Moving From Wow to Why

Think about that least time you heard one of your colleagues talk about a wow-inducing social media campaign from a campus.

Wow, did you see that awesome Can’t Stop The Feeling video that campus made for graduation?”

“This school is on Snapchat and does student takeovers every week—wow!”

Wow, I can’t believe a mascot can have that many followers on Twitter!”

“That new education technology startup bought an ad in Times Square…WOW!”

Exclamations like this fill my social media feeds and echo through the halls at conferences. Particularly in the social media space (although this applies to most areas of higher education), professionals are wowed by a tactic or campaign. The wow factor often leads to many imitation attempts and adaptations. Last year, Matthew Anderson wrote about one type of social media laziness—copying the “wow” ideas that catch your eye. We tend to feel similarly about our professional counterparts that were the first to do something, like join Snapchat or use Instagram stories. OMG has any campus made a Facebook story yet?

I really struggle with this reaction from many of my colleagues.

When people around me say, “Wow!” I often find myself asking, “Why?”

I’m a bit of a fiend about metrics and goals, particularly when it comes to social media (so fiendish I teach a course on the topic). I don’t care how flashy your campaign is. I want to know how it’s impacting your department or campus strategic goals. Your video went viral? That’s great, now tell me why you made it.

Understanding the “why” demonstrates that you approach your work with strategic intention. Asking why doesn’t mean that fun, innovative ideas will get shot down. My team ran a successful Facebook sweepstakes that resulted in a “wow” write-up on a popular social media blog. But when asked why we did it, we had justification completely aligned with our strategic goals. The same can be said for any animated GIF or Facebook Live video we’ve done. We always know why. And sometimes it makes people say “wow.”

I’d love to see more conversation in higher education about the why. Tell us how you’re being intentional in your work to drive real-world outcomes. Tell us why you’ve chosen to adopt a new technology or social network. Tell us why you have a team of social media ambassadors. I know many of you have a great “why” story to tell, but all I’ve been hearing is the “wow” stories. Speak up! If you don’t have a blog or publishing platform of your own, reach out to me—I’d be happy to give you some space on mine.

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