Written by:
Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant
NAPL

Just as declining print volumes are impacting commercial printers it is also impacting in-plants –  especially university in-plants. In addition to budget cuts for departments and staff, universities are aggressively pursuing Green Initiatives and asking facility and students to print less.

animated social peopleThe obvious question is what should the university in-plant printer do when the administration is discouraging print. One answer we often recommend is offering new services such as design, signage, mailing, and social media services.

Without a doubt, the fastest growing communication tool is social media. According to Pew, 65 percent of all adults in the U.S. use social media and 13 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. But the idea of using social media to promote colleges and universities or to help achieve their business objectives such as branding, recruitment or fundraising is not without concerns. Clearly there are pros and cons associated with social media.

Cons:

  • It is time consuming. Content must be created, edited, approved and published. Although it can be worked on between other tasks and using mobile technologies, expect a minimum of 30 min./day for 5 days.
  • If the administration are control freaks, this can be seen as a huge risk. Anything you publish is immediately available and up for grabs, others can easily criticize you.
  • It is a long term effort. Your return on investment is delayed. The benefits may require months or years to become obvious.
  • If you make a mistake, the effects can be immediate and fast because it will be via social media too (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook).

 

Pros:

  • For students and young faculty it is the preferred method of communication.
  • Except for a time commitment it has a low cost.
  • It offers tools such as surveys and data analytics to learn more about customers existing and changing preferences.
  • It is effective for communication, reinforcing brand loyalty, building new relationships and maintaining them.
  • It can be very effective to help faculty and staff achieve their goals such as student recruitment, improved SEO (Search Engine Optimization), fundraising, and is a faster and less expensive vehicle to communicate to your community (Alumni).
  • Most importantly, it can be combined with other communication tools such as QR codes, pURLS, texting and variable data printing to create customized solutions that are less expensive and more cost effective for customers.

 

Last but not least is who should be responsible for social media in colleges and universities? There is no clear choice. If you ask around, you will find social media work being done by University Relations, IT and even the in-plant printing facility. Sometimes all it takes is someone volunteering and building a business case. How are you ensuring your relevance and creating more value?

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Howard Fenton is a Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.