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NIU social media initiatives find common home

November 5, 2010

Screen capture of NIU's SMASHUP homepageAs the Internet and its applications continue to evolve at a dizzying speed, most websites now offer a veritable smorgasbord of tiny icons that link users to various social media pages.

NIU now has risen above the din of square-shaped logos clamoring for attention.

The university’s Web Communications Team this morning launched, a one-stop shop for all of NIU’s social media initiatives, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and foursquare.

SMASHUP is a social media expansion of the Internet concept of “mashup,” the word for a website that combines data feeds from several sources.

“Our social media presence is now more engaging than the typical social media icons seen on the websites of most universities,” said Jennice O’Brien, team leader for Web Communications.

“People who visit our SMASHUP will see everything we’re putting out on NIU’s social media channels in one spot. We’re giving people another way to connect to NIU and fostering an online Huskie community.”

“We want to be open to communicating with the NIU community in every way possible,” added Holly Nicholson, the team’s social media specialist. “Bringing our initiatives together in one place will make it easier for users to get information and explore what NIU has to offer as well as discover new ways they can reach us and others in the community.”

NIU collaborated on development of the SMASHUP page with the Lawrence, Kan.-based AllofE Solutions, which creates and harnesses web technology and applications to create “elegant solutions for complex problems” and to help clients “stand out and be dynamic.”

Work began at the start of the fall semester.

Katie Brosious, marketing manager of AllofE, initiated conversations with O’Brien. Although Brosious is the daughter of two NIU alums, she placed a call to DeKalb for another reason.

“We were looking for progressive universities that were really excited about using social media in new ways,” Brosious said. “NIU was looking for a way to bring its social media up to the next level, so I knew this would be a good partnership.”

Jennice O'Brien (left) and Holly Nicholson

Jennice O'Brien (left) and Holly Nicholson

Indeed, NIU’s Facebook fan base has grown by about 1,000 fans each month since the Web Communications team was created in February and Nicholson became dedicated to its social media task. The university now has more than 12,000 “likes” on Facebook.

Nicholson also posts daily to Twitter, frequently uploads photos to Flickr and videos to YouTube and has tagged every building on campus for “checking in” via foursquare.

Thanks to SMASHUP, Brosious said, visitors to those posts now will remain parked at rather than redirected to the external host servers.

“This is a very innovative and exciting way to display social media. SMASHUP keeps your audience engaged,” she said. “It also makes it easy for currents students, future students and alumni to see what’s going on at the university: Where are the blogs? Where are the Twitter accounts? What are they saying?”

NIU is the third university to build and unleash a SMASHUP page with AllofE, following closely in the footsteps of Chicago’s DePaul University and Ohio’s Youngstown State University.

Our Lady of the Lake University in Texas also unveiled its SMASHUP site today.

Like NIU, those schools will use their new tools to recruit prospective students, retain current students and remain connected with alums.

“Social media gives us one more way to communicate with all of our audiences and complements our traditional communication methods,” O’Brien said. “This is another way for high schools students to learn about our next open house; for the campus community to find out about news, programs and events; and for alumni to read good news from NIU and hear about events that might bring them back to campus.”

“It unites our past, present and future,” Nicholson said. “It allows us to have instantaneous contact with not just people who we care about near and far but also organizations and institutions that are important to us as well – and all in one place.”

Those friends and “family” are welcome to ask for Nicholson’s assistance in publicizing their news and events through the university’s various social media channels. A Social Media Promotion Request Form is available online.