What is “SoLoMo” and Why Should Universities Care?

By Ludwig Gerdes, Freelance Social Media Strategist

This article is the first part of a three part series covering SoLoMo and its value to higher education institutions.

SoLoMo in Higher Education

Image: Kevin Krejci/Flickr

While professionals in the marketing industry may pride themselves on their knowledge of each and every new buzzword that slips from the mouths of tech-startup founders and venture capitalists, administrators of our nation’s higher education facilities are not typically known for being among the first wave of buzzword users.

Therefore, when the term “SoLoMo” – a combination of the terms Social, Local, and Mobile – emerged from the offices of VC firm Kleiner Perkins, universities across the country were slow to incorporate the term into their marketing offices. Nonetheless, SoLoMo is here to stay, and what that entails is slowly but surely becoming more widely understood. SoLoMo is best defined as the consumer trend towards internet services that fully integrate social media and geolocating applications into a mobile platform.

The hesitation of universities to be on the cusp of innovative marketing is understandable, as many of these institutions prefer to rely on tried and tested marketing techniques to approach prospective students. However, many of these same institutions are facing significant budget crises as their old business models face the challenges of falling tuition revenues and dissipating enrollment numbers. To emphasize this point, a recent Moody’s report detailed how tuition revenue at about 4 in 10 universities is growing below the rate of inflation. Therefore, with no positives on the horizon for universities’ existing marketing strategies, the time is ripe for investigation into innovative strategies, with particular emphasis placed on SoLoMo.

SoLoMo in Higher Education

Photo Credit: Ginny Ewing, SRDS

So for Social

Given the amount of information regularly published about the “best practices for universities embracing social media” and the best social networks to use together, one would be justified in assuming that higher education institutions, with their numerous in-house business experts, would have efficient and standardized social media guidelines easily incorporated into the broader marketing strategy of SoLoMo.

Nevertheless, higher education institutions, worried about diluting their brand message, often struggle to incorporate social media into existing communication channels. Whether this is due to the interference of the bureaucratic processes within the institutions or simply the result of universities failing to leverage the considerable amount of relevant industry knowledge at their disposal, the end result is apparent as the benefits normally associated with successful social media integration are left unrealized.

Despite this, the benefits of a high-quality social media presence remain easily ascertained through a simple observation of successful corporate brands and their efforts to differentiate themselves through their social portfolio. Boiled down, these benefits and their relationships to higher education are as follows:

  1. Revenue Creation = Recruitment
  2. Customer Engagement = Student Activity
  3. Increased Loyalty = Retention

For higher education institutions, the potential for an increase in revenue and student loyalty can only be seen as a possible gold mine. For as long as universities have existed, the recruitment and retention of students has been an issue. However, in able to successfully procure these benefits, institutions must be willing to go the extra mile, and invest the time, effort, and money into the construction and maintenance of a unified social presence.

Previously, when an institution would decide that it needed a social presence on a particular network, it would be left up to a “tech-savvy” faculty member to create the profile. Entry into each new social platform would often be uncoordinated and done division-by-division, rather than university-wide. Furthermore, little thought would be given to how each new social presence would function with those already in existence, so that the university’s social portfolio would be a Frankensteinesque amalgam of disjointed bits and parts bereft of a distinct personality.

That is not to say that this is true of all institutions. Rather, some universities such as Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the University of Notre Dam regularly receive top scores when it comes to social media utilization, while other universities such as Ohio State and Northern Illinois University have been making significant efforts to increase the quality of their social portfolios.

If you were to ask a marketing professional whether it was important to unify a brand’s message across all marketing materials, you would undoubtedly hear a resounding “yes.” Therefore, shouldn’t a university find it just as important as a company to do just that, so as to control the message that is seen by prospective customers? It may be of value to these higher education institutions to look at how some of the top consumer brands have been leveraging social media to achieve the aforementioned benefits.

Nonetheless, while we shouldn’t forget that social media as we are using is part of a trifecta that also includes Local and Mobile, we can take away from our foray into the subject these points:

  • Institutions must analyze their existing marketing strategies before starting a new foray into social media. The question should be asked, “Will a presence on [social network] help us to our goals in a more efficient way than our existing strategies?”
  • Institutions must be willing to leverage the necessary resources, whether that be in-house expertise or financial investment. Furthermore, institutions should recognize their natural status as content creators to great effect.
  • The entire social portfolio of an institution should have a distinct personality, and each presence should bring a unique added value. Ultimately, the whole should be of greater value than the sum of the parts.
  • Look to businesses as a reference for how to successfully utilize social media. If it is good enough for a leading corporation, it is good enough for you.

