Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just Another #MaristMonday

I don’t like being called a “social media expert” because I don’t believe there is such a thing.  The social media evolution, or should I say revolution, makes it nearly impossible to keep up with every new networking or bookmarking site. Last June, when I spoke at the College Media Conference in Baltimore, MD, I mentioned a Web site called namechk.com.  It listed 149 such sites which you can check to see if your user name or “vanity URL” is still available.  Fast forward to earlier this month.  I gave another social media presentation to 140 senior communications officials from colleges and universities across the U.S. (as well as Japan and Spain) at the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors to Higher Education conference in Washington, D.C.  When I showed namechk.com again, the number of sites increased to 160.  Entrepreneurs and technorati want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey (founder of twitter), and established mega companies like Google and Yahoo! experiment with new applications to keep us eternally connected to one another – or at least to their platforms.

Yes, I enjoy speaking about social media, but no, I’m not an expert.  I share what I’ve learned by doing, succeeding, failing, repurposing. Tips from other users more intelligent than I are much appreciated, too.  Such is the case with on twitter.  That suggestion came from 2007 Marist alumnus Michael Sterchak, an analyst with the Federal Reserve in New York.  

Marist employees get together after Commencement for a community-building BBQ called Marist Fun Day to celebrate the hard work of the college’s faculty, administrators and staff and the successes of the academic year.  That moniker makes me think of The Bangles 1986 hit “Manic Monday” and its catchy riff, “Just another Manic Monday.”  Unfortunately, I do not get to attend Marist Fun Day because I am usually overseas teaching a religious studies class (this year in Greece, Turkey and Rome for a course on the life and writings of St. Paul).  Even though I’m not there, I can’t get The Bangles' tune out of my head as I silently sing “Just another Marist Fun Day.”  You’d think I would have taken the next logical step to come up with the catchy hashtag that encourages a sense of community among the Marist College Family.  I didn’t.

It was Michael (@ on twitter) who suggested , which has developed into an opportunity for students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, parents and others to share their current Marist experiences or fond Marist memories.  I also use it as a Marist version of #FF (Follow Friday) and share the twitter handles of Red Foxes who are new to the medium or newly-linked with me.  On a couple of occasions, #MaristMonday became a trending topic, no small feat considering Marist is a relatively small college.

Michael took his creativity a step further.  On September 21, 2009, I tweeted “Today is , but tune in Wednesday for the biggest announcement in Marist history.”  Michael retweeted that with the hashtag #BigNewsMaristWednesday.  For the next two days, more than 2,000 individual tweets tried to guess what the big news was.  That campaign generated buzz and excitement and pushed traffic to the Marist Web site for the announcement of a $75 million gift – the largest donation in Marist history and, as noted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the 12th largest gift made to any nonprofit organization that year.  The generosity of the late Raymond A. Rich included a 42,000-square-foot architecturally and historically significant mansion on the Hudson River in Esopus, NY, and the creation of the Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development.

How many visitors came to the landing site on the Marist homepage highlighting the big news and the slideshow of the Mansion?  I’ll let Google Analytics show you the spike in traffic for that day:

A second URL for the news release announcing the gift showed similar statistics.  By comparison, 641 visitors viewed Marist Public Affairs news release pages yesterday.

That’s when I saw, first-hand, the power of social media, and I’ve been a proponent ever since.

There will be additional posts on social media down the line, but I would like to note an event held one week ago tonight.  For junior communication major Marissa DeAngelis (@), what started as a project for Professor Mark Van Dyke's (@) public relations class turned into a learning opportunity for her and about three dozen Marist students, faculty, staff and local residents. Marissa, who is from Scituate, RI, organized a “TweetUp,” a gathering of twitter users connected to Marist who met face-to-face, many for the first time.  It was also one of the first TweetUps on any college or university campus in the country.

Marissa, who will be in my COM470 class next semester, senior Alyssa Bronander of Wyckoff, NJ (
@), who was in my class last semester, and junior Luke Shane of Bolton Landing, NY, (@ – who ran the Boston Marathon in 2:44:49 the day before and still had the energy to give a dynamic presentation at 9 p.m. Tuesday), all Communication majors, gave tips on how to best use social media. They detailed their forays into blogging and tweeting and the personal and professional connections they have made.  Dean of Undergraduate Admission Kent Rinehart (the official @ tweeter) discussed how the college uses social media to communicate with current and prospective students and their families.  I discussed the pros and cons of “digital footprints” and how they can help or hurt a student’s (or for that matter, anyone’s) search for employment.

Marissa’s organizational skills led to a well-run event.  Alyssa will graduate in less than a month, and I can sum up her talents by a hashtag that some wise public relations agency, corporation or nonprofit will heed: #HireThisWoman!

Also in attendance was Chris Cornell (
@), director of social media at Thompson & Bender, a Westchester-based public relations, advertising and marketing firm and the man behind TwitterProfessor.com. Chris also reported on the event for The Examiner, a weekly newspaper covering New York's Westchester and Putnam counties. The full article can be found at http://bit.ly/eMkkMJ.

One last thing...I’d like to thank Sarah Abouelmakarem (@), a Marist junior communications major with a concentration in public relations, for creating the banner at the top of this blog.  Sarah used her artistic skills to develop the stained glass motif.  We’re going to work on it just a little more, but her generous offer to give a visual identity to this blog was unsolicited and is greatly appreciated.  Thank you again, Sarah.


  1. Thanks for the post, Tim ... and the mention of Marist students like @MSDe526, @ARBro, and @LShane262 ... just a few of many students who produce such outstanding work. The rewards of teaching at Marist are students like these who love learning and create wonderful things with the knowledge they gain.

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