Accessibility and engagement at #satechBOS

Last Friday, I attended the Student Affairs Technology Unconference at Boston University, an event bringing together student affairs professionals in higher education to discuss current and future technology trends. Ed Cabellon, the Director of the Campus Center at Bridgewater State University, organized the event and led the ceremonies. Since this was an “unconference,” participants voted on topics online prior to the event. It was more like an open discussion than a conference. Attendees came from all over, including North Carolina and Florida. Some were very proficient in social media, while others were just beginners. Many great topics were covered including analytics, blogging, QR codes, location-based services, SEO, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and privacy. But I’m going to go into a little more detail about what stood out to me: accessibility and keeping content engaging.

To be honest, when Eric Stoller, higher ed technology expert, brought up the subject of accessibility, I wasn’t really sure what that meant. “Ensuring our websites are usable by people of all abilities and disabilities is a legal and moral obligation many higher ed institutions have failed to live up to,” Eric writes on his blog. When building a school building, you would always think to make it wheelchair accessible, but the same logic usually is not top of mind when thinking about the web. The Internet is a valuable resource, and students who might have auditory, visual or cognitive disabilities should be able to access it too. In addition, making the web more accessible naturally leads to better SEO. Sounds like a win-win to me. The easiest way to get accessibility on the agendas of IT departments, technology vendors, administrators etc. is to start talking about it. Social media provides excellent channels for creating hype, so let’s get this initiative going!

Next up is student engagement. As a student, it was interesting to hear how higher ed professionals are trying to get my attention online: contests, iPads, blogs, etc. Social media is a very successful way to communicate with students, but only if you’re doing it right. The first step is to have a plan. Creating the accounts is a start, but a long-term plan and a lot of manpower is required to make those accounts successful. Part of this means giving students opportunities and content they wouldn’t receive elsewhere. You need to give a reason for your school’s community to to follow or fan you. Keep content fresh, engaging and be helpful. If a student is tweeting about limited seating in the library, offer them a different place to study or offer to petition for more seating. Become a trusted source for students.

I learned a lot at #satechBOS and if you’d like to check out more of the discussion, visit the Google Doc for lots of great resources and coverage.

Rebecca is a senior at Boston University studying public relations. Follow her @BeckyLoya.

2 Comments

Eric Stoller posted on August 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Great recap post. Looking forward to hanging out with all of the awesome social media peeps at BU now that I’m living in Boston!

Eric Hsiao posted on September 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Hi Rebecca,

I actually attended the Hubspot User Groups convention last Friday and you reiterated a lot of the main points that they had: blogging and producing remarkable content. Companies with blogs tend to get 55% more traffic on their website, 97% more inbound links that rank them higher on search engines, and 236% more leads that result in customers.

I think a main problem we have here at BU is decentralization of information. Yes, we have a TON of social media outlets. But what makes it difficult to follow is that they’re not organized in a cohesive manner. That’s where I think there needs to be a lot of improvement by syncing facebook, twitter, linkedin, and blogs together to drive traffic up. If they’re posting one thing on facebook, and never posting anything about their blog then how can the blog gain recognition on it’s own? Instead of 4 parallel social media sites, you have all 4 of them synced together in a cohesive manner. People using facebook can then access the same information that you posted on your blog.

Doing this requires some planning but I’m sure it will all work out in the long run. Producing remarkable content requires testing and frankly seeing what works and what doesn’t. In my blog http://www.urbanamp.com/blog we realized our traffic hadn’t increased in awhile so we changed our blog topics and now have a definite direction for the blog. Now, we are seeing a much steadier increase of readership.

If you want to contact me, you have my email and I would love to maybe do a guest post for this social media blog. I’m a firm believer of inbound marketing and I was a summer intern for Hubspot.

Thanks,
Eric

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