Thursday, July 8, 2010

Building community

Let’s celebrate. In less than a year, the Bluffton University Facebook fan page has nearly 1,300 ‘likes.’ The last time Bluffton tried to create an online community, we struggled to get 130 members. Well, that could be an exaggeration…

Back then, Bluffton built a password-protected site just for alumni with a “bulletin board” (predecessor to the wall,) email directory, profile update and enewsletter features. While we still use parts of Bluffton Alumni Online Community, other parts totally tanked. You can still sign up to receive enewsletters, update your contact information and submit alumnotes through the community, but little opportunity remains there for actually building a virtual community.

Fast forward several years and Bluffton is again making forays into what is now called social media. We started with Twitter just over a year ago, then expanded into YouTube and blogging. It’s been fun watching interest grow, especially in this blog.

Then, last fall, the university Facebook fan page was created. The response to the fan page is humbling. It has attracted a true community – alumni, prospective students, students, parents, faculty, staff, trustees… You are communicating, creating community; whether it is welcoming a new student, commenting on a video, providing advice to students, reminiscing or “liking” a post. It’s been a hoot to be part of this process. Don’t stop now!

Of course there is also the Bluffton LinkedIn group created by an alumnus. Although I must admit I haven’t spent enough time on LinkedIn to really understand it.

There is one thing about social media. It’s definitely not stagnant. There’s going to be some new platform coming. I’ve heard that it will probably be mobile, maybe some version of FourSquare? (If you FourSquare, be sure to check in at Marbeck, Musselman Library or the PR House next time you are on campus!)

At a social media conference last spring I learned a new word – plork as in play+work. And that’s what I enjoy about my job… I get to spend my day plorking and enabling people to virtually connect.

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