Here’s what Arra’s discovered, by engaging in social media and listening to the audience for the world’s largest online University:
When Arra took a look at the statistics of who was converging on the University of Phoenix Facebook page, and mentioning them on Twitter, he discovered that only a small percentage of the fans were actual alumni and students.
“We were putting out articles and content that educated people about all kinds of issues,” says Arra, “and we realized that people were coming to us because of our content, people who may be thinking about going back to school or thinking about education.”
With a following of over 1.3 million across the University’s social channels, Arra had a big opportunity to engage the alumni to become brand ambassadors to share their stories.
By providing alumni with the chance to express their positive experiences, there was an outpouring of emotion online.
“People started sharing what it’s like walking down the aisle at graduation, after deciding to go back to school 20 years after failing out of high school, or being courageous enough after having three kids, to get a degree,” says Arra. “Hearing that story being told through social is very motivating and inspiring.”
To get stakeholder buy-in, Arra makes a weekly habit of sharing the data and personal stories with senior executives.
“It‘s been challenging getting senior executives to recognize the value of social when it’s still a bit of the wild west,” admits Arra. “They don’t understand necessarily, and candidly I didn’t either, before embarking on this journey, the impact that people on the web could have on your brand’s overall persona. But after hearing stories from graduates who are now elected officials, or alumni in for profit institutions, the light bulb goes off. And what our constituents now recognize is that the social medium humanizes the brand and brings it to life.”
“My predecessors were only concerned with advertising on print, TV, and radio,” says Arra. But in those traditional mediums, the company controls the message, and they control the tone and content of communications that are going out to the public.
With social you don’t control the content, he explains. “You have to be willing to be vulnerable, but out of that willingness to be vulnerable comes an even more powerful message.” After listening and responding to the concerns of your fans, you can begin to shift the conversation in a positive direction.