Social media has become a critical tool for the modern age. Everyone from retirees to teenagers are a part of a larger network where sharing life updates and communicating are easier than ever.
The usefulness of social media within recruiting and marketing global education programs has been frequently covered, but what about social media’s versatility in minimizing travel risk?
That part becomes trickier. We’re so familiar with treating social media platforms as a means of promotion, but occasionally, stand-out features are added for world changing events. For example, Facebook added the safety check-in feature during the 2015 Paris Attack. However, it seems development of these risk management tools is few and far between.
Before we get into how social media can be incorporated into risk management strategies, we should ask: why is it so important we do so? Firstly, social media fills the gap created by uncertainty in the phone plan a student chooses for their time abroad.
For years, it has been touted as a best practice to have a process for establishing a consistent phone plan for travelers (read as: buying one for your students!). Unfortunately, that is not possible for every program or office. It is still a reality that they could be dealing with multiple phone options when students are abroad. When left to their own devices, students may use their domestic phone number, get a new SIM card (rendering their domestic number unreachable), get a new phone entirely, or even forgo a phone plan altogether (we call it the Cafe Wireless Plan).
Incorporating a social media platform into a risk management strategy creates a constant for both educators and travelers. Travelers are still using the same profile they use domestically, so there’s no fear of a new contact point for them when they are abroad. This removes a major hurdle for most offices.
A difficulty all educators face within the field is capturing students' attention for an extended period of time - or at least long enough to demonstrate the right processes for keeping them safe while abroad. We see this everywhere, from pre-departure orientations to when travelers need to submit their weekend travel plans. This is something many offices struggle with, so the question becomes: how can we get students to check in with us as much as they check in on their social media accounts? The answer is in the question. We simply find a way to use social media as a part of our risk management process.
Since social media is something most of use at least once a week, the other benefit is the low overhead. There isn’t much training required to operate a Facebook page or set up a Whatsapp group and it’s something most faculty members are accustomed to. Another part of the overhead equation is the maintenance involved to keep the social media resource active. This is another win for social media, since most of the companies who operate them are at the forefront of their craft and offer updates automatically to keep everything operational.
After 2020, resources for every office are strained. It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted travel and higher education particularly hard, especially for medium sized or smaller campuses. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that every resource is stretched. Once again, this is where social media provides an opportunity within risk management. Most platforms are free to use, so there is literally no financial capital needed to get it incorporated in your office’s strategies. The energy and time is the only cost.
It is not all peaches and cream for social media platforms, though. There are some drawbacks that have been revealed over the past several years. The main concern is regarding the privacy and data collection policies that social media platforms hold. This has been well covered by independent researchers as well as major news sources, so it’s no secret to any social media user. Gen Z seems unphased by social media data policies, and is frequently cited as caring much less about privacy than previous generations. Students are well-versed in these realities and most still choose to be a part of these platforms because the pros far outweigh the cons. Whether we agree or disagree philosophically is unimportant; the idea of a social network powered by the internet is here to stay, so we might as well take full advantage of the free resource.
If the idea of adding social media to your risk management strategy is overwhelming, we’re here to help! We are creating more content relating to the ins and outs of setting up social media platforms for risk management purposes. To get the full scoop, sign up for our newsletter here.