Guest Post by Shanan Sorochynski

The use of social media at our university is evolving.

The number of passive observers is dropping and the number of engaged content creators is on the rise.

They were always there.

There were bloggers, tweeters, YouTube uploaders and Facebook aficionados long before our organization established a formal presence in these places.

The difference is that we are starting to find them and get them in a room together to share what they are learning with each other.

Image: MorBCN via Flickr, CC 2.0

In the Fall of 2009, Education professor Alec Couros and I had a conversation about the seemingly endless number of ways social media could be used on campus. It was a conversation that led to the idea of bringing people from across campus together to learn from one another. A few emails later, the University of Regina Social Media Users Group (URSMUG) was born.

That initial group drew people from across faculties and departments. But most of the people who attended were new to social media. They had heard of it, knew there was buzz around the tools but hadn’t really started using them.

After a half dozen meetings the group took a bit of a hiatus. We are now back to meeting on a regular basis; I think, in great part, because people are no longer asking why they should use social media.

They are walking through the door wanting to know how they can use it to meet specific goals.

No one is asking to be shown how to create a Facebook page for the sake of creating a page. They know it is a tool to connect with stakeholders and want to use it to answer questions, listen, connect, share stories, promote events,  etc. etc.

Since those first meetings in 2009-10, the University now has an official blog, Facebook page, Twitter profileYouTube channel and dozens of sites created by individual departments, faculties and student societies. There are also thousands of University community members now participating in social media spaces … and they all have different needs.

It doesn’t make sense

for only one person or one department to be responsible for social media in our organization. Our stakeholders are too diverse. They are students, faculty, staff, donors, alumni, potential students, community partners etc. etc.

High school students trying to decide where they want to go for their Biology degrees will have different needs than an alumnus thinking about funding a student award.

And there is diversity within groups. Johanna Blakley,Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center gave a great TED Talk about this.

“When you look online at the way people aggregate they don’t aggregate around age, gender and income,” she said. “They aggregate around the things they love, things that they like and if you think about it shared interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator of human beings than demographic categories”.

Someone in the Faculty of Science will have a better understanding of the needs and interests of Science students, faculty, staff, alumni and science-lovers in general than, say, I will, an unabashed English Lit and Poli-Sci nerd in the Communications Department.

I can try.

But it is really not the same as connecting with someone who “gets” you.

Most of these individuals are connecting with stakeholders anyway. Social media just takes it to a different level. It gives them another tool to create connections and build community.

More importantly it gives them a tool to create connections and build community not just with stakeholders and the organization, but amongst each other and amongst stakeholders themselves.

That’s been invaluable.

Shanan-SorochynskiShanan Sorochynski manages the University of Regina’s first official blog: YOURblog. Previous to this she was the managing editor of U of R Report, the University’s faculty and staff internal publication, and a print journalist in Manitoba.