Ten years ago, social media channels were just starting to take off. Reaching students through email was about as high–tech as it got, and snail mail was still used for many important communications about financial aid to college students.
Today, while many of us may be comfortable with a few social media channels we use most frequently—Facebook to connect with family and friends; LinkedIn to network with colleagues; Twitter to vote for our favorite artist on The Voice—most of us aren't experts on all of them plus there's all of the emerging new channels. By the time us "adults" hear about a new social media channel and get familiar with it, students have mastered the next new thing.
There's no need to get left behind anymore. Great Lakes is lucky to be able to stay at the forefront, using social media more effectively than our peers in many other industries. That's due in large part to Great Lakes' decision back in late 2012 to enter the social media market, and hire Market Insights Manager Liz Gross. Starting from scratch, Liz identified audiences and set up our platforms in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As social media activity grew, Liz hired a social media strategist as her replacement in 2014.
Introducing Renola Swoboda
Social Media Strategist Renola Swoboda makes doing social media almost as fun as saying her name. When hired at Great Lakes three years ago, Renola (aka Nola in cyberworld) initially helped develop a voice that's reached millions of borrowers since she took the helm. She calms irate borrowers; celebrates paid–in–full status with borrowers as they post about making their last student loan payments; clarifies difficult concepts related to loans, credit, borrowing, repayment, and adulting; and provides a guiding hand to those who don't know where to go for help. You know that person who manages to get the crabby customer in front of you in line smiling by the time they leave the store? That's her, too.
She's got skills in spades. Experience as a radio personality in Chicago helped shaped her into a dynamo as a public speaker. She's a self–proclaimed communications and technology geek who has an insatiable appetite for learning about, strategizing, and creating communications that maximize new technologies. She knows that she's constantly creating more work for herself by exploring additional channels, but she magically seems able to grow additional sets of hands to juggle it all. Actually, while Renola bravely explores new technology frontiers, other staff members, whom she trained, are now handling inquiries to Great Lakes' social media channels to help preserve our reputation in the "most responsive" category.
Our goal is helping students—and those who help them—to succeed. Renola knows how to effectively use social media to do just that. One example is the Early Engagement Social Media Resources she created to help you include social media in your student outreach efforts. Another example is, Are You Using Instagram to Connect with Students? Why You Should. If you missed it, check it out.
Renola will be providing similar sorts of tips and tricks in a monthly column. Have ideas for topics you want to learn more about? Reach out using our Facebook or Twitter accounts for financial aid professionals, and we guarantee she'll get back to you.