I am a huge fan of the socialnomics videos and finally found the time this week to read the book.  socialnomics – how social media transforms the way we live and do business, written by Erik Qualman, is an excellent read and provides many great takeaways on why social media matters, and many of these takeaways are applicable to higher ed.  (More information is available at http://socialnomics.net/)

One of the key maxims in the book is that spending time on social media sites will actually increase your productivity.  While this may seem counter-intuitive to most, I agree with this assessment.  As I have said many times, Twitter is my most important professional development tool, and I depend heavily on my social graph to filter the signal from the noise.

Another key maxim of the book is that the winners in the world of social media are organizations that provide a great product or service (or in the case of higher ed, a great educational experience). In many ways social media is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.  At the end of the day, it’s not about the quality of the latest marketing campaign, it’s about the quality of the institution.  I would like to see more colleges and universities focus on improving the experience for their students, and less time worrying about the “brand”.

Qualman also talks about the importance of “One Message” which is also applicable to higher ed.  Every institution needs to understand what it stands for, be able to explain it in a few short words free of marketing hype, and understand how this differentiates the institution from competitors.  I’m not talking tag lines here, I’m talking about straight forward language that prospective students and their parents can understand.

Other key takeaways include:

  • What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube. There are no secrets.  We are living in a world of glass houses.
  • Speed wins – you need to be nimble and not afraid to make mistakes (a tough challenge for most higher ed institutions where we form committees to decide what committees we need).
  • Customers now have the ability to respond right at the point of frustration.
  • To effectively leverage the social graph, you need to make your content easily transferable. Any hurdle, no matter how small, can kill potential distribution (the end of walled gardens).
  • You need to do more than listen, you need to act.
  • Ineffective organizations view negative posts as a nuisance. Effective organizations relish critical online feedback.
  • The popular belief that people only take the time to post something bad is simply not true.

You can follow Erik Qualman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/equalman.  I am also moving forward with creating a higher ed version of his Social Media ROI video.  Details will be posted here in the next couple of days.  Stay tuned.