Guest Interivew with - Kayla Patterson, GoAbroad
What are the GoAbroad Innovation Awards and how did they get started?
The GoAbroad Innovation Awards seek to recognize organizations, individuals, and initiatives in the the field of international education that go beyond the conventional. Originally launched in 2011, each year, GoAbroad.com, now with partner STA Travel, announce award winners during a reception at the annual NAFSA: Association for International Educators Conference. Nominations typically open in February, and in April, finalists are announced after being carefully selected by GoAbroad and STA Travel. The finalists are sent to an esteemed list of international education professionals called the Innovation Award Academy, while others are put up for a public vote. Finally, in late May to early June, the winners are announced at NAFSA.
Nominations are currently open for the following categories:
Why did GoAbroad start the Innovation Awards?
In a nutshell, we saw an opportunity to use our own spirit of innovation and creativity to encourage and inspire other international educators to help propel the field forward. We can all agree that things like diversity, sustainability, philanthropy, and alumni support are areas that every organization should strive to excel in, and the Innovation Awards help highlight those organizations that are doing it well and can serve as an example for the field.
How have the categories evolved over the years?
As you can see from above, there are currently ten categories for the Innovation Awards. Over the last few years we’ve slowly introduced new categories that we’ve identified as areas that have become a focus in international education, or even areas where we want the awards to help shed light on making that category a bigger focus. One example is our Innovation in Philanthropy award, sponsored by the GoAbroad Foundation. This award was introduced after we saw a larger opportunity for international educators to help provide relief for natural disasters, rural community development projects, and other charitable initiatives around the world. The nominations and winners of this award provide amazing examples of how we can all be more innovative about philanthropy.
Why should people/organizations/institutions nominated themselves or others?
Nominating for an Innovation Award is the first step to making sure that you / your organization / your initiative gets recognized. In addition, it’s a great way to get feedback from the field and to share your innovative ideas (again, to propel and inspire!). As a finalist or winner, you’ll also get widespread recognition from GoAbroad.com, STA Travel, and many other organizations that follow and report on the event and awards. Here are some more tips on how to nominate this year!
What benefit have you seen over the last few years for those that have won awards?
Great question! The first thing that comes to mind is that we believe the Innovation Awards motivate organizations and past winners to continue to strive to be better and do better. As international educators, we all want to help change the world and encourage people to expand their worldview through cultural immersion and travel. In order to do this to the best of our ability, we have to continue to innovate. So, what did you do last year that deserves to be nominated for an Innovation Award?
About the Interviewee: Kayla Patterson graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Colorado State University while working for GoAbroad.com, and has been there ever since. Kayla works as the GoMedia Director and Social Media Strategist and is often referred to as GoAbroad’s resident social media nerd. She also lends her time to fundraising and implementing online marketing strategies for the GoAbroad Foundation. When she’s not pouring over the latest social media and international education news, she enjoys movies, country music, dessert, shopping, and traveling the world! Follow her on Twitter: @kaylapatt
When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro for my vacation and volunteer program I found it interesting to discover that I wasn't immediately given a map of the city or even a map of my section of the city (since Rio is quite large). Since I had to traverse quite a few difference neighborhoods (favelas) of Rio during my three weeks in Rio I needed to figure out another way of getting around with only a little spoken Portuguese ability and a desire to not get lost after dark.
Then I remembered this little known trick of Google Maps - it will still provide navigation to the last set of places you looked up even without wifi or a data signal. Did you know about this awesome ability? It doesn't even need to be directions to a place near where you currently are. That is the best part!
It will also allow you to zoom in on the last map you searched directions for to the detail of where the bus will stop. If you are navigating to a place you can follow the bus stops to figure out where you need to get off. It makes it super easy to get places and to know what bus to take when you have no idea even what the bus routes are.
Now here is where the but comes in. I will admit some of the issues may be a result of user error but not all of them. ;). One of the problems I have with Google Maps is that when I am trying to figure out how to get from point A to B, generally using public transportation, it will leave out the metro unless you are right on top of it. Also, there may be more than one bus that can get you there but it may not be coming at that exact time. Rather than just list all the buses that come at the closest stop it only lists the bus that comes within the next 5 minutes for example. Because of this I have missed several just as qualified buses and taken double the amount of time to get somewhere because of it. Finally, if you get beyond a certain perimeter of where you last navigation, Google Maps will no longer even show you street names.
