While working on a project for a potential client this week, I got lost in a train of thought about social media and expectations.  There have been a few studies I’ve stumbled upon in the past that talk about things like “what Facebook does to your brain” or “how Pinterest influences shopping decisions.”  I find all of these fascinating.  Naturally, I’m interested in making ties back to education, which leads me to the following question I’ve been reflecting on: what are ways that social media has changed students’ expectations?  Here’s the list of thoughts, examples, and questions I scribbled (and now, typed):

1.) Information in an instant – One could argue that widespread high-speed internet access and wireless mobile devices have also contributed to people’s desire for information in an instant (and I’d agree), but I think social media is a big contributor to this.  I think of Twitter, specifically.  At 140 characters or less per tweet, this social network moves fast.  To stay relevant, Twitter users are expected to be responsive… immediately.  In fact, Unmetric actually measured Twitter response time of some US banks and reported on it.  How will students, many of whom adopters of Twitter, come to expect education be delivered to them?

2.) Crowdsourcing for answers – Gone are the days when an individual must use a journalist or professional critic to source opinions and ideas.  With social media, people can even avoid search engines.  Wondering what are some good restaurants in San Francisco so you can visit them on an upcoming vacation?  Ask your Facebook Friends and see who’s been there.  This is why there’s such a big push to integrate “search” & “social” (think: Bing & Facebook and pretty much everything about Google+).  How might this be changing the notion of information & authority in the education space?

3.) Transparency rules the day – With people and information so widely accessible in ways they never have been before, individuals expect the truth and accountability.  If a CEO is communicating on social media and a scandal about her company makes the news, you better believe that followers of that CEO are going to ask her directly about it.  And they’ll expect an answer.  If they don’t get one they like (or perhaps worse, one with not enough information), they’ll express that, too.  Transparency is key in the age of social media.  What is higher education doing to respond to this trend?


This infographic sums up some ideas about social media and expectations of transparency nicely. Click the image to be taken to the blog where I found this content.

4.) What was private is now public – Whether we like it or not, social media has changed our notions of personal information and privacy.  What where once internal dialogues, including what one is thinking of making for dinner or how someone wants new living room furniture to look, are now out there.  They’re probably indexed in Google results pages (somewhere).  When was the last time you were about to meet someone potentially important to you and you didn’t think about searching Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. for them to get the scoop?  How is this changing student life & relationships on campuses across the country?

5.) Everyone is an author – Individuals are now in a time where they can write and publish something to the web in seconds.  From virtually anywhere.  What’s more, on social media, this is all attached and credited to them personally.  Everyone has become an author.  Everyone is writing an autobiography.  As such, people want to be able to craft their own journey, build their own audience, find and share things relevant to them.  Social media, when used intelligently, can do that for them, and the world can watch.

Think of Perez Hilton’s rise to fame due to his controversial blog or Justin Bieber’s enormous celebrity status after having been discovered on YouTube.  How is this changing how students define themselves?  Or changing how they get jobs?  Shameless plug: I just wrote an article on social media & job searching for Vault.com.

6.) Control is for all of us – Combine access to decision-makers, information direct from sources, and multiple platforms for people to share their own voices, and you wind up with an expectation that “control” should be shared.  Organizations are wise to consider this carefully.  My favorite example of this notion is the story of Gap, the clothing company who tried to change their logo back in 2010.  When they announced and debuted the new logo, what they didn’t expect was tremendous backlash from social media – so much that it caused them to revert back to their previous logo.  It’s clear from lessons learned that “listening” on social media is critical.  Could this or will this expectation affect university governance?  Will more stakeholders (i.e. students, alumni, parents, trustees, etc.) be engaged in the decision-making process than before?

While the ways we use social media and the ways we live our lives cannot (and, in some cases, should not) always mirror each other, I have to wonder what this new method of communicating has done and will do to expectations.  What do you think of this idea about  ”social media and expectations”?  How about social media and expectations with respect to education?  I invite you to put on your pondering caps with me and share your thoughts in a comment.

By: Kevin

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