Social Media Kickoff

Social Media Kickoff

swissnex San Francisco recently held a kickoff meeting for the program, Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape, on May 24, 2011, at the Swisscom tower in Bern. The two-year initiative, made possible by the GEBERT RÜF STIFTUNG and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research, is aimed at boosting the use of social media by Swiss academic institutions to advance their communications goals.

More than 130 communications personnel from Swiss universities, universities of applied sciences, national laboratories, and related groups came together for a full day of presentations from swissnex’s Florencia Prada and Megan Williams, and Swisscom social media manager, Patrick Möschler, thanks to organization from Swisscom’s Emmerich Stoffel and his team.

The attendees represented a wide variety of backgrounds. Many were already more than familiar with social media, some were and may still be unsure of its value, and others were just beginning to consider the advantages and risks of the tools. The day’s curriculum, therefore, focused on research and reports generated by swissnex San Francisco and highlighted good examples of social media strategy, guidelines, and integrated communications. The goal of the day was to present something for everyone and to lay a foundation for the next two years, in which the program will go in-depth on specific topics through webinars and study tours.

What the swissnex San Francisco team didn’t quite expect was to learn so much in return. The participants taught us the nuances of communicating as a Swiss institution and the unique challenges and opportunities they face. Numerous attendees shared the inspiring steps they are taking using social media and posted their advances on the program’s Facebook page during the meeting.

But perhaps one of the greatest benefits had nothing to do with social media at all and everything to do with face-to-face, social interaction. Many said there had never before been a gathering of this number of university and research communications staff in one place discussing and exploring their craft. The event allowed for some of the most electric networking we’ve seen—we could barely pull the participants back into the sessions after break. It’s reassuring to know and to witness that even in today’s world of online communications, nothing is more powerful than an in-person conversation. Ultimately, it is through sharing ideas and challenges with each other that this joint effort in social media for Swiss higher education will be a success.

The event sparked a lively Twitter conversation that unfolded during the kickoff, proving that many attendees already see the tool’s value for covering and following live events. Through the Twitter hashtag, #socialmediach, LinkedIn Group, and Facebook page, we received input on the challenges and importance of social media strategy and guidelines. And during the interactive session on developing an integrated communications plan involving social media, many groups submitted their ideas, with two groups (EPFL and SUPSI) presenting on stage how they would promote, publicize, and engage audiences if a VIP visitor came to campus. Think live-tweeting, Facebook calls to action, video streaming, etc.

To learn more about the kickoff event and the program in general, visit the Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape website, check out the video, and view photos.