Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The power of social media

Smack dab in the middle of conference season, the power of social media in our world is more evident than ever. As an association, we used Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare to interact with our attendees at #CFLNBGLC11 and will do the same at #WFLNCGLC11 in a few short weeks. Our peer associations like @TheNACA and other Higher Ed Associations like @AFA1976, @NASPAtweets , @ACUItweets, and @ACPA are all using social media to engage participants. It is neat to see the connections being made, and the additional learning that can take place on the conference backchannel.

As with most tools, in the right hands they can be used for good - and in the wrong, for bad. Amongst all this excitement surrounding the potential of social media in our little corner of the fraternal world, there has been something that has been bothering me for a while. I saw a tweet re-tweeted by several people this weekend that brought my frustrations back to the surface.

"@TFM: Charlie Sheen parties pretty hard for a GDI, but I don't think he would have survived the weekend I just had. TFM. "

I don't personally follow TFM, because in my mind, following is a silent endorsement, or approval of content. And that is content I'd personally rather not be connected with, thank you very much. But apparently a lot of people I follow, follow TFM. And over 100 people re-tweeted that tweet. Sad. If that is your definition of the fraternity/sorority experience, I'd invite you to spend some time with your ritual, and tell me where your organization has taught you to value "partying hard". And if Charlie Sheen is an example of "winning" then I'd rather be a loser. If that is the experience you'd like to continue to have in college, please go ahead and take off your badge and turn it in.

I did some quick research to see how many people are following some fraternity/sorority related Twitter accounts. As of 9:00am MT this morning, here are the numbers:

@TFM: 74,050 followers
@TSM: 16, 955 followers
@AFLV: 1,687 followers
@FraternalValues: 221 followers
@fraternalthghts: 875 followers
@fraternityinfo: 680 followers
@nicfraternity: 1,369 followers
@npcwomen: 2,800 followers
@NPHC1930: 235 followers
@AFA1976: 337 followers
@FraternalRitual: 373 followers
@GreekCompass: 239 followers

#thataintwinning, friends, that's worse than I thought. Obviously the followers of TFM are not limited to affiliated members. But consider for a moment that there are hundreds of thousands of living affiliated people. Even if only 5% utilize twitter, our followership is dismal. Clearly, the tweeters of the fraternal world need to be doing more to provide valuable, engaging content for followers (we here at AFLV included). And just like in the "real world", we need to be aware that like it or not, to an outsider, our interfraternal brothers and sisters are representing us to the world. Challenge others when their content is not in line with our shared values. We need to take ownership and responsibility.

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments. How do you represent your values through social media? How does your organization? How are we holding our members accountable for representing our founding values in their tweets? Is this a conversation you've even had? What could we be doing differently?


Jeff said...

Great post Tricia. I suspected the numbers would come out as they did, but for the scales to be tipped so far is a little disheartening. I, like you, do not follow TFM, and have been tempted to unfollow my students who retweet them.

Clark said...

Tricia, I've been feeling the same way but haven't been able to quite articulate myself as you have in this post. Well said!

It seems we're fighting an uphill battle... against ourselves! I often say to my guys as well as others, "I love who we are but I love even more what we have the potential to be." But how can we be great if we are fueling the fire to why people are anti-greek to begin with? I'm all about building a better fraternity, but I feel like as soon as some of us add bricks to the foundation, a wrecking ball smashes through.

Hope Cooper said...

Wow, well said Tricia. I couldn't agree with you more.

As a Panhellenic woman myself I must say that these TSM posts are less that impressive. It seems that no matter how hard we try to align ourselves with our founders (a phrase we often use) or how much we want to "inspire and impact" - we're fighting a battle that is nearly impossible.

Lily Pulitzer, Slampieces and croakies are what our audiences are looking for and even more frightening, what our PNM's are dying to be a part of. So what do we do?

We always try to "keep on keepin' on", doing what we do best and branding that but unfortunately, there's just so much that we can do to compete with the newest slampiece joke until we're the new joke.

Great post and unfortunately, I feel that it's a battle we'll constantly be in.