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You’re just not that interesting!

This week we welcome another fantastic guest blogger, Gary Alan Miller.  Gary is a higher education professional with 18 years of experience in a variety of roles from registrar to career services to academic advising.  He is currently Senior Assistant Dean of Academic Advising at UNC Chapel Hill.  Gary’s areas of expertise include applying technology to student services contexts, creating dynamic interactive presentations and generating ideas to solve higher education problems.  Connect with him on twitter:  @garyalanmiller

Social media is fun.  Social media is free time.  Social media is hanging out.  It’s for friends and for photos.  It’s for games and goofs.  As Jim Tobin said, social media can be a cocktail party.  So, why on earth would a student want to connect to your office there?

The truth is, most of our offices are not that interesting.   We do important work.  We do serious work.  Academics.  Success. Development.   But, we’re unlikely to compete with the latest meme (barring this).  So, when you post to Facebook or Twitter something like “The deadline for [insert academic policy] is coming up on [insert date], don’t miss it,” it’s not that surprising that the response you receive is silence.

I’m not suggesting we can’t be interesting and fun.  We just haven’t chosen to be most of the time.   And in some cases (like housing/residential education offices it seems), students will actively choose to engage with your work on social media regardless.  But, for most of us, it takes work.  And it takes a willingness to be more open and more human, and in the words of my former colleague Demi Brown, “to show a little leg.”

It goes beyond content.  For example, our tendency, it seems, has been to open social media accounts with names that involve our university and department names, rather than our own names and never mention the person behind the keyboard.  Would you rather talk to a big faceless department or a person?  With which are you more likely to feel comfortable and establish a connection?

So, here are 5 tips for being potentially more interesting to your students:

  1. Be human.  I hesitate to use the overused — but, authenticity matters.  Talk like a human, not a university bulletin or a classified advertisement.
  2. Tell stories.  If you’re trying to convince someone to come to a program, don’t tell them about the program, tell them a story related to it.
  3. “Show a little leg.”  As noted previously, it’s okay to relax and have a little fun.  It’s also okay to talk about things not related to your office.  Talk sports.  Talk music.  Talk whatever is fun for you.
  4. Be recognizable.  Put your own name and photos on your accounts.  People care more about talking to a person than a department.
  5. Talk smaller.  If you’re talking to everyone, you’re probably not talking to anyone.

Bonus tip:  Recognize that you may never be destined for a large following or hundreds of comments and retweets. And that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time.  Just make sure you’re measuring the right thing!

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