In the end because I had to be able to get from point A to B and a map of some sort was necessary I purchased a SIM card (they were extremely expensive) so I always had data access to turn on my Google Maps and navigate myself to where I needed to go. While Google Maps did lead me astray several times it would eventually get me where I needed to, sometimes while I sweared at it all the way.
If you didn't know about the Google Maps trick I highly recommend you always having your Smartphone device with you even if you only have one direction in it or can get it to zoom into the downtown area of your foreign city it will be well worth it.
Do you have any fun navigation stories to revel my time in Rio de Janeiro?
In early June I had the pleasure of attending the first ever International Programs Marketing Conference (IPMC) sponsored by GoOverseas. I wanted to share a little of my experience at this inaugural event. First of all, I must say that this is one of the best conferences I have attended in a really long time, if not ever.
Why do I say that? One of the main reasons is that it was social media and website marketing sessions geared specifically towards international education and a conference like this has never been done before (to my knowledge). They had an amazing lineup of speakers that geared their presentations towards our field even though they could have easily done otherwise. We had the opportunity to listen to people from Moz, Google, Facebook, and Optimizely among others.
This was the first year for a conference such as this and was a trial run of sorts. I would have to say it was a huge success. I have so many new ideas that I will never have time to implement them all. I talked to several other attendees who felt the same way.
Some of the highlights were the in-depth discussions on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), A/B testing of everything from website pages to newsletters, as well as Facebook tips for pages and groups. I must say that I rarely take notes at conferences other than a few lines from meetings or sessions but, from these two days I took almost 10 pages of notes and ideas. That is how good the material was and how stimulating.
This event was very reasonable priced, much more so than any other social media, technology or even international education conference out there. They even offered an optional wine tasting pre-conference outing which was a nice relaxing way to transition between NAFSA and IPMC. It was also not a sales pitch conference even though there were a lot of great service-oriented companies. All attendees did get a virtual good bag with discounts and free trials at the end of the conference but, at no point did any of the presenters or sponsors try and push their products/services on you. You were free to learn and generate your own ideas.
A couple of notes, if I may. I wish that the conference had focused a little more on institutional offices. It was pretty heavily focused on program providers. That is fine since many of the ideas can work but, most institutional offices do not have the full time staff that are dedicated to social media and web marketing as providers, which make some of the ideas out of the reach of institutional offices. College and university international education staff can generally only make social media and web marketing a small portion of their overall job.
However, these are minor critiques for such a great experience. I would highly recommend attending this next year since they plan on offering it again. It will be interesting to see what topics will be covered at the next event. Thanks again to GoOverseas for putting on a great event and I can't wait to see what next year holds.
Mandy Reinig is the Founder and Owner of Mandy's Mashups. This company works to educate the international travel community on effective social media use. Mandy also enjoys traveling the world and sharing her travel experiences and her use of social media while traveling with others.
I am super excited to have the opportunity to attend the upcoming International Programs Marketing Conference (IPMC) which is being hosted by GoOverseas just days after the NAFSA Annual Conference in Berkeley, CA. They have an amazing schedule and excellent speakers lined up. In order to give you a better understanding of what this conference is going to be about I decided to go right to the source. Here is an interview with Mitch Gordon, CEO of GoOverseas. There are still a few spots remaining and I highly encourage you to consider attending this awesome and extremely inexpensive event.
1. What does GoOverseas do?
Go Overseas is the Yelp/Trip Advisor for programs abroad. We’re a community site for students, and others searching for a great program abroad. We have two main missions that we’re equally passionate about: 1) To help students and travelers make more educated and informed decisions when choosing a program abroad. 2) To encourage more students to study abroad. I think many students are still too intimidated to study abroad. We want them to use Go Overseas and say, “Yes, I can study abroad. If all of these other people can do it, I can too!” We want to help people get over that decision hump and actually make the decision to study abroad. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I feel incredibly passionate about my belief that study abroad changes lives. I still think it should be a degree requirement!
