This is essential to their approach to defining their broader unique value proposition and differentiation as well (Lowrie, 2007). Pepperdine and UCI are using their blogs for branding as much as they are about communicating and collaborating with students and members of the community interested in their areas of research and focus. As a result both the Pepperdine and UCI blogs have created a level of collaboration and initiated conversations through the use of blogs as well. The most advanced multichannel-based approach to using social networking is seen in how UCLA has created Facebook, blogs and Twitter accounts to communicate with students in whatever form they prefer. For some students Facebook is the best approach as they spend the majority of their free time in this social networking application, while others are accustomed to using RSS Readers (Wyld, 2008) to quickly read through blogs. UCLA however does not engage in as many thought-provoking discussions as Pepperdine or UCI. UCLA excels from its multichannel focus in social networking yet lacks the collaborative strengths that the MGSM blog, Pepperdine and UCI blogs promote.
Driving Traffic to the MGSM Blog
For the MGSM blog to generate greater levels of traffic over time its content needs to evolve and stay in step with the interests and needs of those reading it. The blog must become increasingly relevant to readers if they are to return to it as regular visitors, driving up the traffic levels as a result. One of the best approaches to driving traffic up to the blog is to regularly complete surveys of the readers and ask what they are interested in seeing content about (Wyld, 2008). Second, the MGSM blog is at times focused on being an information resource as UCLA is doing, and at times is comparable to the Pepperdine or UCI blogs in that thought leadership is shown. For traffic to increase to the blog, one specific goal and series of supporting strategies need to be first defined. Then the blog will also attract a consistently loyal following. There is only one streaming video on the MGSM blog today as well. Increasing this area of the blog by interviewing professors about how companies are weathering the economic conditions today would be interesting and useful. In order to drive traffic up on the site there also needs to be more freedom to say what members of the faculty really think. The best blogs take a firm position and show passion for a given perspective on topics and have above all else, conviction combined with intelligence in their writing (Lamont, 2009). Even for an academic institution there has to be a position taken on issues for the reader to become engaged. To be too politically correct on a blog is to risk being too risk averse and not really adding value to the conversation with blog readers and those on social networking sites.
Comparing the Strengths and Weaknesses of MGSM Blog
The strengths of the MGSM blog include its usability and clean graphical layout, its accountability and credibility as there are actual person's names and telephone numbers listed on the site itself, and the open platform it has created for managing comments from subscribers. Another nascent or emerging strength is the use of video, as is shown in the single YouTube clip of a student being interviewed about the MGSM student experience. Social networking's greatest strength is in creating a collaborative, open communication platform (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Clearly the MGSM blog needs to do more of this.
In terms of weaknesses, the Blogger platform is not ideally suited for scaling to the depth of content presentation that the UCI blog has accomplished. Possibly looking at Wordpress, which is the basis if the Pepperdine blog, or TypePad, which is the basis of the UCLA blog. UCLA has also embedded multiple layers of style sheets into the TypePad structure to give greater levels of customization as a result. Clearly the MGSM blog needs to do the same. Another weakness that the MGSM blog does not embrace the entire spectrum of social networking applications and only participates in just a single aspect of the Web 2.0 design objectives as defined by O'Reilly (2006). This weakness is also seen in the lack of Facebook or Twitter accounts on the blog. Third, there is a lack of responsiveness on the blog from postings made months ago yet not responded to. This is a serious issue that needs to be resolved by having a person monitor comments and get back to those that post quickly.
First and foremost the MGSM blog needs to decide what its primary goal is. Whether it is as UCLA has done, which is focusing on information delivery, or as Pepperdine and UCI have done, this is focusing on knowledge management. This is fundamental to the direction of the blog today and the social networking strategy for the future. Second, the MGSM blog needs to be more interactive and focused on building communication and collaboration than it is today. Allowing posts to go unanswered for weeks or even months sends a signal that the blog is not being actively used internally either. Those whose names are on the blog need to take daily responsibility for it. Third, a more multichannel strategy to social networking needs to be created that takes into account the entire Web 2.0 lifecycle as it relates to MGSM (Lamont, 2009). Only then can the blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts be successfully used to communicate to existing and potential students. Fourth, while the MGSM blog has just a single video on it today, the team running the blog must augment this and make video much more pervasive than it is today. This is critically important as video is considered to be one of the most effective approaches to gaining and sustaining new blog readers (Shapiro, Mentch, Kubit, 2007). Finally the MGSM blog needs to explore how to bring together two diverse sets of data and create a mash-up or innovative new approach to viewing data they have to add value to the blog over time (Madsen, 2009).
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Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University
Merage School of Business, University of California Irvine