Skidmore College's Facebook page receives its 5,000th 'like' this month: Communications works to expand the college's online presence

Posted by Adrian Appleman

On Oct. 3, the college reached a landmark 5,000 "likes" on its Facebook page.

With 5,055 "likes" as of Oct. 20, the page is steadily growing in popularity. Though the Skidmore College Facebook page is the College's primary social media outlet, it is not the only social networking page affiliated with the college.

The College has been actively building its online presence since the summer of 2010, and Daniella Nordin, the college's online community manager, says there is still more to follow.

Through online efforts, the College has been able to connect with about one-sixth of its core audience, including alumni, staff, faculty, students and "friends."

The College has more than 20 Facebook pages affiliated with it, ranging from pages for academic departments to different sports teams. Nordin offers workshops titled "The Social Media Hour" for faculty and staff interested in becoming a part of the network on Fridays throughout the semester.

The College also has been branching out to other social networking sites, including Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as exploring new ground with Cappex and Zinch, two social networks geared toward connecting prospective students to colleges.

Hired in Feb. 2010, Nordin's main concentration is to spearhead recruitment efforts beyond simply inciting interest among prospective students, though her efforts do concentrate on that audience as well. She also works to achieve goals like the milestone reached a few weeks ago to recruit more fans and to obtain more "hits."

"Since I'm the first person to hold this position, I can really make it my own, " Nordin said, "I'm planning on doing everything from cradle to grave, so to speak."

Although the College's Facebook page was around prior to the formation of Nordin's position, there has been a noticeable spike in the College's online success and presence since she came to campus.

"Since Daniella arrived, it's been a steady growth," said Dan Forbush, executive director of communications. "We're one of the first colleges to have a social media manager, and, since making that decision, our online ratings have increased."

Forbush said he values social media as a platform for creativity. It can be used to showcase student creativity, and has been through postings of student films, music and photography. Also, the College's current "Creative Thought at Work" campaign originally grew out of a discussion board on the College's Facebook page.

This campaign has since been a recurring theme in communications. "Our goal is to try to generate as much student and alumni content as possible," Forbush said, "You can't fake someone's actual Skidmore experience."

Part of Skidmore's approach to online communications is to ensure there is a personal presence within all of the social media outlets managed by the College. Skidmore was one of the first colleges, Forbush said, to hire a student, Joe Yanks '11, to represent the College on a social media page.

"What we do is try to connect students," Nordin said, "It only makes sense, then, to have there be a presence, not just a social media abyss."

This online human presence manifests as both Nordin herself as well as a staff of student bloggers who answer questions submitted by prospective students. The new Skidmore Student-to-Student program helps put those curious about the college in direct contact with online student ambassadors.

The students also administer the Facebook communities for current students, acting as a live resource for questions to be answered, which Yanks started in 2007. "Why it's so exciting is because it's a whole new way to get a conversation going," Nordin said, "It's a whole new way to actually get a slice of Skidmore life."

"It's great that I get to be a part of something that is already having a successful impact on prospective students," said Emmeline Taylor '14, one of the student social media assistants. "The fact of the matter is that social media is very prevalent amongst the younger generation in our society, and it is how they find out a lot of information. If we can encourage more incredible young minds to look at Skidmore simply because they saw us on a social media site then that is excellent!"

Connecting is the primary reason the College has chosen to focus so intently on social media. "We want to engage our audience," Nordin said, "everyone from alumni to 'friends of the college' who live in Saratoga. It's difficult to pinpoint the payoff, but if there's a student who makes a connection of any sort, that's what I'm interested in."

The connections are also beneficial to the assistants. "My course load is extremely difficult this semester and it has been easy for me to feel disappointed with Skidmore at moments," Taylor said, "But then when I start answering questions for prospective students I realize why I chose to be here in the first place. This job is a great reminder of how lucky I am not only to have the privilege to go to college, but also to have the privilege to go to a college like Skidmore." 

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