Many focus on the review component of Go Overseas. We look at reviews as just a part of what we do. Our primary goal is to promote study abroad in all forms: Through great articles, alumni interviews, interviews with study abroad staff & advisors and through alumni reviews. We welcome anyone and everyone to join us in this mission!
2. How did you come up with the idea for IMPC?
Our partners were increasingly looking at us as experts and asking us to help them with all different types of marketing decisions: How to structure their website, content development, Google Analytics, A/B testing, lead tracking, etc. We thought, “Why don’t we create a conference where we can help everyone learn all at once!” More than anything else, we created the IPMC Conference as a service to our partners and the study abroad community in general. As you can see from the pricing, we’re not making money on this Conference. We’re doing it to help.
We also wanted to help organizations make more informed decisions when it comes to the ROI of their marketing dollars. There are companies that are still selling banner ads, linked listings, top of page rankings, etc. Other fields haven’t been selling advertising in that format since the early 2000s. It still happens in Study Abroad, which I think is unfortunate. We’re in a field where marketing budgets are relatively limited. Our goal is to help these organizations make better decisions with their limited marketing dollars.
3. Who should attend this conference?
Two type of people should attend the IPMC: 1) Leaders of Study Abroad & Intl Ed organizations. 2) Marketing departments. From the agenda, you can see that we’re focused on some very cutting edge topics. These skills will help marketing folks grow in their jobs, starting from the day after the conference. Leaders & executives should attend because it’s important to understand online marketing these days. Millennials make more and more of their decisions online. Students, after all, are 100% millennial. It’s important to understand how millenials think and what motivates their decision making process.
4. What are some of the highlights people can look forward to if they attend IMPC?
I’m looking forward to a lot of the speakers. Our keynote speaker, Kyle Rush, ran the online fundraising campaign for Obama, raising nearly $1B dollars. I’m incredibly excited about his talk and we’re really lucky to have him. I think attendees are going to find Kyle extremely compelling and interesting. Another highlight will be the 1-on-1 meetings. All attendees will have at least one 1-on-1 meeting with one of the speakers. This will give them the opportunity to sit down with someone at Google, MOZ, Facebook, etc. and learn directly from them.
5. How were you able to get such great speakers?
We’re lucky that we’re based in San Francisco. As a result, our network includes people at companies speaking at our Conference (Google, Facebook, Hubspot, MOZ, Optimizely, Salesforce). We worked these connections to help make the workshops and sessions as useful as possible for attendees!
6. What do you hope people will people take away from this conference?
We want the IPMC Conference to be the most workshop-oriented Conference you’ve ever attended. We’re focused on making it extremely tangible and interactive. Our goal is for attendees to learn in a very hands-on way. We want attendees to be engaged, with their laptops open, actively learning.
Mandy, I know you’ll let us know how we did when the conference is over!
Mitch Gordon, CEO, GoOverseas, @MitchGordonGo
I was recently at the WIT (Women in Travel) Summit in Chicago and a friend told me about this great new app that I must share. Some of you may already know about it but, this was the first time I had ever heard of it or used it.
The app is called Uber. I love the name but it certainly doesn’t describe its service. I guess it could relate to it being Uber easy or Uber cheap.
In essence this app is a private car service request app for most larger cities in the U.S. All you need to do is create an account, download the app and away you go. You open the app and it finds your GPS location and you are able to order a variety of car types. You can order everything from a limo type car to what they call an UberX car, which is usually a nice mid-size car like a Scion or Toyota. It then tells you how long the car will take to get to you as well as gives you a photo of the driver and the license plate of the car picking you up.
When the driver arrives, they call you, you jump in and you give them your destination and away you go. In my experience with them in Chicago they were much less expense than a taxi, even in traffic. Those that have used them in cities like Boston have said that nine times out of ten they have been cheaper than a taxi.
If you are worried about safety – Don’t be. You have to rate the driver after each trip and if a driver ever gets less than a four they can no longer drive for the service.
You also don’t have to worry about paying then and there either. You pay through your Uber account. So no need to fumble for cash or credit cards.
