Social Networking Goes Abroad by ecj13059


                                           Abroad                                                By Kristine E. Murray and Rhonda Waller

                                              Social Networking Goes Abroad

                                           W  HeN JOANNe kRAmB, memBeR ReLATIONS ANd mARkeTING OFFIceR at the inter-
                                              national student exchange Program (iseP), was redesigning the organization’s marketing
                                              plan, she distributed a survey to students and not surprisingly, found that their favorite Web
                                              site was Facebook. she approached her coworkers with the idea of creating an iseP group
                                              on the site and found that they were on both sides of the argument. Many were apprehensive
                                              about creating a group because students would essentially be allowed to post information
                                              at will. Others were encouraging and wanted to give it a try. After much discussion, iseP
                                              decided to create a group on Facebook and see what might happen. Now, after only a few
                                              months, the iseP group boasts nearly 1,000 members and communication through the
                                                        group site is quickly replacing telephone and e-mail inquiries, according to Kramb.
                                                        “it’s more informal for students and they feel more comfortable sending a message
                                                        on Facebook,” noted Kramb. since the explosion of social networking sites on the
                                                        internet, these types of exchanges between students, study abroad advisers, and
                                                        study abroad providers have become increasingly commonplace.

                                                        ABraveNewVirtualWorld                       most popular site in
                                                          social networking sites are virtual com-      the United states and
                                              munities for people interested in a particular subject    sixth most popular
                                              or just to “hang out” together. Members communi-          internet site in the
                                              cate by voice, chat, instant message, videoconference,    world, as noted by
                                              and blogs, and the service typically provides a way for   Alexa internet, inc.
                                              members to contact friends of other members. some         in their ranking of top
                                              current sites include Xanga, Ringo, Bebo, Where Are       U.s. sites.
                                              You Now (WAYN), Friendster, The Froghouse, and

                                              the most popular among college students, Facebook         OpportunitiestoInteractandlearn
                                              and Myspace. Within the past few years, Facebook          For education abroad advisers, these sites are gener-
                                              and Myspace have become an ordinary part of the           ating exciting new opportunities to interact with and
                                              lives of college students around the United states and    learn about students. Communication on a number
                                              increasingly, around the globe. looking at the num-       of levels can occur with students, both directly and
                                              bers says it all. According to comscore Media Matrix,     indirectly. Advisers can proactively search for stu-
                                              of the near 20 million unique visitors ages 18–24 on      dents or simply be available on the sites by having
                                              the internet worldwide, more than 50 percent visit        an individual or office profile. Although there are
                                              Myspace and more than 25 percent visit Facebook.          countless ways these sites are being used, creating
                                              While Facebook’s popularity remains primarily in the      common interest groups, posting upcoming events,
                                              United states ranking tenth and only 39th globally,       and advertising are the most popular options being
                                              Myspace ranks strongly on both levels, as the third       used by those in the field.

    How does it work? A user must first                                                      act. At Marymount
register with Facebook. in this process,                                                     University, the Office
one creates an account with an e-mail                                                        of study Abroad has
address and birthday. The next step is to                                                    created a group called
join a regional network (by entering your                                                    “MU Global” not only
city and state), a college and/or work network. At this   to share general information on study abroad and the
point a profile can be created which might include        office, but also to link returning education abroad stu-
photos of the individual user or an entire staff. Now,    dents with current or prospective students. students
the user is ready to begin interacting with the Face-     may contact a returning student at the click of a mouse
book community. My space involves a similar process       for each of Marymount’s program sites. “The student-
to get started, where a user registers before creating    to-student connection seems to work the best on our
a profile that may include a variety of information,      campus and this (Facebook) seems to be a great outlet
photos, music and even video.                             for this,” said Rebecca Poznick, study abroad coordina-
    Creating a common interest group on either Face-      tor at Marymount University. The adviser of a group
book or Myspace is one of the most popular features       may determine who can view or join the group, remove
being used by education abroad advisers. Groups can       members, edit content on the site, send messages to all
be created to connect students with a common inter-       members of a group at once (Facebook) or post a topic
est and once established many other features become       or bulletin for all to see (Myspace). The group feature
available for communication. For instance, groups can     can also be set to allow members to send a message to
be created for students interested in studying abroad,    the group en masse, add important information to the
those going on a particular program, for returning        group profile, invite or remove members, and edit any
participants, or all of the above to meet and inter-      content posted by a member. While other groups such

