Social Media Study Tour

Silicon Valley Social

From Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn to YouTube, from Webdoc to Paper.li to Storify, and from Klout to Kred to mobile apps and social guidelines. The eleven communications specialists from Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences who made swissnex San Francisco their home base from September 25-30, 2011, certainly gained new insights into the social platforms changing the face of audience engagement.

The reason for their temporary transplantation to the Golden Gate: a one-week immersion in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley focused on social media for higher education. The Fall 2011 Social Media Study Tour was a crucial offering to participants of Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape, the novel two-year program aimed at boosting the use of social media by Swiss academic institutions, made possible by GEBERT RÜF STIFTUNG and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER).

swissnex San Francisco started the social media program in early 2011 after identifying a gap in the use of social networking tools within Swiss higher education as compared to other nations. The program includes a research phase as well as a lengthy training and monitoring phase involving online seminars, conferences, and study tours like the recent one to the Bay Area where hands-on learning and experience are emphasized.

“I’m going home with a lot of ideas,” said study tour participant Matthias Geering, Head of Communications and Marketing at the University of Basel, at the end of the week. “I’m sure that we have good arguments for our decision makers in Basel that we have to push social media in universities to keep contact with the students and the society.”

The swissnex San Francisco team led the September expedition to meetings with social media managers at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and UCSF. At YouTube, LinkedIn, Wildfire, and Blackboard Mobile, the group learned first-hand what these companies can offer to universities on social media and gained exclusive access to product previews and expert consultations. Intensive workshops with strategists and coaches urged the participants to map out their communications strategies and to consider measurements for success.

Guillaume Conne, an Information Officer at the University of Lausanne and another member of the group, said “It as good to first see the big shiny universities… and that whole Silicon Valley spirit, but then we had to work. It was really great to actually practice and think about what we can bring back from the US to Switzerland. I’m looking forward to working on social media in my university.”

“Before, everything was confusing,” added Sara Fedele, Marketing Communications Manager for the Executive MScom Program at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and a member of the fall study tour. “I didn’t know how to prepare a strategy or use the different tools. Now, everything seems to be more clear. I got to know many different best practices… Thanks to swissnex San Francisco, my network improved a lot.”

Perhaps the highest measure of the study tour’s success was how enthusiastically the participants themselves blogged, tweeted, and connected throughout the week. They even used Twitter to organize dinner plans! And there was a general camaraderie that developed among the group that was truly all the success swissnex could have hoped for. The spirit of social media is, well, social. Without that element, without sharing, it’s hard to grasp the full potential of the tools let alone successfully practice them to benefit a university.

The supportive environment that was fostered during the study tour will allow the participants to help each other as they lift their individual institutions into a new era of communications. The benefits will likely help promote the excellence of Swiss higher education globally.

To follow along with the program, read the blog posts from days 1-5 of the study tour to see what the participants thought of the program.

The next study tour takes place March 18-23 in San Francisco and all participants of the social media program are welcome to apply. Learn more.