Faculty & Academia: Opportunity Close to Home

I try to make it to at least one or two digital marketing conferences each year – preferably one focused on post-secondary education and another that isn’t sector specific but these things cost time and money and my first priority for these limited resources is to fit in HighEdWeb and #pseweb.

In the last twelve months, I was lucky to be able to go to both of these conferences but I also added something new to my world – something that didn’t require trips to the airport, meals or accommodations.  I went to academic conferences.

I went to the Technology in Education Symposium and will never think the same about social media policy for higher education. I went to Social Media – Implications for the University at York University and saw how pervasive these little online tools are throughout every aspect of the university experience. This past weekend, I attended Apps and Affect and had the work that we do using the new shiny apps and sites put into perspective against those that have gone before, and those that are coming next.

Adding these six days of development into my year cost two business days (four weekend days) and less than $400. One was free, one offered a $10 day pass and two were within walking distance of either my desk or my house.

It’s easy to create an Apple product desk fortress and say that these conferences didn’t talk about marketing, they don’t apply to what we do. But I disagree. Anyone who limits the potential of web & social media to communications isn’t someone that I want to have tea with – these tools have always been about so much more and to be true digital professionals, we have to think bigger than landing pages and push messaging. Digital tools offer communications opportunities, customer service obligations and reputation risks – and only the first of these is optional – in my opinion, the second and third have to be covered before we can responsibly consider putting together the next viral lip dub.

All three of these conferences gave me the opportunity to see faculty of my institution speak alongside peers from other schools around the world.  They talked about the classroom experience and how to use my favourite tools to better educate our students.  They presented technology use cases with impressive results that would have violated most corporate social media policies. They presented the findings of months and years spent exploring, testing and researching the technologies that we love.

We talk a great deal about the importance of humanizing the brand using social media – for me, these conferences showed me the humans who are teaching & researching on our campus. (Did you know they have their own social networks?) If you haven’t taken in an academic conference or two on your campus, or if you are looking at how to keep developing & stay creative with a limited budget/time, look into this. I’m sold and counting the days until the next one.

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