                  acebook exploded onto the         school, company, military, or              Anderson and Chris DeWolfe. The
                  college scene in 2004 and         geographic networks. The site now          site was created to allow users to
                  has become an important           boasts over twelve million regis-          post information about themselves
          networking and socializing tool for       tered visitors and it continues to         and interact with other users.
          today’s students. The site was            grow. From july to December                MySpace has been recently esti-
          created by former harvard student         2006, there has been approximate-          mated to be worth six billion dollars
          Mark zuckerberg as a way for              ly a 75 percent increase in daily          and the number of profiles expect-
          harvard students to communicate           reach for Facebook, showing that           ed by the end of 2006 topped 200
                                                                                                                                                        M AY + J U N. 07

          and interact with each other online.      this is still a growing site, according    million (as reported in the Novem-
          It rapidly grew to include other          to comScore Media Matrix.                  ber 2006 issue of Advertising Age).
             colleges in the Boston area and            Similarly, MySpace, another so-        Facebook and MySpace dominate
               within months, expanded to the       cial networking site, attracts many        the world of social networking sites
                national level. Today, anyone       college-age students. The current          on the Internet and millions of col-
                                                                                                                                                           INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR

                 may create a profile and join      form of MySpace emerged in 2003            lege students around the country
                 one of the many college, high      and was founded primarily by Tom           and world have and continue to
                                                                                               create profiles.

                                                                                                   PhOTOS: ISTOCKPhOTO. FrOM lEFT: ShEllY PErrY; N/A;
                                                                                                   jASON STITT; DAN WIlTON

                                          as “vCU international education,” “Barce-          are using the sites for a variety of adver-         expo” listing the date, time, location and oth-
                                          lona study Abroad 2006” and “international         tising-related purposes. Through paid               er important details about the event. students
                                          education” have been created by education          advertisements, groups, creating events, and        were able to ask questions on the event site,
                                          abroad offices and companies, the major-           sending messages to individuals and groups,         RsvP, and even find out information about
                                          ity of education abroad-related groups on          these sites make it convenient to spread the        the office if they were unable to attend the
                                          Myspace (121 groups) and Facebook (439             word to students efficiently and inexpensive-       event. Another method of advertising events
                                          groups) are student-created.                       ly. “We are always looking to reach the ideal       and programs is by simply sending a message
                                              lo oking at                                                     target market, and pretty          to individual students or to a group on either
                                          student-created                                                     much every student is on-          site. Members of an entire group can be sent
                                          groups undoubt-                                                     line. These sites do a great       a message via Facebook, while Myspace al-
                                          edly provides an                                                    job at targeting their audi-       lows members to post a discussion topic or
                                          opportunity for                                                     ences,” said stephen Down,         bulletin that all members can view, or instant
                                          education abroad                                                    media and international            message other group members.
                                          professionals to                                                    marketing manager for the              Another way that these sites can be used
                                          learn more about                                                    Career education Corpo-            for advertising purposes is for publicity. When
                                          the students they                                                   ration, who advertises for         searching for photos and quotes from stu-
                                          serve. students                                                     American intercontinental          dents’ education abroad experiences, many
                                          perhaps might                                                       University’s (AiU) london          can be found through Myspace or Face-
                                          not want to share the same information on          study Abroad Program.                               book. While a student’s permission should
                                          an official site as they would on a student-            Paid advertisements are one way that           be gained before posting a photo or quote,
                                          based site. By browsing some of the student        Myspace and Facebook allow education                these sites can be a goldmine when creating
                                          created sites, advisers can view complaints,       abroad advisers and companies to reach              publicity. students are able to create blogs and
                                          compliments, or concerns that they might           students through banner ads, virtual flyers,        photo albums dealing with their education
                                          not otherwise receive. This can be utilized        and sponsored links with some options be-           abroad experiences. However, some advisers
                                          to better understand students’ needs and to        ing very inexpensive.                                                         are wary of seeking
                                          serve them better in the future. For example,      Through Facebook, for                                                         out students through
                                          if a student complains about an aspect of a        example, 10,000 virtual                                                       these sites for fear of
                                          program, advisers can choose to explore the        flyers will be shown to                                                       discovering evidence
                                          situation in more detail, take a survey from       an advertiser’s target                                                        of unsavory behavior
                                          other participants, and investigate how to im-     audience for only $5.00,                                                      or damaging com-
                                          prove the situation for future participants.       making it possible for                                                        ments within the
                                              sometimes students are just looking for        offices and companies                                                         students’ postings.
                                          information that advisers can readily supply.      with the smallest mar-                                                        it is this risk that
                                          For example, a student named “Julia” asks for      keting budgets to reach                                                       has many education

