I presented on the topic of social media along with some colleagues at UCSB twice last week, one for the Professional Development Conference for the Division of Student Affairs on Thursday, March 22 and for a whole-day workshop called “Diving Into Social Media at UCSB” on March 23.  My presentations focused on overview of social media use in higher education. The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young opened both presentations in which he talked about the role social media in how we communicate and serve our students. In his words, “we need to evolve and transform so that we can thoughtfully and adequately serve our students.” He acknowledged that in moving forward with social media as part of our university business, we will make mistakes but that he would rather us move forward and make mistakes than stagnate. Personally, the Vice Chancellor’s declaration of social media as a part of our future was an affirmation of what I had observed a couple of years ago, that social media will be an integral part of how we in student affairs conduct our business.

Truth be told, there was a time when I felt like I could not even utter the words “social media” as those words were met with smirks and rolling eyes by the few skeptics who viewed social media as nothing more than a waste of time, a fad not worth investing, and risks not worthy of any benefits. These reactions reminded me of when I started developing websites in 1996 when I was asked “Why do we need websites for?” I realized when I started promoting social media to be formally adopted in our division that it would need the support of the Vice Chancellor.  I used to joke around with a few colleagues that the skeptics who view social media as “stupid” can always talk to the Vice Chancellor about his “stupid” idea.

I joined twitter in August 2010 in part to satisfy my curiosity about this “waste of time” and I have been wasting my time since then. That is if wasting time means creating professional networks, expanding my views of what the future may look like for higher education, including student affairs, and coming to realization that my technology leadership role will have to evolve to keep up with the changing demands of our students.

I’m excited about the future of social media and how we could use it in student affairs.  We’re just starting to figure out how to use social media beyond marketing. I’m looking forward to the point when we will start using social media as part of  social business. I don’t exactly know how we will evolve to get to that point, or how it will look like a year from now.

I asked VC Young once how he sees social media a year from now and his response was “We’ve got to find ways, across the division, to get to our students and constituents in ways that are effective. I don’t always know what that will look like, but this is my view:  if I wait until I fully understand what it looks like, we’ll never get a damn thing done.” I concur.