Selling Campus Leadership on Social Media

College LifeI attended an event the other evening where I ran into the president of one of our regional universities. I asked him if he had integrated any social media into the curriculum of his students.

“How would they benefit from such productivity wasters,” he asked.

I was floored.

Could this be the lone opinion of someone who isn’t “Linked In”, or is this an attitude that’s prevalent in academia? I contacted a few folks in the career field who have experience working with universities and, evidentially, the jury is still out. Some schools get it … and others don’t see the value (yet).

If you’re a student, and your college isn’t offering you any training in LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, the groundswell may have to happen from the bottom up. In other words, you may have to demand it yourself or suffer the consequences.

What consequences? How about being passed over because an employer couldn’t find you online. Or missing out on the latest articles in your field of study that would have helped in your last interview. If your University isn’t on board with the importance of social media, how can you persuade them to change their tune?

First, you will need to build a case. Start with that age-old college tradition of pulling research. Look for compelling evidence on the benefits of social media, e.g. the LinkedIn job search tool (I assume your school actually wants its students to find employment post-graduation) or how University leadership could create their own networks.

Then, build an alliance. Start with your fellow students and then engage professors, advisors… anyone who will listen to you passionately (albeit rationally) state your case. If you can’t get a meeting with the ultimate decision maker (Dean, President, etc.) immediately, have students write letters, send persuasive op/eds to the student newspaper, host your own Web 2.0 info sessions for campus executives – or all of the above. The point is to make enough noise that your initial ideas become a tidal wave of enthusiasm that can’t be ignored.

Finally, have patience. Sometimes change doesn’t come as fast as we like, but take solace in the fact that your efforts will lay the foundation for all of those who come after you. And that’s an early lesson in leadership every student should know.

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