Francis Marion seeks to become more sociable

Robyn McNeil, Copy Editor

According to Florence Morning News Digital Sales Manager Sarah Thibodeaux, social networking could help Francis Marion University (FMU) increase student enrollment and improve campus involvement.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19 in CC 112 Thibodeaux delivered a lecture to FMU department heads about how the university could more effectively promote the campus and its departments by utilizing social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thibodeaux, who is responsible for all digital and online advertising sales at the Florence Morning News, said that taking full advantage of social media benefits will allow the university to promote its academic programs and recreational activities more successfully.

“I think FMU is in a great position to brand itself as the phenomenal college it is,” Thibodeaux said.  “I think that if FMU enacts their social media strategy the right way, and they most certainly are on the right track, they can grow the number of students and grow their brand in years to come.”

She explained that social networking is a more effective means of attracting potential students to FMU and increasing campus involvement because individuals from younger age groups enjoy communicating through social sites.

Thibodeaux believes that it is important that institutions, such as FMU, interact with their communities because it is essential for building personal relationships and maintaining public interest and awareness.

“It is called “social media” for a reason,” Thibodeaux said.  “But also, it is important for businesses to remember that Facebook and Twitter are basically extensions of their marketing campaign.”

The university and some of its departments currently have Facebook and Twitter pages and are considering creating Pinterest and Instagram accounts.  Each department has a different approach to how they use and manage their pages.

Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Marketing, Michael G. Hawkins, explained the athletic department has increased its use of social media to better interact with fans.  According to Hawkins, his department frequently posts sports releases, in-game score updates, photos and encourages fan commentary.  In addition to Facebook and Twitter, the department also uses YouTube to post game highlights and interviews with coaches.

“The FMU athletics department uses social media sites in various ways with the intended purpose of increasing interest in Patriot athletics,” Hawkins said.  “We want to make sure that students, fans, and alumni always know when the Patriots are in action and the resulting outcome.”

The Office of Admissions works to increase student enrollment by posting pictures of the campus, university life and intramural activities as well as providing interesting facts about FMU on its Facebook page.  The office also informs students about academic opportunities by linking the page to the university’s scholarship site.

Thibodeaux said that attracting a large number of students to the department’s pages will be challenging, but it can be done if the content is interesting.

“[Gaining followers] is slow to start, but when it takes off, it booms,” Thibodeaux said.  “You just have to have compelling stuff.”