April 30, 2007

Marketing the Myspace way

Writing about web page http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,2067053,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=8

Compare and contrast; Tom Abbott here at Warwick:-

We are bringing the academe to audiences in a very new and exciting way. This is a rich window into what the university experience is, which may be impossible to articulate in a brochure.

Barrie Clark at Swansea University:-

I feel that potential students, being very media-savvy, would see universities’ use of social networking and text messaging as intrusion into what they use as a recreational space. I don’t see this trend as likely at Swansea University in the near future. I’d counsel caution here.

The two quotes aren’t strictly comparable, since Tom’s talking largely about Warwick’s use of video and audio through its iCast and podcast content, whereas Barrie is talking about Myspace and other social sites. But Warwick is also keen on Myspace, it seems:-

Looking to start a degree this year? You might find that a strange 42-year-old man is trying to be your friend. He’s a Leo, he lives in Coventry and his occupation is ‘University’. His name is Warwick. He’s rather popular; he already has 457 other friends (and counting). Warwick University is one of the first in the UK to put its profile on MySpace, one of the most popular types of ‘social networking’ websites.

So who’s right? Is it intrusive or embarrassing for a university to have a Myspace presence, like a geography teacher at a sixth form disco? Or is it just a logical choice of advertising space, since like all advertisers, universities want to display their messages in places where potential customers will read them? It’s a shame that the article didn’t manage to take what would seem to be the next logical step and speak to any actual students, or prospective students. Consultants, yes. Marketing people, yes. But if the underlying question of the article is whether students tend to value or spurn “web 2.0 marketing” (yuck), then wouldn’t it have been useful to ask them?


- 9 comments by 6 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Matthew Jones

    I don’t think Warwick having a presence on a social networking site in general is embarrassing. However, I feel that having one on MySpace is a little. This may seem a little contradictory, but MySpace is, IMHO, not a very good piece of web software, and not somewhere where it is easy to put across a professional appearance.

    Anyone with even a basic grounding should cringe at the design of the MySpace profile page. Although MySpace allows you to hack a new appearance onto the page it is very difficult to do very much or to keep the page from looking too ugly. This is not a comment on the person who has designed the profile appearance, more on what they have to work with.

    Giving students a common place to congregate on MySpace is a good thing, but that is mostly due to MySpace’s fledgling support for a ‘My Schools’ feature. This is an idea popularized by the far-superior (again IMHO) Facebook, where students are intrinsically in a ‘Warwick’ group.

    I also to an extent agree with Barrie Clark. I don’t care about my ‘recreational space’, but I’d rather my ‘friends’ be someone I actually know, and more importantly, a real person.

    30 Apr 2007, 13:28

  2. Leighton Joskey

    One thing that is very obvious on myspace is when you get automated comments arriving from friends – rather puts me off whatever is being promoted. A lot of the bands do it as it enables a more visual way of promoting gigs. But when you try and automate a “social” action – in this case popping a comment up simultaneously onto many myspace pages it feels very unsocial. Its bulletin board was an attempt to provide this mass reach I guess, and while it doesn’t feel intrusive in the same way, isn’t very pretty!.

    30 Apr 2007, 13:37

  3. you’re right to point the distinction John, shame the journo didn’t make the same split.

    30 Apr 2007, 13:43

  4. Steven Carpenter

    I’m going with the geography teacher analogy on this one – reading the MySpace profile makes me feel uncomfortable, mainly because its a (transparent) distortion of purpose. That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate ways we might use tools like MySpace and Facebook for community-building, but I don’t think this is it. On the flip side I guess it’s a brave attempt to put Warwick ‘in the face’ of a key target audience, but I also notice that none of the blog entries have received comments or ratings.

    30 Apr 2007, 13:49

  5. Having a MySpace profile is a sign of intellectual or emotional inferiority. So which is it Warwick then? Eh? EH?

    30 Apr 2007, 15:47

  6. John Waller

    I’d agree with Steve C.

    I was invited by the students into the group for my course on Facebook (I’m the course leader). It was flattering to be invited, but I do feel a bit like the Geography teacher who should stop dancing.

    People put all sorts of things on facebook, and I do feel a little uneasy that some of this is stuff that is not my business to know.

    01 May 2007, 11:33

  7. Steven Carpenter

    Here’s an interesting take on using social network sites to engage with your audience, by Jason Schwartz. Some of his points are really good – well worth scrolling through his slides.

    01 May 2007, 14:14

  8. In December I decided to advertise the Warwick’s Future project (to raise ideas about the University’s future) on Facebook. It’s cheap – and in terms of click-throughs at least, seems worth the investment. And you can target your own students/alumni/staff rather than relying on blanket coverage.

    At the time Mat raised the infringing on social space aspect as a potential issue – but I’m pleased to report that I’ve not picked up any complaints. So much so that we decided to do it again with advertising for the National Student Survey.

    We also had an interesting conversation in a recent DARO/Comms meeting about the benefits of alumni identifying with an individual representative of the University rather than a faceless WGA.

    02 May 2007, 13:44

  9. Jenny Delasalle

    I’ve been investigating social networking spaces to see if any of them have a potential use for the library. I think that Facebook is a social space and should be left as just that. It advertises who I am friends with and photos of me at someone’s hen night made their way onto my profile fairly quickly, so it isn’t exactly a professional profile!

    I wouldn’t want to use Facebook for marketing the library, because I think my profile would create the impression that I’m not a professional or else that I’m boring (‘cos I’d have to lock everything down) and therefore not worth interacting with.

    Other social networking services such as LinkedIn or Online Academic Advisor have the potential to look pretty professional, but they wouldn’t really be a way to reach students – at the moment, at any rate.
    I wonder whether our future students will stay on MySpace rather than creating new profiles on Facebook when they arrive here. Will the generation after them stay on Bebo? Will we be forever chasing different networking spaces to reach our students? Or would we be better off leaving them to their own devices on these social spaces, and trying to engage with them in a similar way in a space better suited to our needs. I’m getting quite keen on social bookmarking tools for the library’s purposes.

    16 May 2007, 15:18


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