A couple of weeks have passed since the fall study tour participants left the swissnex San Francisco building and flew away from the Golden Gate. We’re still talking (and tweeting) about it. #fallstudytour
The final day of the study tour was full of meetings and new ideas, as was each day before it. But something occurred to me on day five. Our little group had become a community of friends as well as colleagues, making the study tour a wild success in many ways.
Sure, the week was well planned. Of course, the meetings were informative and motivating. We promised they would be. But the participants (you, if you’re reading) played the biggest role in this victory. The group was inquisitive, professional, thoughtful, and really really nice. It’s hard to emphasize that enough. Reeeeealllllly nice.
On day five, it truly felt as though lasting connections had been made not only between the swissnex San Francisco staff and the study tour participants, but among the participants as well. This was evident in the banter and conversations between meetings, in the tweets, goodbye toasts, final presentations (silly and sincere), and certainly at the North Beach beatnik bar Vesuvio.
This kind of camaraderie is all we at swissnex could have hoped for. The spirit of social media is, well, social. Without that element, without sharing, it’s hard to grasp the full potential of the tools let alone successfully practice them to benefit a university. The supportive environment that was fostered here during the study tour will allow the participants to help each other as they lift their individual institutions into a new era of communications. The benefits will likely help promote the excellence of Swiss higher education globally.
Lessons from Day 5
David Harris doesn’t believe in a social media strategy. Period. It sounded shocking at first. “What? But, but,” we were tempted to interject.
“Social media is a tool,” he continued. “You should have a communications strategy, but social media is just one of the tools that you use to achieve those goals.”
Harris also covered how to measure success with social media tools, from general awareness to engagement and investment. He led an exercise in strategic planning (complete with little red workbooks), where participants were encouraged to outline goals, define audiences, and suggest reasonable metrics to measure success.
Gold Rush City
Our walking tour of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast took us back to 1850s San Francisco, when life along then named Yerba Buena Cove was lurid and wild. Strangely enough, the swissnex San Francisco building was a lone bastion of civilized culture back in those days: it housed the Golden Era literary magazine, which Mark Twain and Bret Harte wrote for.
The walking tour ended on Gold Street directly in front of Blackboard Mobile. If anyone doubted the power or influence of mobile technologies, this meeting with the company’s “Mobile Evangelist” David Small probably changed his or her mind.
Blackboard Mobile began as a small start-up of Stanford University students who built an app for the school. They were acquired by the e-learning giant Blackboard and have been steadily growing since. Our final company visit of the study tour, Blackboard Mobile’s presentation drove home how important mobile is for the future of university communications. It’s not enough to think about the website and social media channels. Forward-looking leaders within the institution should be staring at the smartphone.
Goodbye for now, but stay in touch
The study tour ended officially with a goodbye dinner at Fog City Diner. Some returned to swissnex San Francisco for an event on Swiss university spin-off companies working in the robotics field. And some explored the city after that, even using social media to find the group when lost (you know who you are).
All that was learned and thought throughout the week will never really fade thanks to social media. There’s this blog, for one. There’s the Paper.li, Social Media Study Tour Daily (check the archive editions to see what was captured September 26-30, 2011), and our Storify. Multiple participants made videos, webdocs, and contributed to the Flickr album. And many of the presentations and materials from the week are accessible in the library on this very website.
For the 11 fall study tour participants reading this, we’re quite far from a goodbye—we are actually planning a hello. Our conference call on October 31st will give us the chance to check in with everyone, ask follow-up questions, share ideas and progress, and generally re-energize. Fill in the Google document to help define the agenda and stay tuned for the exact time.