University of Michigan to hire social media director
When Lisa Rudgers left the University of Michigan’s communication office four years ago there were 28 million people on Facebook.
When she came back this summer as vice president of global communications, that number had ballooned to 650 million users. Four months later, there are 750 million users. Another 200 million users frequent Twitter, a social media tool founded in 2006.
“It’s obviously an explosive area of growth,” Rudgers said of social media, which is becoming increasingly important to how people, companies and universities brand and market themselves.
To accommodate the growth, the university is creating a social media director position within its communication office. The SMD, Rudgers said, will be responsible for keeping prospective students, current students, faculty, staff and alumni in the loop on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The SMD will also be looking toward international social media outlets, Rudgers continued.
“If you think about outside the United States, in China there are 475 million people on the Internet right now, so social media is not just for a domestic audience,” Rudgers said. “There’s a world-wide audience.”
But reaching that audience “is both an opportunity and a challenge,” and that’s why U-M needs a full-time person on the job, she said.
There are already more than 100 twitter accounts associated with the university. Those accounts promote research institutes, colleges and athletic teams. Additionally, the U-M football Facebook page has over 700,000 fans— the most fans of any NCAA football page, according to the U-M athletic department.
At 365,000 fans, U-M’s official Facebook page is half as popular as its football page.
Social media, Rudgers said, provides an opportunity for U-M to have a “dialogue” with followers. For example, U-M can use social media to stay in-touch with alumni who otherwise would have lost touch with the university.
In 2009, the University of Michigan was ranked first among universities embracing social media by a survey from Texas-based Global Language Monitor. GLM president and social media expert Paul Payack said that since 2009, the university has lost some ground on the social media front.
“They needed that position because, from our perspective, Michigan is one of the top schools in the nation but (the marketing) for its individual departments is not as strong as it could be,” Payack said of the SMD position. “For example, it always comes out as having a really top engineering program, but you never see that reflected in the outside media.”
Rudgers agreed that the university needs a stronger international voice.
“We worry we don’t get enough voice in the world, social media changes that in some ways,” she said. “It really changes the way we communicate."
Payack said more and more schools are turning towards social media to get exposure.
“It’s very powerful,” Payack said. “It’s a very strong factor in defining colleges and universities.”
Payack said that while he is seeing higher education institutions embrace social media as a part of their communication strategy, hiring an individual whose sole job is to strengthen the social media profile of an institution is still rare.
“It’s pretty innovative for a school as well known and respected as Michigan to hire someone like that,” he said.
The SMD position is advertised on U-M’s jobs website at a $90,000 to $110,000 salary. The average salary in the vice president of communications' office is $133,000, the average salary in U-M's communication division is $64,400.
View U-M’s existing social media guidelines here.