To me this is a must have app for big cities or anywhere you can use it. If you want to try it out, here is a $20 credit to get you started https://uber.com/invite/xkku3
Why spend extra money when you don’t have to or sit in a stinky cab!! Try it out and let me know what you think!
I have come to realize that there are still many people out there that don't know how to schedule Facebook posts. This is an important tool to have at your disposal. It allows you to schedule a large number of posts so you don't have to be constantly tied to your phone or computer and your posts will automatically post even when you are on vacation.
Here is a step by step guide on how to schedule Facebook posts.
1. Create your Facebook post. Once you have completed your post click the click on the left hand side.
2. Select the day and time you would like your post to appear.
3. Finally, click the Schedule button and your post will appear in your Activity Log and will automatically post at the given time.
Women have been traveling for the entirety of human history, and yet many still view travel and travel blogging as a "man's world." But imagine, if you will, being at an event that not only challenges that perspective, but lays the groundwork to reshape it. Imagine being surrounded by 150 other female travelers, bloggers, and web entrepreneurs. Imagine connecting, networking, writing, and promoting, all in the heart of Chicago. Thanks to the inaugural Women in Travel Summit, held in Chicago’s legendary Palmer House hotel, you will have to imagine no longer!
This summit, targeted at encouraging and celebrating the accomplishments of women in travel, has something for everyone. It boasts three tracks for attendees to explore: the Traveler, the Blogger, and the Entrepreneur. The Traveler can look forward to sessions to tempt and expand her horizons, from ethically-minded volunteership to traveling on a tight budget. For the Entrepreneur, sessions on monetization and turning traveling into a profession will provide an opportunity to hone her business skills and grow her career. The Blogger’s track, targeting both text and video bloggers, grows her aptitude for editing, networking, and beating writer’s block.
But wait- there’s more! In addition to sessions targeting their particular interests, attendees are invited to multiple networking and sightseeing events throughout the weekend. An open lunch on Saturday takes attendees to see Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in nearby Grant Park. For the early risers, early morning yoga classes will do just the trick. And for all attendees, a variety of tweet-ups, networking power hours, and evening social events facilitate blog promotion, business development, and opportunities to travel further than they ever have before.
Two keynote speakers will be featured at the summit. On Saturday, Jeannie Mark- better known as Nomadic Chick- will inspire attendees with a presentation about women in travel entrepreneurship, and on Sunday, Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman will keep attendees hungry to change the travel world for good. Readers wishing to get a taste of these two powerful authors can visit their websites. Jeannie Mark can be found at http://www.nomadicchick.com/, and Evelyn Hannon is at http://www.journeywoman.com/.
Finally, attendees can rest assured that summit attendance and budget hotel rates are within their grasp. By using the promo code available on the summit’s registration page, attendees can stay at the Palmer House at the spectacular rate of $139/night and enjoy all its comforts and amenities- including a taste of the Women in Travel Summit’s signature cocktail at the Saturday soiree.
The summit kicks off with a networking party on Friday, March 14 and continues through Sunday, March 16. Register now at http://witsummit.com! $149 for general admission, $99 for one day.
Written by Erica Laue Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Programming Team.
Mandy's Mashups is a proud sponsor of the WIT Summit!
The job market in the 21st century has evolved to become a very competitive field. It requires that all graduates become very aggressive so as to land the lucrative job that they so desire. This requires one to network. This network has to include a wide variety of individuals from friends to family to acquaintances. The advent of social media has led to the evolution of job hunting for most graduates and other unemployed individuals through new and innovative means. Through social media, it is possible to land a lucrative job in a prestigious or even upcoming company. This post will highlight important tips that may help one utilize social media to search for a job.
1. Develop a Professional Presence
According to HR managers at SolidEssay.com, which is a college paper writing service, in order for one to look for a job online using social media, it is important that they create a professional outlook. This is vital towards influencing the kind of impression that a prospective employer has. This can be achieved by googling one’s name. The results will depict one’s outlook to a prospective employer. Depending on the results, one can alter the undesired parts and create a professional profile online. One can then go ahead to set up a profile on all the major social media sites such as LinkedIn. Furthermore, one can enhance the information that is available to the public on Facebook, Twitter ad Google+. All these are essential in putting forth a professional persona.
