Incorporating Ever-Changing Technology into a Communication Strategy

By Chase, Mary | College and University, April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Incorporating Ever-Changing Technology into a Communication Strategy


Chase, Mary, College and University


Does it seem each day when you read a newspaper or log in to your favorite news feed that you learn of another emerging technology? Do you remember the good old days when there were three primary ways - direct mail, telephone, and e-mail - to communicate with prospective students? I suspect that most of us do; after all, it was only a couple of years ago!

There has been a significant shift in the way colleges and universities communicate with students. As the array of communication options grows, the preferences of our student population change. For most of us, old habits die hard: We are convinced we must be all things to all students, and this belief pulls us in numerous directions. Colleges and universities have expanded their communications to include blogs, instant messaging, text messaging, social networking, podcasts, photo galleries, video, social bookmarking, and virtual reality sites. And by no means is this list comprehensive. As institutions across the country determine how to capitalize on these opportunities, they must consider not only what modes of communication they will utilize, but also how to deliver them. After deciding what will be delivered and how it will be delivered, institutions also must determine the timing of communication - when it will be delivered. What works for one student may not work for another.

We live in a now world. We live in a world about me. Reality is what makes the world go around for our audience. Web 2.0 has revolutionized the way we communicate. What may prove most challenging is determining whether our authence wants us in their world - and, if they do, when and how they want us to appear.

Today's traditional-age college students were born in 1990. Do you realize that the personal computer was already fifteen years old (ibm's 5100 was introduced in 1975) ? The Palm Pilot went on the market in 1996 - when these students were in first grade. Napster was created when they were in fourth grade. Wikipedia and iPod hit the scene just as these students entered middle school. As they walked the halls of high school, podcasts, YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook all became popular. Today's college students grew up with access to technology unlike that of any other generation.

Some people wonder if embracing Web 2.0 technology is worth the time and effort given that it is changing so fast. But consider the following: According to Pew Internet & American Life Project research released in December 2007, 93 percent of today's teens use the Internet. Of online teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen, 64 percent have engaged in web content- creating activities. They aren't just reading or viewing information on the Web; they are producing content for others. As many as 55 percent of online teens have created a profile on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. They are writing blogs, sharing photos, and telling their stories.

A sign of the changing times is that only 14 percent of all teens report sending e-mails to their friends every day, making e-mail the least frequendy used form of daily social communication. Texting, instant messaging, and social networking have more appeal to the teen cohort. Interestingly, 84 percent of those who social network post messages on a friend's page or wall, and 82 percent send a message within the social networking system. In addition, 59 percent of teens who go online daily are reading online journals or blogs. If you think that a strong electronic communications flow includes only or even primarily email, you are mistaken.

The good news is that 55 percent of teens who go online use the Internet to get information about colleges and universities they are considering attending. But we must be mindful of what our authence enjoys. For example, real stories are important. Families still appreciate seeing statistics about an institution, but people - not marketers - are who they want to hear from.

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