Project Outputs

It’s been a fairly busy few weeks but the SM4BCE project has now produced all of it’s required outputs and is now essentially finished. This doesn’t mean the work of the project is over – I’m really confident that Coventry University will continue to use social media for it’s business engagement and that the way the University engages with business will continue to evolve as technologies change.

If you are interested in reading a more detailed account of the SM4BCE project’s progression a link to the full written case study is available here.

A short audio description featuring me and several colleagues from the project is also available to listen to via soundcloud:

Jisc: Social Media for Business & Community Engagement by Claire_Belle

Finally, if you’re looking to get started with social media for business and community engagement then a “social media toolkit” produced by the project is now available here.



Second Focus Group: Outcomes

Last week’s focus group was another really interesting session – it was a slightly smaller group this time with only three business and community representatives but we had a great discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of social media use. Interestingly, we came to some of the same conclusions as last time particularly in terms of social networks for interacting with other businesses – LinkedIn was again seen as the key social network with Twitter seen as important but not as strategically valuable.

Some of the other interesting points which came out of this session are as follows:

  • Social media is not seen as a direct sales tool. Instead social networks are valuable for awareness-raising, public relations and networking with those whom you might struggle to engage with elsewhere. Social media content is seen as particularly valuable for driving traffic to a company’s website
  • HEIs in general still aren’t great at social media for business engagement. WMG at the University of Warwick were highlighted as being particularly good
  • Social media is seen as a supplement to “traditional” modes of communications. People will still rely on e-mail or phone communication to really develop a relationship – even if that relationship originated on social media
  • There is real value in using social media for internal communications, particularly in larger organisations. Yammer was highlighted as were blogs and internal communication forums
  • Providing adequate resource to manage your social media correctly is a concern as is managing content disseminated via social media

The two focus group sessions we have run as part of the project have been extremely interesting and very valuable in validating our existing thoughts and research about the value of social media for business engagement. The message I’m getting continues to be clear, we need to be using social media to engage with our business and community partners and we need to provide resource to do this well.


All Change!

Quite a lot has changed since my last post – I was offered a job at the University of Nottingham which I’m taking up at the start of June and as a result the end date of this project has moved forward to the end of May. The last week has been a slightly frantic whirlwind of planning, list making and case study writing to ensure that I’m actually in a position to close the project sensibly.

I spent a significant amount of time updating my written project case study – which now stands at a whopping 3,700 words – and then discussing my case study with Sarah Chesney who is the JISC critical friend assigned to my project. It’s not finished yet by any means but I feel like I’ve made a real step forwards with it. I have two pages of notes which outline suggested changes to it as well as a few bits of analysis of various research which I need to drop in but I’m confident that I can get all of this done in time. Once it is I will try to get a copy hosted as part of this blog – I noticed yesterday one of the other Transformations projects had managed to do this via Slideshare but I’m not sure my coding skills are quite up to that!

I’ve also had to think about the two other outputs I need to produce – the audio/video case study required by JISC and the social media for business engagement toolkit which I’ve always intended to be the project’s long term “legacy”. Thanks to the recent Jisc Netskills training session on Digital Storytelling I have an outline plan for my audio/video case study – all I need to do now is write a full script and then record it… The toolkit was a bit more tricky but with some more assistance from the wonderful Sarah I’ve at least got a sense of something I can do quite easily and that can be hosted as part of this blog.

Next up is a second project focus group next Tuesday with another group of business representatives. I’m excited about this as we got so much useful feedback from the last session – I just hope we can get as much out of this one!

Really Taking Off

The past few weeks have been really, really busy! Suddenly awareness of social media seems to be everywhere across the University and I keep getting requests to go and talk to people about what I’m doing with this project and how they can take advantage of it.

In addition to using the Coventry University twitter feed (@covcampus for those interested) to promote business-relevant activity I’ve also finally got access to the Coventry University LinkedIn page – something which I’ve been trying to do for three whole months! I think LinkedIn is the obvious route for engaging business contacts with what the University can offer and it’s a platform which seems to be growing and developing all the time. My current task is to get all of our key products and services detailed on the LinkedIn page and ensure there’s a regular stream of exciting content so we can start to engage our current followers and hopefully attract some new ones! There’s still a debate about whether we need a dedicated twitter feed for our business-facing activity but to be honest I think something like that would require full-time support, something which I’m just not able to provide.

