspective that lets a thousand flowers bloom what social media is all about?

The future brings something different. Perhaps the proliferation of separate streams on Facebook and Twitter is akin to the higher ed approach to websites a few years back. It was wild, wild west for a while. Now, universities are much more likely to offer an integrated web presence. Social media is in its infancy and a more mature strategy will follow.

For now, I say what some refer to as fragmentation is actually segmentation. And, the mosaic of channels on most campuses just makes the conversation richer. Here are a few bullet points to support my position:

  • The higher education “audience” is heterogeneous.
    The interests of the 16-year-old perspective student, the helicopter parent, the Ivy-League educated faculty member, and the elected official are arguably dissimilar. The idea that one channel can provide the range of content necessary to appeal to this diversity seems unlikely. The more practical option might be to satisfy my affinity for college football by offering me a Twitter feed produced by university athletics.
  • By definition, social media is “social.”
    At the end of the day, social media is inclusive. The more voices, the more voices. The opinions, attitudes, impressions and thoughts of the collective participants makes me want to tune in every day. If I’m passionate about my alma mater, I’ll consume whatever you’ve got. And, my participation will shape and influence your message.
  • It’s the conversation, stupid.
    We talk, we listen, we enjoy the back and forth. A range of social media channels ensures authenticity. What I hear from the horse’s mouth is more reliable and consistent with my expectations for the dialogue. I studied theatre as an undergrad, so let me read the Facebook wall of those cast in a mainstage show, not a more sterile summary from a centralized communication channel.
  • The most effective communication is personal.
    When it matters to me, I pay attention. An audience is more engaged by the opportunity to connect to others sharing similar pursuits. With any luck, the interests of individuals will gradually broaden to other content areas. Initially, I connect to an orientation-related blog because my son is a new student, but later I subscribe to the campus YouTube channel to experience campus life from afar.

Do you agree? If not, what solution do you propose?

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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