This is currently the largest social media site that is dedicated to the creation of a professional profile for career minded individuals. Irrespective of one’s career choice, LinkedIn is the most potent social media site where one can create a useful and effective network that will serve their career needs. Most, if not all, CEOs, Corporate Managers and recruitment agencies have a profile on LinkedIn. This serves as a good place to start for the creation of a good network.
3. Online Communities
There exist numerous online communities that are predominantly geared towards connecting employees to prospective employers. By joining these online communities, one can increase their chances of coming across a lucrative job opening in one of the hiring companies. These online communities can be in the form of Facebook fan pages for non-profit organisations, LinkedIn Groups for one’s university or a listserv for an industry’s association. Even though most choose to ignore these online communities, one can find a lucrative job opening by simply commenting on the discussions within these communities.
Twitter is undoubtedly the most used social media site in the world. It has become an important tool for most recruiting departments owing to the fact that it is cheap and readily accepted by the market. As such, most recruiting departments tweet about their job openings. In order for one to be strategically placed to find these job openings, they ought to follow these corporate organisations on Twitter so as to keep updated on the latest opportunities in that area available within the companies. However, this is not sufficient. It is important that one is actively involved in responding or tweeting to some of the discussions that they post on Twitter. This helps one build a rapport with the company as an active follower of their work.
Blogs are also an effective way to utilize social media. One can create a blog about one’s career interests, progress, educational background and even their general life philosophy. This link can then be posted on each of their social media profiles, such as on Facebook and LinkedIn. This blog will allow for any potential employer to gain a general outlook on what one is all about. It is essential that this blog be kept purely professional.
In conclusion, social media can be a very effective tool in a job hunt. It creates one’s profile online, exposing all the critical information to all the prospective employers. In order for one to effectively use social media, they need to develop a professional presence online, join LinkedIn and Twitter, create and effectively use a blog. If a graduate seeking employment utilizes the five listed strategies, then they will not only increase their chances of coming across a job listing, but they will also improve their marketability in a very competitive and relentless job market that requires one to be aggressive.
Ben is a freelance writer and blogger featuring new trends and sharing tips related to education and careers. In one of his recent articles he shares helpful tips on how to write a personal statement for graduate school.
The following is a guest blog post by Victoria Mita, Director of FundMyTravel. She describes how anyone can use social media to be able to generate funds for their study abroad adventures. It really is much easier than it sounds! Victoria offers some great tips and advice for anyone out there wondering how they are going to make their travel dreams come true!
Fortunately, the entertaining and rewarding aspects of crowd-sourced funding also happen to be the most vital ingredients to making a successful campaign pie. Don’t worry, that’s enough with the recipe metaphor, but I am going to break this down and you know, social media will be the cherry on top (right, I promise that’s the end of it.)
Pointer 1: This should never feel like asking for a hand-out. That’s no fun for anyone.
Whether you’re doing an online fundraiser to cover the costs of airfare, trying to scrounge up the remainder of a program fee, or just need a little something for visa and study materials, tapping into your online networks simply makes sense. It’s not about taking advantage of friends and family as a financial resource but it is about community building and gaining their support to reach your goals. Whether they can and want to offer support in monetary or moral form is up to them, but communicating your ambition and making it exciting is your job. Just as with any other project, you are only going to get out of it, what time, effort and activity you put into it, but as I said: that is the fun part!
· Time Investment: this sounds like a drag in written form, almost like another thing added to the to-do list or some type of personal homework assignment. Instead, consider it a break from your other work. It’s really an outlet and a space for you to be expressive. The more time you put into making little Updates, adding photos, video or even creating your own perks, the more it is going to benefit you and your longer term goals, while you’re abroad…
· Effort Investment: This is just about being consistent. If you’ve made the decision to do this and create a campaign in the first place, you might as well go all out and do it right all the way through. You can think of it as if you decided to join a sports team- Aim to make it to the championships and win. Just remember, if it does ever going slowly or your current efforts aren’t paying off, then it’s simply a matter of changing it up. (More on how in the next tip…)
Pointer 2: Never forget to say ‘Thank You,’ but offer more than your undying gratitude. Get creative!