                                          advice on what to pack in the “Florence italy      a large audience. in ad-                                                      abroad professionals
                                          study Abroad 2006–2007” group site on              dition to paid options, both sites provide          approaching social networking sites with sus-
                                          Myspace. Advisers could post suggestions           several free ways to advertise. Creating an         picion and apprehension.
                                          directly to the site, prepare a list for distri-   event is one popular advertising method that
                                          bution during education abroad orientation,        education abroad advisers employ frequently.        communicationinatruly
                                          directly contact the student, or include the       Using the event feature to announce upcom-          PublicSpace
                                          information in future publications.                ing events and programs allows advisers to          With stories being regularly posted in the
                                                                                             invite participants, give important details         news of students participating in inappro-
                                          MarketingandAdvertising                          about the event, and even gather an RsvP            priate, risky, or even illegal behavior, it is
                                          in addition to utilizing the group feature on      list. The University of Wisconsin-la Crosse         easy to understand why some advisers are
                                          Facebook and Myspace to reach students,            used this feature to spread the word on Face-       concerned about utilizing these sites. “it is
                                          education abroad advisers and companies            book about their upcoming “study Abroad             fairly clear that the quest of an authentic,

5                                                                                                            PhOTOS FrOM lEFT: lINCOlN rOGErS/ ShUTTErSTOCK; PhOTODISC; rAISA KANArEVA/ ShUTTErSTOCK
unedited, unrestricted                                                     of, ‘He’s doing what    whether these sites are an asset, liability, or
student voice assumes                                                      in Thailand?’ and at    both, there is no denying their importance in
some risk (unsatisfied                                                     first felt like i was   the world of today’s students.
participants, applicants,                                                  invading their pri-        Colleges and universities around the
etc). Depending upon                                                       vacy,” said emily       country have responded to these social
their sentiments it is                                                     Gorlewski, program      networking sites in a variety of ways, from
also a potential chal-                                                     assistant for cospon-   embracing the exciting new possibilities
lenge to institutional                                                     sored study abroad      they hold to regarding them with a deep
communications,” states Gordon schaeffer,      and exchange programs at Northern illinois          skepticism. While arguments for both the
senior analyst with the University of Cali-    University. “But then i thought, students           benefits and risks of Facebook will continue
fornia education Abroad Programs. Barbara      need to realize that their information is in a      to be voiced, there is no denying that these
lindeman, director of study abroad at the      public space and that we can see what they          types of social networking sites are not
University of Missouri-Columbia, echoes        post.”                                              disappearing any time soon. As Kramb suc-
the sentiments of a worried colleague,             Catherine Orr, events and publications          cinctly points out, “it’s the hottest thing on
“What if they trash a host family based on a   coordinator for the Office of international ed-     campuses right now. There is only so much
personality conflict?”                         ucation at the University of Richmond, agrees.      you can do to bring students to you and
   so, not everyone believes that visiting     “The presence of academics and student affairs      then you have to go where they are.”        IE
student profiles and groups is a good idea.    offices on such a venue can be greatly positive
some advisers like to maintain a distance                                                          kRIStINEE.MuRRAy is program
                                               as it will serve as a direct reminder to students
                                                                                                   coordinator of international programs
between themselves and student groups and      that they should think carefully about how
                                                                                                   and services at University of Southern
profiles. “When we first went on Facebook      they want to represent themselves to not only       Indiana. RHONdAWAllER is study
and were looking at the profiles of current    their friends, but to a much larger, unlimited      abroad coordinator at the University of
study abroad students, i had some thoughts     audience.” Although it is still being debated       Missouri-Columbia.

                                                                                                                                                     M AY + J U N. 07
                                                                                                                                                        INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR


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