There is more to websites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter than pictures and wall posts. A UC Davis employee will explore social networking sites as a means to raise money for the campus.
The Palo Alto-based Society for New Communications Research awarded Susanne Rockwell, web editor for University Communications, with a fellowship to study social media’s uses on college campuses.
In early February, the nonprofit announced this year’s 50 plus fellows, who work on original research to study media and communication trends and effects.
The UC Davis alumna holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in rhetoric and communication, both from UC Davis. By working with the Society, Rockwell aims to study the school’s use of social media to reach out to students, faculty and staff and how it can affect philanthropy.
“We are really interested in how people respond to social media,” Rockwell said. “The problem is it’s like a run-away train. Today it’s Twitter. Yesterday it was Facebook. Tomorrow it’s who-knows-what. It’s something that is evolving so quickly.“
After looking at Rockwell’s proposal, the Society was very interested, said Jen McClure, executive director at SNCR.
“We want to support her with her research, share the findings with the UC community and help her own organization as well,” McClure said. “Online networks are changing the way we communicate and are changing lives.“
At a time when available funds are limited, every university in the country is looking to find new ways to bring in money.
“With social media exploding in impact and number of people using it, it only shows common sense to pursue an area where there are a lot of people participating,” said Mitchel Benson, director of the UC Davis News Service. “It makes sense to get their attention, help explain to them why their support is needed instead of just exchanging pictures and videos.“
The main models for fundraising through these sites are mostly political ones, especially the Obama campaign, Benson said. The university is looking at ways to borrow this concept to fundraise for higher education.
UC Davis is already immersed in social networking sites as a medium to reach out to the campus community. On the UC Davis homepage, users can find links to blog, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube pages.
There are links to 21 blogs by staff and faculty, featuring the Egghead blog on research. With an extensive collection of videos, podcasts, interviews, music and athletics, UC Davis‘ iTunes site is considered among the best at universities in the country, Benson said.
There are currently 140 videos on YouTube, and Undergraduate Admissions has its own MySpace site.
While perusing through pictures, videos, messages and new friends, students can also stop by UC Davis‘ Facebook page, loaded with videos, quizzes, links, groups, facts and photos.
Whether people are “tweeting” on Twitter or Facebook “stalking,” exploring how to use a place where so many people connect and congregate can have great advantages for UC Davis and campuses like it.
“Social networking is really intriguing. People find it useful,” Rockwell said. “They like the personal part of it. People respond because they are responding to people they know. It’s more collective communication and people like that. This is very dynamic, so we are going to where the communication is happening.”
POOJA KUMAR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.