If you’re putting in all that time and effort, be sure to make it engaging for yourself too. When you carry out a fundraising campaign in conjunction with something else that you love to do, all of your passion, determination and motivation become contagious for your page viewers because it’s genuine. If you can share the reasons you are so fired up and driven to make this goal a reality, then potential donors and other supporters are more likely to join your team and help build up that momentum, needed to keep your campaign going. SO, find a personal area of interest and loop it into the way you Update your campaign.
· Into Arts, Music, or Film?
o Write a little song for everyone who donates or shares your page themselves.
o Create a painting or drawing for donors and mail it to them from home or away.
o Make a video, make multiple videos! Even if you’re no cinematographer it’s fun.
· Into Literature, Writing, or History?
o Find/share quotes that connect with your feelings in anticipation of your trip.
o Create a reading list relevant to where you are going and share with viewers.
o Make a blog about your trip before leaving. Share links every time you Update.
o Explain the history and culture of your destination via video, blog or illustration.
· Into Service, Sports, or Cooking?
o Host a shindig around any theme of choice, and accept donations for organizing.
o Invite friends over to watch a sports game/have a board game night and ^
o Sign up for a marathon or walk/run to gain sponsorship for your campaign.
o Get some friends together to bake and sell the delicious treats for donations.
o Inform supporters you will put in community service hours for donations.
These kinds of ‘offline’ activities are just as important to bring into your online campaign experience. It makes the whole thing more meaningful to you and everyone else who gets involved. Just remember to communicate these extra efforts an ‘offline’ donation gains with your audience through Update sharing*
Pointer 3: This is MOST important for thee. Sharing can make the difference between flight and visa fee!
The biggest and most important influencer in your campaign’s success is the amount of exposure it gains. This is in large part up to you and those efforts we talked about earlier, but if you’ve kept your Updating and activity consistent, then your supporters and viewers end up doing a lot of this work with you. Allow me to explain why and how this all works out-
Dispelling the myths:
It’s obnoxious to over share.
· This could be true if you’re discussing something which is only of interest to you, but now you’re well aware that this whole experience is a relationship-building project! As long as the Update content is related to new photo, video, blog link or action you’ve taken, it is fun to see and read about. Likewise, the more activity that you have surrounding your campaign efforts, the more exciting, interesting and meaningful it will be to you, and so the same goes for your trip abroad.
· There’s nothing obnoxious about it, if you make something worth sharing. People and online audiences in particular, like to see positivity. They like to see someone who works hard, achieve their goal, and they like to be a part of the process. Making and sharing meaningful Updates on a daily basis also gives you more ownership on the whole project. It’s no longer just some online fundraising campaign. When you sort out how to communicate and relate this content to your audiences frequently and meaningfully, you’ve then developed a skill, a knowledge base and an experience that is highly valued and relevant to future employers, organizations, mentors, study abroad and admission offices within universities, the list goes on.
Facebook makes personal letters obsolete.
· This one is laughable. While many people are hip-to-the-groove with Facebook these days, it’s not safe to assume that all of the people who should see your page are on it or always checking their Facebook. In fact, a large percentage of a campaigner’s target audience may not even have Facebook- believe it or not. Even if they did, the impression made by writing a personal message to potential donors, is invaluable. They still may not all give, but they are going to be more interested to support your efforts and inform others who they think would give, than anyone you did not take the time to write a letter to. This can be done via email and go a long way, depending on your message, but nothing compares to the old fashioned snail mail. The fact that so many people communicate through the internet so often now, actually increases the value of those offline and in-person acts of thoughtfulness…
Once is enough.
· This could be true, if it meant once every hour... Honestly, I know it sounds excessive but, especially because of the way social media platforms are designed to refresh their content, you can share your campaign page two times in a single day and still have it overlooked. The best approach is to share multiple times within the week, of course with new content as often as possible, and then share out via multiple platforms, not just Facebook. Use facebook, twitter, Google+ and email. If you do not have accounts on all of these platforms, it’s something to consider. Twitter and Google+ may not be everyone’s jam right off the bat, but do trust in the long-term and bigger picture, it will only behoove you in business and future communication ventures to develop this presence.
