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Notre Dame embraces social media use

Sara Felsenstein | Friday, September 2, 2011

Notre Dame now knows how to speak “hashtag.”

Todd Woodward, associate vice president for marketing communications, said Notre Dame’s voice is now making noise in the realm of social media.

“Social media has allowed us to be able to connect directly with the world,” Woodward said.

Outlets like Twitter and Facebook help people learn Notre Dame is more than college football, Woodward said.

“It’s about people looking at us and understanding us differently, more than just a conservative, Catholic, Midwest university, but [one that is] doing incredible work with incredible students,” he said.

In June, Notre Dame ranked No. 1 on a list of 20 colleges in USA Today for its innovative use of social media. The report, compiled for the magazine by BestCollegesOnline, recognized Notre Dame at the top of colleges that are “influencers and brainstormers” through strategic use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The USA Today article stated Notre Dame “greatly encourages the use of social media.” The magazine also ranked the University in its top spot for recognizing social media as “important to professional development.”

In recent years, different departments at the University developed social media as a way to connect with the Notre Dame family around the world.

“My hope is that it would extend teaching beyond the classroom,” Woodward said. “Learning is a 24-hour process and the more engaged the student is, the more they are going to learn … I think as we get more comfortable with social media, our engagement in the world will be greater.”

All social media at Notre Dame, however, must follow certain guidelines laid out by the University.

“I think we were named No. 1 mostly because we put some governance in place how to use social media,” Woodward said. “I think we’re ahead of most schools.”

Unlike most universities, Woodward said Notre Dame developed a mission statement for its use of social media.

 

“As an innovative university, we recognize the importance of open exchange and learning between the University of Notre Dame and its many constituents,” the mission statement reads. “We recognize the phenomenon of user-generated Web content — blogging, social website and networking — as an important arena for interaction and collaboration.”

The entire statement can be found on the Office of Public Relations website.

The proliferation of faculty blogging and University Facebook pages also contributed to the high ranking on the USA Today list, Woodward said.

“We use it first to listen, because we want to hear what people are saying about the University,” Woodward said. “In the past you’d have news and radio. Now we have blogs, Tumblr … it can be a cacophony of information, but we try to sort through it so we can understand what people are saying about the University.”

Faculty created 110 official blogs over the last two years to discuss their work at Notre Dame, Woodward said.

Readers and followers want to hear a voice both opinionated and personal when following Notre Dame online, Woodward said, and the University’s faculty and staff are still developing that identity.

“I don’t think we’ve perfected that yet,” Woodward said. “[But] the more people know about us, the more opinions we can change. To me, from the marketing standpoint, we’ll be able to tell our story better in the future.”

Kate Cohorst, senior writer and editor for the College of Arts and Letters communications, agreed social media spreads Notre Dame’s image beyond campus. Cohorst manages the @ArtsLettersND Twitter feed.

“You just never know where your tweets are going to be seen,” Cohorst said.

The college’s tweets vary from day to day.

“Sometimes [they are] stories we write, sometimes it is things I pick up in media, sometimes it’s links to little things our alumni and students are doing,” she said.

Like Woodward, Cohorst said conversation is an important aspect of social media. She said developing more of an online liberal arts discussion is one of her goals for the future.

Other colleges and academic departments manage Twitter and Facebook accounts as well. The College of Science, for example, tweets regularly under @NDscience.

Woodward said the marching band even uses Facebook and Twitter, and posts video clips on YouTube, responding to the large public demand to watch the “oldest university marching band” outside of the football stadium.

Sam Sanchez, assistant director for the Notre Dame marching band, said the band tweets and posts messages on Facebook to keep fans up-to-date on performances and events.

Sanchez said the bands initially posted shorter clips on YouTube, as opposed to entire halftime shows. But the videos received so many hits, Sanchez said he can now post videos up to 30 minutes long.

“Social media outlets have allowed the ND Band to give our followers a window into events that they cannot always attend,” he said. “So far, the interaction has been very positive and our fans seem very appreciative when a tweet or post shows up in their news feed.”

The athletic department also started a brand new digital Sam Sanchez, assistant director for the Notre Dame marching band, said the band tweets and posts messages on Facebook to keep fans up-to-date on performances and events.

Sanchez said the bands initially posted shorter clips on YouTube, as opposed to entire halftime shows. But the videos received so many hits, Sanchez said he can now post videos up to 30 minutes long.

“Social media outlets have allowed the ND Band to give our followers a window into events that they cannot always attend,” he said. “So far, the interaction has been very positive and our fans seem very appreciative when a tweet or post shows up in their news feed.”

media division this summer. It maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts for sports teams and sends text message alerts to fans who choose to stay updated.

Director of Football Media Relations Brian Hardin said Facebook and Twitter each play very specific roles in the program.

“We use Twitter as a way to inform our fans, and we use Facebook as a way to engage them,” he said. “Twitter is built for really brief updates, while Facebook you can reach out and have a longer dialogue with fans out there.”

He said social media gives fans the opportunity to more intimately connect with the program.

“Social media is not going away,” Hardin said. “It’s important to get involved and engaged with it.”