In the next installment of What is “SoLoMo” and Why Should Universities Care, we will look at how Local fits into the SoLoMo trend.

Resources:

http://mashable.com/2013/12/22/top-10-social-media-brands-2013/

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/marketing/2013/07/five-reasons-your-company-can-benefit.html?page=all

http://mashable.com/2012/02/03/higher-education-social-media/

http://chronicle.com/article/Worried-About-Message/141773/

http://mashable.com/2013/04/30/solomo/

http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2012/06/what-is-%E2%80%9Csolomo%E2%80%9D-and-why-it-matters/

http://blog.srds.com/blog/ginny-ewing/what-is-solomo-and-why-does-it-matter

http://mashable.com/2013/12/23/social-media-mixology/#!

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/25/tuition-revenue-not-keeping-pace-inflation-4-10-four-year-universities

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amitmrig/2013/12/18/colleges-universities-cant-cut-their-way-to-sustainability/#!

Sabina Kobylarczyk’s Transfer Student Survival Guide

Being a transfer student, there were a million things running through my mind once I made the decision to come to Northern Illinois University. How would I like it? Would I regret it? Who would I meet? How will I do in school? Will I be okay?!

What a journey it has been!

I remember like it was yesterday, but it was actually 3 weeks into my first semester at NIU when I was crying like a baby, saying how I hated my life.

Going from a community college to a university was a shock all around! I knew absolutely no one here, I felt like I was by myself for the longest time, and to top it all off, I was struggling in my classes because I’d never actually had to study before! However, as time went on and I started to talk to more people, I saw myself starting to like Barsema Hall a lot.

So, I’m sitting here smiling right now during finals week not because I’m crazy, but because I did it!! I’ve met many new and interesting people. Some are now friends, some still acquaintances, but that doesn’t matter. Most important is that I’ve learned how to be myself and love where I am in life.

I passed my 9-credit class and all the other ones too, thank god, I’m in the university honors program, and I’m the new treasurer for B.A.S.A. This is probably the first time in months where I feel like everything is finally starting to look better. I can finally see myself having a future here and I couldn’t be happier!

So moral of the story…

Don’t be discouraged when something doesn’t go the way you planned. Nothing ever works out the way you plan it!! Just remember, you were changing something in your life because you thought you needed the change. Stick through it because, honestly, you have nowhere else to go but up!

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Sabina Kobylarczyk

www.basaniu.com

Exploring DeKalb

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

When you think of DeKalb, great scenery and culture aren’t exactly what come to mind. As someone interested in photography, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first arrived to DeKalb and began my adventure at NIU. Other than the broad description of a “traditional college atmosphere”, DeKalb didn’t seem like it had much to offer. The rumors of a small bland town made DeKalb sound less than desirable to explore, let alone stay in. After being pushed to my limit of boredom, I finally picked up my camera and began what I would soon find to be one of my favorite areas to explore.

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

Getting past the Northern Illinois University (NIU) campus can be the biggest challenge when exploring DeKalb. The strong connection between NIU and DeKalb makes it seem like DeKalb is NIU and NIU is DeKalb. As you approach the downtown area of DeKalb, you begin to see DeKalb for its true self, shed of the crimson red, black and white NIU colors. The restaurants cater to a diverse range of interests from expressional arts, sports, southern world cultures and more. Making your way past downtown DeKalb you can find the treasures of DeKalb. These treasures can’t be found easily but with the right amount of searching you can see the older buildings that have stood the tests of time and nature. Even the buildings left in ruins showcase fine architecture and design that align with DeKalb’s agricultural strengths. You can also see an assortment of colors on practically every house to create beautiful themes that accent every neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

To conclude this entry, I invite you to go out and explore DeKalb. Make it off of the NIU campus, through downtown DeKalb and into the world of inspiration DeKalb offers. Despite contrary belief, DeKalb can offer light to ideas for anyone who is a creative explorer.

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

Photo Credit: Jordan Carter

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Jordan Carter

www.basaniu.com

Dreams Save the Economy

Image

A large number of students in my graduating class are unsure of what they are going to do with their lives. Because of the economy and many frightening words from parents, many students in generation Y take on majors that seem to be “safe” in hopes of a guarantee that says they will make enough money. They are afraid to have dreams and unfortunately, if they follow what they learn in their classes, they will be very good cubicle workers and not much else. The big problem is that students are not pushed to pursue their dreams, or that they have not given their dreams enough thought. But there is a simple solution. People say that in order to love what you do, you must do what you love.

