Social Media at CIC

This week, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Dr. Walter Kimbrough, who is the President of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas.  We spoke at the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Conference in Palm Springs on the topic of Social Media 101. Our presentation started with my discussion of a high level checklist of what college presidents need to know about social media, as it relates to their organizations. Then, Dr. Kimbrough went into a detailed description of his use of social media and how he personally embraces social communications on his blog, Facebook and Twitter.

I was very impressed with Dr. Kimbrough’s presentation as it really captured the essence of social engagement and revealed a wonderful way that a college president was connecting with parents, students, foundations and other constituents.  Dr. Kimbrough is known as the @HipHopPrez and he’s created quite a presence and a unique brand for himself.

Listening to Dr. Kimbrough was a great reminder of what social media is all about. One of the first things he stated to his peers in the room was “You have to be authentic.  Your words, your experiences and events…”  Dr. Kimbrough is in his 7th year as president of Philander Smith and wanted to find a way to make the campus more “real” and to connect with students.  He started a blog and created a Twitter feed and a Facebook profile to accomplish this goal.

Dr. Kimbrough’s blog, as he described it, has to be the “authentic you.” He told the audience that you can’t control what students do, but the best you can do is to be authentic.  He discusses higher education issues on his blog for the many alumni who have joined his community.  He mentioned that parents use it too because they like to see what’s happening, as well as the foundation directors who comprise his community.  He’s covered everything from ribbon cuttings to lectures of individuals on campus, always using a lot of photos to tell a visual story.  He knows his community very well and like a reporter shares what they want to learn about and read.

On Facebook, Dr. Kimbrough enjoys interacting with students and prospective students.  He loves to share photos and great news stories on his Facebook account.  Facebook allows Dr. Kimbrough to expand his reach of what’s happening on campus.  He tends to share interesting stories that he feels will benefit students, for example, a USA Today article, which discussed how tough the first week of college can be for kids. Because the campus attracts a wide mix of people, from famous celebrities to hip hop artists, Dr. Kimbrough shares numerous of photos of the personalities who visit their campus and he will tags students in those pictures.  Students then share the photos with their networks, and other students will even tag themselves.  Visual stories of famous people are a great way to draw in new students, who see a college that is very active with high profile guest lecturers.

Twitter is a little bit different as a communications channel.  Dr. Kimbrough doesn’t interact with the students as much here, but more so with the higher education influencers, donors and associations.  He shares news about the college, events and higher education issues regularly.  It was Twitter that really strengthened his brand with the handle @HipHopPres.  Dr. Kimbrough has attracted attention for Philander when he invited Ne Ne Leakes, from the Real Housewives of Atlanta to lecture on campus and she tweeted about her participation. Over 700 people showed up at the college to hear her speak and about 200 people had to be turned away.

It was fascinating to hear Dr. Kimbrough’s personal take on his participation and it was also great to see that he was so tuned into what his community expected from him (which varied on the different platforms).  What he talks about on his blog is different than his activities on Facebook and Twitter.  Dr. Kimbrough spends about an hour or so a day social networking and feels it’s a great way to connect more closely with different groups and to raise the profile of the college.

So, for all of you students or your educators out there…is your president blogging, on Facebook or tweeting?  If they are, we’d love to hear what they are doing!