I’ve also been working with the University’s Social Media Officer to ensure that social media for business engagement is getting fed into our new Marketing Strategy. I can’t say very much about this, mostly because I haven’t seen the final version but it’s becoming increasingly clear that there will be a need for dedicated resources to ensure the work of the project continues after July and I’m currently working to develop the business case for this.

Digital Storytelling

The project continues to proceed apace – I can’t believe it’s the end of March already! It’s getting quite exciting as new people see the potential of social media and start to actually use it which means I’m feeling reassured that the project will have had some impact. As the project is due to end in July I’m also increasingly thinking about outputs, particularly the video/audio case study and to that end I attended a course run by Jisc Netskills on Digital Storytelling in London last month.

Apart from starting off the day by getting lost in Brettenham House and nearly missing the start of the training session it was a really good course and very useful. I’ve not really done any digital storytelling before, my main form of communication is written and my use of YouTube is primarily limited to watching funny cat videos so the concept was all new to me. Having said that any form of communication requires storytelling techniques but it was good to have the time and space to focus in on the key narratives of my project and to think about how I might share these in a digital medium, particularly given the focus of my project!

One of the most interesting parts of the day was mapping out an “emotional timeline” of the project – so looking at turning points, highs and lows. This was slightly hampered by the fact that the project is still running so there’s more still to come but the timeline exercise plus discussions with fellow delegates did help me to identify a potential narrative for my video case study. I don’t want to spoil the surprise too much (!) but it focuses on the focus group session we held in December 2012 and how that not only validated a lot of the assumptions we’d made up until that point but provided a real catalyst for action.

The really reassuring thing about the course is that it was evident we weren’t expected to do a professional standard film about the project! The suggested route was an audio description overlaid by relevant images and the examples shown were really effective and inspirational. I’m feeling a lot more confident about this whole aspect of the project now and even have my video case study tentatively mapped out!


Social Media Tools: Yammer

Since the Focus Group session in December I have been looking into a social networking site called Yammer. Yammer is an enterprise social network, originally a small start up but now owned by Microsoft, which purports to improve communications across organisations. As I’m sure anyone who works in HE is aware, Universities aren’t the best organisations for internal communications and talking to people across established “silos” such as faculties can be difficult. One of the issues I’m coming up against time and again with this project is getting hold of information about what business-facing activities are going on above and beyond my current knowledge so I thought looking at a social media tool for internal communications might have the potential to be very helpful indeed.

So since January I’ve joined the Coventry University Yammer network and posted a few times about my project with a rather limited response, certainly less than I’ve had from similar emails. The problem appears to be that not many people at the University are on Yammer and those who are don’t use it… I then attended “Yammer on Tour” in London a few weeks ago which is Yammer’s annual roadshow, where they talk about product developments over the past year as well as give you the opportunity to hear from companies who are currently using Yammer. It was a really interesting event and a lot bigger than I expected, perhaps unsurprising with Yammer’s new Microsoft connections.

I think Yammer has huge potential, particularly for large and unwieldy organisations like ours, and I love the idea of social networking being used to improve communications within an organisation and to help people collaborate. The link between Yammer and Microsoft, particularly the integration of Yammer with products such as Office and Sharepoint also helps me see how it might eventually become an integral part of how all organisations communicate. I also found the case studies from organisations who have implemented a large scale adoption of Yammer such as LexisNexis, Gatwick Airport and Insead Business School very inspirational.

Unfortunately implementing a Coventry University-wide Yammer network and driving uptake of it by staff is way outside the remit of this project. Luckily both our HR and Marketing teams are already tentatively interested so it may be something that starts to happen anyway but it’s not something I can achieve by July with relatively limited resources. I would like to see it happen however and will push for Yammer adoption as one of the routes to making the work of this project sustainable.

Case Studies: JISC Webinar

One of the things I hadn’t really realised was that the funding for this project was to be used not just to buy out staff time to deliver the project but also to buy out time for development and training activities. A few weeks ago I attended a webinar run by Andy Stewart of Jisc Infonet which provided some more details on the reporting requirements for Transformations projects – a written case study & a short audio or video case study. The webinar was really useful, not just as a reminder of the work I still need to do, but in providing some good hints and tips about how to successfully complete both case studies. Andy also signposted some good examples created by other projects in the programme which I’m definitely planning to check out!