I’m going to use myself as an example. I have a great interest in interior design, wedding planning, real estate, and I love to cook. So my career options would typically be interior designer, wedding planner, realtor, chef, or homemaker. All of these options are good options, but why can’t I have it all? Instead, I constructed my own goal: To own an inn in Maine.

You may be wondering how I decided on such a venture, but it actually ties together everything I love. If I own an inn, I have the power to design and decorate it, make seasonal menus for the restaurant downstairs, plan events and host weddings, and use my real estate skills to bring in guests. This may seem like a lofty, hard to achieve goal, but I have an entrepreneurial mindset and though I do not have the stepping stones carved out for me, I know I will get there.

Now, I want to hear other people get as excited about life as I am. If you know you can do something great, your life will be more fulfilling. However, if everyone is heading for dead end jobs and then is forced to move back in with their parents until they’re 35 and too old to have kids, they could be wasting the next generation before it even comes to be. The reason the economy is doing so poorly is because we believe it is bad and is only getting worse. If everyone would instead focus on their dreams, be more positive, and will it to be better, then it will be.

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Laura Stuehm

www.basaniu.com

Alaine Coleman’s Guide to Successful Student Organization Fundraising

Student organizations need money. There is no doubt about it. Most Student organizations are poor and oftentimes cannot fund their activities without drumming up cash from their members. For the organizations to help reduce member monetary contributions, they are forced to create fundraising events. This semester BASA has thrown three such events/activities:

Assistant for a Day – Through this ongoing event, professors are able to rent a student for a day and have them do activities around their office. The student can clean offices, organize class materials, get coffee, and other odd jobs. This has earned BASA around $50 to $100.

Dinner and a Movie – This event was supposed to be a movie night within the auditorium, with pizza in the atrium. However, the day before the event BASA got an email from the IT department saying that we needed to purchase a $200 dollar license in order to view a movie in a public place. So we had to change it into a movie raffle where we purchased discounted movies and raffled them off. This saved us. We were able to raise almost $100 after cost.

Gift Basket Raffle – This event followed with the same concept as the movie raffle, but BASA partnered with two other student organizations from NIU’s college of business to throw another raffle. This time, however, the prizes were gift baskets. We were able to raise over $300 and each organization earned around 100 dollars after cost.

We had to think outside the box with fundraising because there is so much competition in the shape of the other organizations in the college of business. So we focused on doing small events that could add up in the long run. With my experience I have come up with some tips to help future fundraisers:

1.  Marketing – Make sure to get your event/activity noticed. Talk to professors about speaking in their class. Make miniature flyers to put on tables because students don’t want to stand in front of an information table to understand what you are doing. Instead, have the information available to them where they sit. Then, they will be more comfortable approaching your event. Last but not least, the table. Make it eye catching, with lights or streamers to attract students and professors to the table.

2.  Pricing – With raffle events, don’t make one ticket cost $1, that is too expensive and no one will think they have a chance. So instead make it five tickets for $2. That way the buyers will feel that they at least get a good amount of tickets for a low price.

3.  Permission – Always get permission from the head of the hall in which you are holding your event. In our case with Barsema Hall, it was Pat Meyers. This way you will always have the backing of an authority figure if something goes wrong. It is also just common courtesy when using a public space.

4.  Out-of-the-Box Thinking – If you keep redoing pizza sales and bakes sale, the students will get bored and won’t buy anything. Create something that is unique and satisfies a need, like the Assistant for a day because it targeted professors who had money to spend and needed the additional help.

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Alaine Coleman

www.basaniu.com

How to Build Your Own Ethical Future

Contributor Tyler Scannell, second from right.

As the semester reaches its inevitable end, NIU will unleash into this cold world a new set of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduates from the college of business. One by one these same people will enter the business world with its many domestic and foreign possibilities. Mirroring the excitement and nervousness of what can only be described as butterflies in their stomachs, these graduates are hoping and praying with their fingers crossed for jobs, much like standing on the sideline hoping to be picked for the next game of kickball in grade school. These jobs may lead to a chance to take their talents to south beach or any number of places that may give them an opportunity. With the world as their oyster, they march with their resumes and freshly steamed “business professional” attire to interviews in hopes of being offered that juicy job with its many perks/benefits that will chip away chunks from student loans that have piled so high.

