How to use Social Media in Online Education – Beginners Guide

Delightful to many and inherent part of our lives for long, still unpleasant and somewhat ominous to some, social media has proven itself as nothing that will go away any time soon.

I intend to write this article as a beginners guide for individual educators and companies who just get started thinking of a strategy whether the use of social media might add value to what they do and in what ways this could be achieved following which of the different strategies.

I often see a discrepancy between individual use of social media and its adoption when it comes to use it within companies. So, let’s try and avoid some of the traps.

Don’t fight a losing battle

Social media is here and it’ll stay. Any big company whether they are in the B2C market and now the benefits of social media increasingly show in the B2B market as well, have a social strategy and often a quite good one I must say as they have noticed the turn of tides.
I won’t argue from the educators standpoint whether allowing the use of social media in class is useful and under what limitations this should be done or could be realized. There has been a vivid discussion around the topic of openness and some valid points have been made.

This article is meant to help you get started in the field of social as an education company or independent online teacher / tutor.

Commitment

Let me start with a basic reflection on the topic and tell you the “bad” news right away.
Social media is not a one fits all solution. Certainly, there are some so called and often self-proclaimed social media experts and those mavens like to make you believe that hiring them and their “secret” method for success with social media will answer any question and solve any problem thus floods you with new customers.

Well, the (sad?) truth is that social media is actually work. Most of the time hard work, going in the trenches every day and engaging with users, in our case learners or users of our products and services. There is nothing mystique about it and success won’t come over night.

Standing relatively at the beginning, social media can often be rather confusing as a social media strategy usually comprises several different platforms that stand for different audiences and require different strategies.

Always keep in mind that the use of social media exposes your company and thus yourself or the individual employee in charge of the activities when you decided to personalize accounts (e.g tim_educompany).

It makes it much easier for people to talk about your product or service and tell their opinion – and this can be both good and also bad depending on your reaction to feedback. It would be a little naive to believe that your company was only going to benefit from exposure and positive comments in social media. It’s a double-edged sword and the bad comes with the good. You’ll most likely experience something that is described as the 80:20 rule which means 80% of positive feedback if you engage with your audience in a meaningful way and 20% so called trolls, that’s people who just want to provoke and talk badly.

Your brand imagine on the Internet will depend quite a bit on how you’ll handle conversations with your customers/students and maybe more importantly how you’ll handle criticism. You shouldn’t forget that on the one hand negative feedback gives you the incredible chance to improve on your product and on the other hand you can now engage 1o1 and react on feedback in a much more personal way. But be careful social media users are pretty smart and can quickly identify whether you’re interested in establishing a real dialogue, e.g link interesting articles and give links that have per se nothing to do with your company or if you only talk about yourself and want to spread marketing messages which will not give you great feedback, may it be Facebook likes, comments on your blog or twitter followers.

Choice

When I work with companies in the education space on their social media strategy, they ask me this one question sooner or later: There is a plethora of choice, where do we have to be present?

My answer always is that “must be” or “have to” don’t exist. Social media is highly individual and each company has to pick the platforms its employees feel comfortable with and are able and willing to integrate in their daily work flow.

I’d suggest to start off with a small list of points to change within your education company and also ask yourselves how to integrate social media in your daily schedules because constant activity with your followers and fans and being authentic are two key elements of any social media strategy. Keep in mind that things have changed and that customers have many more ways to know about your product and company, therefore users get constantly smarter and if they want to, they’ll find out about almost anything. Moreover, we talk about connected consumership nowadays. You shouldn’t see your users isolated anymore but they connect with each other and exchange experiences and opinions which is very powerful if you think about it.

As the theory should always come before taking action and the points I mentioned above, you have to spend some decent time thinking about your strategy first. This needed to include who you want to target, what do you want to develop and with what methods.
As said above you need to think long-term. Yes, there are campaigns and videos going viral but then the more interesting thing is where to lead all the people to and then the daily business of engaging with existing and new users or potential new customers.

When it then actually comes to setting up accounts, I usually recommend to reserve all possible accounts under your name. I know, this is arguable because it’s never a good thing to have accounts and not use those for ages. But it avoids that someone takes your name and you had to come up with several new names or variations what will only cause the users trouble to find you and to draw the conclusion that you is actually you.

Standing at the beginning of your social media activity I would probably recommend to start with the big three and then have + options depending on your individual business. Therefore, engage on Facebook and Twitter and have a Youtube channel as a minimum. You’ll probably quickly discover that this done in a meaningful way, adding value and give your audience what they’re looking for, keeps you busy quite a bit. That’s why we have such fancy positions as the Social Media Manager.

As valuable other options I see LinkedIn for your professional contacts, a photo sharing site like flickr or also dailybooth if it fits your individual business and photo sharing is tremendously popular on the Internet!

Maybe tumblr as a micro blogging site is also worth having a look at. I see more and more people use tumblr and it’s also to some extend customizable.

More recent options which excite me are Quora where you can answer questions in your field of expertise and also ask questions as well as follow interesting other users. This is Quora in a nutshell, it’s a highly complex system and you needed to dedicate some time to really understand it but then it’s powerful.

Hashable however wants to become your business card on the Internet. It is easy to understand and already used by many interesting people.

The latter two services are undoubtedly on the rise.

Summary

Before going out there and thus getting really started doing something in social media you should invest some time into planning your strategy, setting goals on what you would like to achieve and how. Believe me, good planning and organisation are keys to successfully establishing your brand on the Internet.

In a next step reserve your brand name or if you’re a personal brand like I am your name on all the potentially relevant services for you. You don’t need to be ubiquitous but select carefully and start with the big three and then spread!

In the next post I will concentrate on what it means to build your audience in the first place and what it then means to engage with these people and to keep the conversation going. Stay tuned!

  • http://profiles.google.com/mobile89862702 Roger Mosquera

    Thanks Kirsten I look forward to the next blog. The Hardest STEP is always the 1st one. I will use this discussion among my fellow ESL teaching network here in the Philippines. I am either not meeting the right teachers or teachers here who are not willing to network too much. I hope this article convinces them.