Most of the advice regarding the written case study was reasonably self-evident but there were definitely a few points I need to bear in mind as I complete mine:

  • Use a PESTLE/SWOT analysis to complete the Key Drivers section
  • Ensure you capture things that didn’t work
  • Think about what you would do differently if you ran the project again
  • Ensure you capture how the work of the project will be sustained

The main piece of advice I took from the section on the video case studies was to keep it short! Andy recommended a two to five minute video or audio description which definitely feels achievable. I’m also due to attend a Jisc workshop on digital storytelling later this month which will help develop my thinking about the video case study further.


Measuring Progress

One of the issues I’ve struggled to address so far is how to measure progress/success in this project. My default answer has been “getting any kind of business-facing activity onto our social media channels” but as we start to move towards the end of the project in July I really want to start looking at ways we can measure this activity.

Coincidentally the University is investing a lot of resource into social media activity in general which is something which has become increasingly helpful as this project progresses. In particular they’ve just invested in Hootsuite Pro and Brandwatch, both of which include a number of features to track and analyse social media activity which should help me to gather some more detailed statistics about the impact of the project’s activity. Brandwatch also helps you to analyse activity across the web so it should be able to help me see where the University’s business-facing activity is already being talked about and to enable us to capitalise on this.

It’s still early days for me in terms of using both these resources so I’m still getting my head around how exactly they work and how to best use them. The exciting thing is that I now potentially have access to data sources which will allow me to measure the real impact of the project!

Starting to Use Social Media

My main task over the past few weeks has been to start to generate content for the University’s social media sites which will be interesting and relevant to businesses – as mentioned before I’m primarily focussing in Twitter and LinkedIn.

I’m initially focussing on three key areas of the University’s business and community engagement:

  • Events: we run a variety of business-facing events, ranging from regular business breakfasts to research profile-raising and partner finding events. A common concern is attracting different clients to these events, ensuring that we not only have good levels of attendance but that we are reaching a diverse audience.
  • Funding opportunities: Coventry University has access to a significant amount of funding which it uses to provide grant support to businesses, particularly through the European Regional Development fund. We therefore often need to share these opportunities and ensure that grant funding is fully taken up. On the other hand we’re often looking for industry partners for funding applications so finding new collaborators is also key
  • General profile-raising: something that arises frequently in our interactions with business and community partners of all sizes is that they don’t know what we are doing or what our capabilities are. There a number of reasons for this, one being that our website is difficult to use and often out of date, but I think that social media might provide a way to start seriously tackling this issue.

The problem I’m currently encountering is gathering information – whilst I’m aware of a lot that’s going on in the University I don’t know everything! I’ve had some suggestions via email but not a huge amount. I’ve also started using Yammer which is a social network aimed at encouraging collaboration across large organisations but it seems to be sparsely used by other staff members at the moment which is frustrating.

Action Learning Sets: Number Three

Last Friday I participated in my third Action Learning Set. I have to admit I was skeptical about how useful these would be when we were first asked to participate in them but they’re actually incredibly helpful – for both reassurance and shared learning.

We spent a lot of time in this session talking about ensuring our projects are sustainable, that they have an impact that goes beyond the life of the project and that they become part of what your Institution does in the long term. In fact when I first started this project my biggest concern was how I could turn a relatively small project into real institutional change. I’ve been lucky however in that my work has coincided with two things: the design of a brand new Coventry University, designed to be much more social and the arrival of our new Marketing & Communications Director, who is very keen to make the University a leader in social media. This project is of course about business engagement which is not the same thing as marketing but it’s encouraging to see the University dedicating more resource to supporting social media – this makes me very optimistic that my work will have a life beyond the end of this project.

We also spent a bit of time talking about some of the outcomes we have to deliver as part of our funding agreements with Jisc – both a written and a video case study. I have to admit I haven’t spent much time thinking about either so far which means my key actions from this Action Learning Set are as follows:

  • Start working on written case study template as provided by Jisc
  • Begin planning video case study, including thinking about other people who could participate

I also want to continue to think about ensuring the sustainability of the project by getting other members of our business development staff involved with using social media to engage with businesses. We also briefly discussed social media policies and whether they need to be tailored to suit specific activities so this will be something I take forwards as we start to use social media in a business context.