Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are one of the common technologies used by Miami Dade College (MDC). MDC employs social media technologies for numerous uses such as communication with students, advertising purposes, and recruiting new learners among others. Boyd shows that for universities and colleges to attract top students in the current competitive education marketplace, it takes more than just distributing glossy brochures and using websites. For that reason, colleges and universities are increasingly relying on social media platforms to attract and engage with new learners seeking for enrollment. Just like other higher learning institutions across the globe, MDC kept pace with respect to the use of social media. For instance, the admissions office at MDC uses Facebook and Twitter to convey pertinent information, such as decision and interview dates, to prospective students. Furthermore, MDC uses social media platforms to keep its learners abreast with regard to student affairs. The teaching faculty at MDC also uses social media to communicate with students on matters relating to classwork such as posting deadline reminders to learners. Moreover, social media are also used in maintaining contact with alumni and parents. Given the important role that social media play in the operations of MDC, there is the need to train staff members using social media to carry out their respective tasks. In this respect, this paper presents a training workshop for the skills needed to use social media at MDC and discusses the assessment and learning materials for the workshop. It is imperative to note that the training workshop targets both teaching and not teaching staff, especially those in the admissions and student affairs departments at MDC.
Training Workshop for the Skills Needed to Use Social Media
This training workshop targets social media professionals working in the admissions and student affairs department as well as the teaching staff who uses social media to communicate with learners. Teaching staff and social media professionals working in the admissions and student affairs departments use social media differently. Therefore, there is the need for the workshop training to focus on various levels of expertise needed by these groups of users. Essentially, social media professionals need more technical expertise and skills when compared to the teaching staff using social media, who are considered regular users. The following subsections outline the skills training requirements for the two groups of users at MDC.
Skills Training for Social Media Professionals
Social media professionals working in the admissions and student affairs departments at MDC require a number of skills for them to execute their roles effectively and to contribute to the mission and vision of MDC. Social media professionals should be abreast with the online community of users. In this current digital era, social media professionals should help MDC achieve its vision of expanding the reach of higher education.
The first skill that social media professionals at MDC should have is strategic planning. It requires having an understanding of the bigger picture, that is, the important role played by social media at MDC. The scope of strategic planning includes outlining the goals of using social media, defining the target audience, and being knowledgeable of the social media platforms that will help to reach the target audience and goals effectively. Due to the complexity associated with communicating over social media, it is essential for social media managers to use the “right” tools to reach the target audience in an effective manner. Things to consider in strategic planning include the type of content to be posted, frequency of posting content, the source of the content, the target audience, and resources available such as budget and staffing. Furthermore, of primary importance are also people responsible for posting the content and the goals to be accomplished from the social media initiative such as establishing stronger linkages with student alumni.
The second important skill for social media professionals at MDC is execution and tactics. According to Tess, tactical execution plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of social media communication. It poses the need for social media managers to pay attention to details to ensure accurate implementation of campaigns over various social media platforms.
Community management is the third crucial skill for social media managers at MDC. With respect to this, social media professionals are supposed to create, observe, and respond to conversations taking place within the online community. For that reason, social media managers working for MDC should be able to respond to posts on the Facebook of the institution. They should also monitor tweets and engage with the existing and prospective students. In addition, social media professionals should be well-equipped to provide responses to negative feedback and trolls.
Another important skill needed for social media managers is an understanding of how content works in the realm of social media. As Boyd explained, social media play a crucial role in the delivery and amplification of content. Consequently, it is essential for the social media manager to be informed of the nature of content that works and that does not work in the social media networks. Additionally, social media professionals should understand the respective effectiveness of the diverse media formats such as images, video, and text with respect to reaching the target audience. For instance, social media managers need to be able to move content. Sometimes, they should also ensure that the posted content turns viral across various social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter among others.
The fifth vital skill for social media managers working at MDC is the ability to optimize technology and content. Weber describes the social web as an example of an ecosystem comprising of content, mobile, and search. As a result, social media professionals should be aware of how to guide a prospective student to enrollment through discovering the institution, engaging with them, and finally ensuring that they enroll at MDC. To achieve this goal, social media managers should have certain skill sets such as the traffic conversation and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills. With respect to traffic conversion, social media managers should design MDC’s social platforms in such a way that when prospective students hit the landing pages, their interest in the institution increases so that they can share the content and register. The SEO skill set is concerned with ensuring that the keywords used in the social media platforms will be ranked high in top search engines such as Google.
Having a creative mindset is also an essential requirement for social media professionals working at MDC. Social media communication extends beyond just tactics. It poses the need for social media managers to understand the creative process to deliver a creative content capable of engaging with existing and potential students. The creative content also plays an important role in touching the hearts and minds of students rather than just their minds. Social media managers cannot afford to underestimate the significance of creative audio and visual content. Moreover, they should be willing to experiment and exhibit artist-like attributes to push their limits. Social media are not like conventional forms of communication; therefore, a creative mindset is needed to deal with the uncertainties associated with this communication medium.
Furthermore, social media managers should also hone their writing skills to develop messages that can be communicated effectively over social media platforms. Although images are essential in the social web, great writing is needed to complement the visual messages. It requires social media managers to be well-equipped with headline writing skills, be able to draft engaging introductions, and have the ability to structure textual information in a manner that can facilitate easy online reading. In the online environment, users often skim and scan through information, which means that numbering, bullet points, and the use of subtitles are crucial skill sets for social media managers working at MDC.