Now entering the “real” world, these same young adults will be faced with many trials and tribulations that will undoubtedly test even the most moralistic of character. There is a reason NIU stresses ethical business practices, because in the real world, ethics and business are not usually mentioned in the same sentence, and if they are it is a fantasy moment. If it is true that humans are instinctively aggressive, one does not need to look very far to see cases of this in the business world. Wal-Mart has absolutely no problem doing anything and everything possible to eliminate any competition. This hunter-like mindset has closed down what has been labeled as the “backbone” of America, i.e. small business. As members of such an advanced society one might think we would have controlled our natural tendency to take everything like a toddler with the newly learned word of “Mine!” But money is power and power only creates more money. In a system where net income is the bottom line for any business, rather than enjoying where and who you work for, it’s no wonder stress and depression are at an all-time high. Doing the right thing is seen much more as a choice than a way of life in America, and as long as your team is winning who really cares?

This mentality is why America is disliked by so many countries around the world. Yet right now we are not winning as a society. If our founding fathers could see our current government they would turn over in their graves. The same type of corrupt power that early Americans fled from can be seen in how our government is run today. It would be easy to think that I have gone off on a tangent into politics, but the bottom line in business as well as government is that money controls everything. One does not need to look far from DeKalb to see a real life example. Just look at the vast beauty of cornfields surrounding our great city. It is hard to think that a company could put patents on seeds and monopolize the entire farming industry, yet this is our reality. A company that was known for creating chemicals such as DDT and Agent Orange is the source of most of our vegetable produce. This same company as one example in 17 years has gone from controlling 2% of all soybeans operations in 1996 to over 90% now. This should be a red flag for a country that made laws against monopolies. But money is power and that power gets away with much more than I care to realize.

As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat em, join em.” Yet, this is such a complacent way to look at things in my opinion. Rather, I suggest that the future of America (the business students of NIU) should take a step back before accepting the way business is done, and exclaim that ethics are not just an elective course, or a warm and fuzzy word to evoke pride in our school, but rather a way of life. Having a moralistic mindset is going to reduce your stress and give you piece of mind. I can assure you that piece of mind is priceless, and more valuable than any bonus you may receive from increasing your companies “return on investments” (ROI), closing that new account, or from cutting costs for your company by shipping production overseas and laying off hardworking employees.

As you all of us enter the world with our peer and faculty-reviewed resumes filled with student organizations, GPA, and past experiences, remember one thing: There is a better way to do business, and it involves ethics and character. Rather than seek happiness by making as much money as possible, and live in a palatial home with every new technology imaginable, allow yourself to be happy because you are a good person, not just a good business person. The two can go hand in hand if you allow them to. Who knows, the person you decide not to screw over tomorrow may be the exact same person who offers you that juicy, high-paying job at a business that you absolutely love, years down the road.

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Tyler Scannell

www.basaniu.com

What do Tigers Dream of When They Take a Little Tiger Snooze?

Contributor Jon Gonzalez

As I walk along Garden Rd. with the harsh winds stinging my face I wonder, “What does Barsema have in store for me today?” The day is young and the promise of success is in the air. Now, never have I ever been a fan of 9:30 A.M. classes but today I walk with a hop in my step that hasn’t been seen since the last day of finance 410. That class still haunts my dreams…..

Walking into my OMIS 352 class I think, what am I going to learn about today? The topic at hand was leadership. Leader is my middle name so I was alllll ears. I do admit though, after I threw my two cents into the conversation, my mind started to wander.

What will I eat today when I get home?

I wonder what the next episode of The League has in store for me….

What is the meaning of life?

Before I knew it, it was time for a little MGMT 335 with Dr. Ferg(uson). Organizational behavior is the bee’s knees to say the least so giddy I was for this class. The topic of the day was negotiating. Partners were paired up, negotiations were had and laughs were shared; the day is well.

Walking out of OB I thought, “Man, I want one of those famous hot dogs from three sons.” I marched to my place in line and realized that my days of enjoying this food were numbered because graduation is on the horizon. After reflecting for a moment I decided to move on with my day.

After some down time at the Casa de Jon I reported to MGMT 468. It’s always a good time in class with Nowacki. BSG is the name of the game in that class but I’m not the best at said game. I do it for the good times.

By this point it’s 3:15 and I’m ready for a little tiger snooze. As I walk back to my car that’s parked 100 miles away due to NIU’s atrocious parking situations I look at the sky and say “Jon, today was a good day.”

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Jonathan Gonzalez

www.basaniu.com