How does social media influence your international education job?
I’m in a fairly unique position in that social media now represents about 50% of my daily work, more some days. As the marketing coordinator for the EducationUSA network of 400+ advising centers in 170 countries, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. We’ve grown our social media presence from a smattering of a half-dozen Facebook pages and about 30 random YouTube videos back in early 2009, to currently 150+ Facebook pages, groups, & profiles, 70+ EdUSA Twitter feeds, over 300+ YouTube videos on branded channels, a couple dozen active blogs, 60+ EdUSA Connects webinars, two main iTunes podcast feeds (for US higher ed & international student audiences), all of which conservatively connect with over 290,000 contacts a month. I’m spending the first couple of hours each day check my Google Alerts and Google Reader, scheduling posts to our various platforms, then work shifts to answering questions on our global Facebook page, reviewing video content from recent webinars or student testimonials, Skype’ing with US admissions reps and advisers, etc.
How did you get into social media?
Back in 2005, when I was Director of International Services at Ball State University, in charge of international student recruitment, orientation, advising and programming, Facebook was just starting to explode across college campuses. We were still using primarily email and letters to communicate with both current students and prospective ones. As we began seeing fewer current international students attending events where we’d invited them by email, we began to wonder why. We asked some students if they had gotten their messages about events, and they said they rarely check their email, and suggested sending messages on Facebook instead. The light bulb went off in my head for this “duh moment” – we needed to be communicating using the tools that our students were using.
From there we also transitioned that philosophy to our recruitment efforts with increased video content, chats, as well as introducing Facebook groups to our arsenal of tactics to reach our key audiences where they lived.
What is one social media tool you cannot live without now?
HootSuite! I will sing their praises from the rooftops. Of all the tech start-ups and social media management tools out there, HootSuite is already the most comprehensive, and is incredibly responsive to feedback and suggestions for improvement. While in Vancouver for NAFSA, a colleague of mine from the study abroad side, Ruth Sylte (@GoAborad.com), invited me to visit HootSuite’s headquarters to meet with Dave Olson, Community Director. We had an enlightening conversation learning of the company’s history and exponential growth, particularly in light of recent political revolutions in the Middle East, and natural disasters in Haiti, Chile, & Japan. When traditional communications broke down post-earthquakes tools like HootSuite were used to communicate the news. And even when certain platforms like Twitter & Facebook were “turned-off” in Egypt & Tunisia, folks used tools like HootSuite to get the news, photos & videos out that kept the outside world informed. In my work, day-to-day, our team’s efficiency has grown tenfold since we began using HootSuite to spread our messages across platforms, and to schedule posts (lifesaver), and to monitor the conversations/key words that matter most to us.
What is one thing you wish you knew about social media that would have made getting involved with it easier?
How intuitive it can be. Social Media does mean learning all the ins and outs of “how to” use particular platforms to do it well, as with any new tool. But it the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t require completely forgetting everything you ever learned about what your message is. Rather social media represents a new set of tools and tactics that can be used to achieve existing strategic goals.
What do you think social media's biggest impact has been on international education?
Social Media has allowed our communities to grow closer together, and to find grounds for greater collaboration. Institutions who may have been struggling to reach students overseas now have new less (financial) capital intensive means to reach them. The goals of mutual understanding are much more easily achieved in the immediacy and efficiency of communications allowed for through social media channels.
Why do you continue to use social media?
Because my network of colleagues truly spans the globe. I say this not to brag, as I know in this field, we all share that in common. To be able to Facebook chat with an adviser in Nepal who is having issues downloading a file due to bandwidth issues within seconds of him asking, to Skype video call my wife and son while I am away on my travels in Costa Rica, to present global EdUSA Connects sessions for students overseas that have reached thousands, and to share with my colleagues both domestically and abroad how these tools can help then better do their jobs, make life without social media not an option. I mean really, who doesn’t enjoy getting birthday greetings on their Facebook wall from dozens of countries in multiple languages!
Born in England, Marty Bennett first came to the U.S. on an L-2 visa in 1974, at age 5. Marty has worked in the international education field since 1993, both in the U.S. and in the U.K. After a seven year stint at Marquette University, he worked at ACS-International, Cobham campus, outside of London serving as an assistant dean of admissions, and assisted with college counseling. Mr. Bennett also enjoyed time at Saint Mary’s College (IN), and most recently at Ball State, where he served for 5 years as Director of International Services. During that time, Marty volunteered on the Region VI Team as the RAP rep for two years, and was a key contributor to Destination Indiana, and the Council of International Schools’ Committee for Europe, the Middle East & Africa. He joined IIE as the first EducationUSA Marketing Coordinator in November 2008. Marty is committed to advancing the EducationUSA network and establishing stronger partnerships with the U.S. higher education community in achieving their international priorities. Social Media represents, next to international education, his greatest professional passion, on which he spends half of an average work day.