Moreover, social media managers should keep up with the latest trends taking place in the online environment. It is worth noting that social media are not static but dynamic. Moreover, social media comprise various intersecting trends and are constantly evolving. As such, social media managers should understand the increasing role of mobile communications, the advent of “pay to play” on Facebook that lessening its organic reach to users, and the subsequent rise of visual communication platforms such as Instagram.
Analytical skills are also an important requirement for social media managers. During the early phases of social media, tools to measure the effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives executed over this platform did not exist. Twitter and Facebook had no analytic tools. As a result, social media professionals had to constantly check posts, pages, and streams. Currently, real-time analytics tools have been developed to monitor activities occurring in social media platforms. It is even becoming possible to assess sentiment from users. With the dynamic nature of social media communication, social media managers have to be equipped with the needed analytical skills to ascertain the effectiveness of communication initiatives executed over these platforms.
Lastly, communication and leadership skills have also been reported to be essential for social media managers. It underscores the need to make sure that the management is informed, the target audience is engaged, and the team is highly motivated. As a result, communication skills are pivotal in ensuring the success of social media initiatives adopted by MDC. Presentation skills, both written and verbal, are also critical.
Skills Training for Teaching Staff
As mentioned earlier, teaching staff members are considered regular users of social media. Thus, they only require the basic computer training that focuses on the use of the internet, in general, and the training regarding the use of the specific social media platforms. Furthermore, their use of social media is limited to the communication with their respective students. Therefore, teaching staff only needs the basic knowledge required to operate a social media platform. For instance, those using Facebook need to know how to create a page or a group for the class, invite students to like the page or join the group, and post information on the group. At the same time, teaching staff members should allow students to have threaded discussions in the forum. Teaching staff interested in other social media platforms such as Twitter and blogs should receive training that is specific to these platforms.
Uses of Social Media
An important aspect of the workshop training relates to the use of the social media at MDC. Just like other higher learning institutions, MDC has embraced the use of social media. Today, students tend to interact and share their experiences over various social media platforms. In this respect, a number of uses of social media have been identified, which should be the focus of social media managers working in the admissions and student affairs departments at MDC. These uses include attracting prospective students, sharing the experiences of students, and developing linkages with alumni and parents.
With regard to attracting prospective students at MDC, social media should not only be used in interacting with existing students but also communicating with future ones. When looking for a university or a college to enroll, students do not only consider the faculty, facility, and the program being offered, but also look for a place they consider home. In addition to campus visits and brochures, future learners can get a glimpse of the campus life using social media. MDC should take note of what prospective students want and use social media in informing these students and parents about the nature of their campus life. MDC should also share real-time information relating to campus life using videos on YouTube, tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos among others. Event information can also be shared on social media.
Social media can also be used as a means of allowing students to share their experiences and facilitate interaction among them. Social media provide learners with an opportunity to express their voice. There is no doubt that college is one of the most transformative phases in one’s life. As a result, MDC should use social media in collecting and sharing the experiences of its students. Hashtags and blogs are the most prevalent methods used in the dissemination of student content. The student blog is a valuable engagement tool that MDC cannot afford to lack owing to the fact that it provides learners with a chance to articulate their views. The genuineness and authenticity of the information presented in blogs are important for MDC in enhancing its attractiveness for new students because the experiences expressed in social media come from the students themselves rather than the administration.
Social media can also be used to ensure that MDC maintains contact with its alumni and parents. It is of great importance for MDC to communicate with its students after graduation. In this respect, social media come in handy in helping MDC to establish and maintain linkages with its former students. Consequently, it helps to enhance the value of education offered and the college’s recognition. Through social media, MDC can share the career and life achievements of its alumni. In addition, MDC should consider establishing regional alumni groups drawn from all parts of the country.
When using social media, it is also critical to take some issues into consideration. In this regard, posting useful, precise, and accurate information is paramount. Users should also remain respectful, maintain privacy and confidentiality, have respect for the MDC’s resources and time, ensure consistency with MDC’s brand, and update and monitor posts frequently.
Assessment and Learning Materials
Assessment is a crucial aspect of the training workshop. In any training program, it is essential to ascertain the effect of the training on the participants. One of the ways to know the progress of participants is through feedback. In this way, participants in the workshop should provide their feedback or assessment of the program concerning whether the program is consistent with their training needs. When conducting assessments of the workshop, a number of factors should be considered. They include the level to which the workshop achieved the identified training needs; the level to which the learning objectives were met; and the commitment that learners had regarding the learning with respect to implementing what they have learned in their workplace. In addition, numerous learning materials are required for the training workshop on the use of social media at MDC. The required learning materials are computers with access to the internet for demonstrations, handout packs distributed to the trainees, PowerPoint slides, practical trainer notes, and diverse activities and tasks relating to the use of social media at MDC.
This paper has identified the skills training requirements for social media use at MDC. They included strategic planning, execution and tactics, community management, an understanding of how content works in the context of social media, developing a creative mindset, enhancing writing skills, being updated with the latest trends in social media, developing analytical skills, and enhancing communication and leadership skills. The uses of social media are also an important aspect of the training workshop, which include attracting prospective students, sharing the experiences of students, and developing linkages with alumni and parents.