Victoria graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelors in Education. Her first immersion experience was possible through class fundraising and took her to Lyon, France. She's had a passion for learning through travel ever since. Victoria studied abroad and later worked in Australia. She has presented English Speaking and Resume Building workshops in Macau, China and also worked at the Embassy of Australia, for the Education Team at Austrade. After her time with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training in Adelaide, Australia, Victoria returned to the US and began work with GoAbroad.com. Now she directs FundMyTravel.com, which offers an online funding platform for meaningful travel experiences. Victoria takes immense joy in working with students to help them realize their dreams abroad.
I have not always been a Twitter aficionado (read: I hated the idea of it all for the first 5 years). However, in 2011 I was somehow convinced to create an account and my friends came up with my handle. A few saucy Packers tweets later and I wasn’t too impressed with its purpose. I didn't get what a hashtag was and thought the idea of only using 140 characters to be to akin to the textspeak I loathed. Yet, a year later I started to dig in to the Twittersphere again. I can't remember exactly what forced me to, but my hunch would be that it was to promote some Melibee Global workshops. Almost 2,500 tweets later and you can say I’m hooked. I’m now known to many as only my handle, @MidwestAsh.
How and why did this change?
The big change came in playing around with what Twitter could be used for. Still not really getting the point, I learned by experimenting with it. Maybe some folks watch how-to videos or take a class (is that possible?) but I wasn’t ready to make that kind of com-twitt-ment. I started by finding a few people I wanted to follow and seeing what they were saying. At first it was friends and celebrities, the typical Twitter stereotype. Were people really posting what they were eating or where they were going every 5 minutes? Not exactly. I began to realize what I was really interested in seeing was what those in my field (International Education) were talking about. So I started searching.
What did it take?
I Googled different hashtags to find out what they meant, and if I’m recalling correctly, I searched for tweets about #intled or #studyabroad. This is where the gates opened. I was able to READ the direct thoughts and issues that prominent international educators were sharing. It was like an insight into their life. Once I figured out how to reply and dialogue with them the possibilities were endless. I was making connections with some big wigs in the field and was keeping up with all the key topics being discussed. Eventually, I began generating my own content, sharing articles, and creating dialogue. This in turn attracted people to follow me.
Lessons from the experience?
I didn’t understand many of Twitters functions at first. In fact, I think my first few weeks consisted of just retweeting and favoriting everyone else. I had no idea that “DM me” meant direct message, or how to manage my time following the endless stream of tweets. Slowly, mainly by making mistakes, I figured it out. It wasn’t as intimidating or overwhelming as I had made it out to be. Thanks to sites like HootSuite and Tweetdeck managing Twitter or many social media platforms is a lot less cumbersome. I no longer spend hours a day trying to catch up on every tweet I’ve missed. However, when a big event happens I can stay alert as things unfold.
Having a consistent presence on social media has transformed my personal and professional network, opened up new career opportunities, and broadened my knowledge of events. It’s allowed me to stay up to date by the minute on breaking news before it’s shown on most other media. I’ve been contacted to guest blog on several sites, been offered jobs, and even made some really great friends. Most recently, I had the chance to connect with a huge group of my followers and people I was following during the Tweet-Up at the annual NAFSA Conference in St. Louis. Meeting my virtual tweeties IRL (in real life) was exciting and gave me a chance to finally put a real face and personality to the handles I had been following for so long.
The moral: Don’t be afraid to get on Twitter. It’s not just people sharing what they had for dinner or where they’re going this weekend. Twitter (and social media in general) can do wonders for your career, your students, and your office if used the right way. The possibilities are up to you!
Ashley Houston is a graduate student of Intercultural Relations at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She loves yoga, social media, and a good bar of milk chocolate. While in school full-time, she juggles several part time commitments, including serving as an RA at a Japanese Language Institute, Innovation Associate with Melibee Global, Managing Editor with Yoga Travel Tree, and Educator at lululemon athletica.
You can follow her on Twitter @MidwestAsh
This blog is all about social media. I hope to offer tips, tricks, advice and more on using social media within international education and international travel.