As a Media & Education graduate student, I am always looking for the intersections between these two extremely broad fields of “media” and “education.” Through this post my goal is explore how two brands within these spheres can use social media to further their engagement with their audiences. The first brand is the Cook Honors College. This is a program within Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and currently it does not have a consistent social media presence. The other brand, Common Sense Media, is a non-profit organization that aims to help families navigate the complex and interwoven world of media and technology. Both the Cook Honors College and Common Sense Media fall are educational entities and can use social media to promote their business. The Cook Honors College deals with recruitment and community while Common Sense Media looks at providing helpful content and generating discussions.
Uses & Gratifications Theory
The marketing ideas proposed are framed within the concept of the uses and gratifications theory. This theory focuses on the audience as active participants rather than passive viewers. This means that users can choose the kind of media they want. This can lead them to media that satisfies their needs like interacting, gaining knowledge, relaxing, escaping, etc. This theory is important in the context of developing the type of social media content that will engage an active audience and meet their needs.
For more information about the uses and gratifications theory, visit the University of Twente Website: Uses & Gratifications
Cook Honors College (iup.edu/honors)
The Cook Honors College (CHC) is part of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), located in Indiana, PA. The CHC accepts 100 students each year for the program. It is considered a school within as school, as the honors college students take the honors core curriculum as well as their major classes through IUP.
When it comes to social media, the Cook Honors College is a little scattered. The Facebook page is rarely updated. The Twitter account has not been updated since 2010. I believe that even though the CHC is an institute of learning, it can still have a marketable social media presence. There are three distinct audiences that could meet their needs through social media involvement: prospective students, current students, and alumni.
My proposal is to get the name of Cook Honors College out in social media without trying to overly sell the school with facts and statistics about the program. Just like how the CHC itself emphasizes the importance of community, this same principle can be applied to their social media presence. I think one way to do this would be through an entertaining video. For prospective students (high school students considering attending the CHC) this video could fill their need for knowledge about the program while also providing entertainment value. It would be a way from them to see the experiences of current students. Those people already enrolled in the CHC, the currents students, could be actively involved in the creation of this video. It would make them more invested in the outcome of the video. For alumni, this video could be a representation of their school pride.
The University of Rochester did something similar to this type of video I am advising:
It has entertainment value and also got other people engaged and talking about it:
— CollegeAppTips (@CollegeAppTips) March 11, 2012
— Lori Packer (@LoriPA) March 7, 2012
One of the key concepts I recommend when producing a video like this is to keep it entertaining while also providing information for the audience about the Cook Honors College. This will then appeals to multiple needs of the viewers.
I think the best way to publish this video would be to upload it to YouTube and then also share it through Facebook and Twitter. Another part of this process could be creating funny GIFs from clips of the video that people can easily share. Consider this tweet for example:
— Scream Queens (@ScreamQueens) September 26, 2015
The GIF is from the show “Scream Queens” but the text of the tweet is not about the show. The GIF is applied to another context and could be shared with multiple captions for different meanings. A good video for the CHC could feature moments that could be captured in a GIF that people would want to share over and over again.
The main takeaway from my recommendation for the Cook Honors College is creating content—in this case, a video—that makes people laugh so they will want to share it. The video needs to be unique and showcase the spirit of the CHC. It could show the community of the CHC make other people feel like they are part of this group. The video will get the word out about the school while providing information and entertaining audiences.
Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org)
Common Sense Media provides an online platform with content that helps families make informed, smart choices when selecting media content. It provides information including ratings and reviews for everything from music, books, TV shows, movies, games, apps, websites, etc. It is designed to help parents navigate the digital age when selecting media that is appropriate for their kids. There are also guides and blogs that deal with other issues concerning media and their impact including cyberbullying, screen time, violence, gender representation, etc.
Currently Common Sense Media has an active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. My initial thought was that they needed to create an Instagram account. After considering this further, I realized their audience may not use Instagram as often as other social media platforms. Their content is also more text-based which would not translate as well to Instagram post.
My advice instead is for Common Sense Media to start a campaign on Twitter that engages the audience more. Right now their Twitter account doesn’t allow for much interaction. It is primarily links to content either from their website or articles from outside sources. I think Common Sense Media needs to have more interactions with their active audience. This could fulfill the audience’s need to enhance their knowledge of subjects surrounding media literacy.
Let’s look at this tweet as an example:
— Common Sense Media (@CommonSense) September 27, 2015
Instead of just posting a link to their site, this tweet could also include a question that would spark discussion. The concept of banned books is a very hot topic, and people could get really into sharing their opinions.
Even though Common Sense Media is a non-profit, there is still the desire to get people interested in their brand. You don’t have to be selling a product in order to use social media for marketing. By creating more discussions on Twitter, this could create more a community sense. This could go towards fulfilling people’s need for social interaction.
One example of this type of engagement in a non-profit sense is this tweet from the USDA Forest Service.
— USDA Forest Service (@forestservice) September 28, 2015
It encourages the audience to share their own stories and experiences, which will allow them to connect with others. The unique hashtags will also help keep the conversations together. Common Sense Media could employ this same type of strategy.
With my interests in media and education, I found it useful to examine two brands within these two fields of study. While Cook Honors College is an institute of learning, it can still use social media to connect with people in its community. Common Sense Media provides education about media content and can use social media to further engage its audience and spark discussions.