In digital era, university branding or reputation improvement has a wider dimension, either offline or online, go to the field or hold a campaign in the cyber space. They have the same portions and should be monitored thoroughly. Information and communication technology advancement has made the disparity of human interactions in the real world and in cyber space lesser.
Not all people are internet literate but all universities must be shrewd in exploiting the internet. Their market is not only the ‘illiterate’ ones as they are not ‘machines’ which cut that kind of illiteracy. On the other hand, higher education institutions should be leading in technological advancement.
Furthermore, branding efforts through cyber space is the most important for global level ranking methods. One of them is webometrics. From its name, it is clear that this ranking is based on websites performance.
There are at least four website parameters assessed by this ranking centre, excellence or the number of scientific publications, presence or the number of website pages and dynamic pages found by the search engine, impact or the number of unique external links received by university web domain found by the search engine and openness or the number of files online in university website.
Detailed explanation on those parameters demands more space than one page of newspaper but at least, we can see that website management is a necessity especially to achieve better ranking in webometrics.
Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR) understand this well. Through Information and Public Relations Center (PIH), the university established in 1954 wants to improve its official website. What is their main target? News category.
There was an extensive change made. PIH made a informal structure called newsroom. It works similar to professional news agency. There are three platforms: website, printed edition and radio. The most changes made in online division. It was not as big as commercial news portals but at least there’s a culture hold firm: there should be news every day.
Since the last of December 2015, when domain news.unair.ac.id was released, there are at least 3 news updates published. It can even reach six news update a day. The latest data as of December 31 2016, there were more than 1,560 news published, with more than 130 news a month. Rumor says that there are already two private universities and two state universities would like to learn to UNAIR.
There is always news in campus especially in a big university like UNAIR. If there is a question, what is the advantage having news update every day? It should be related to webometrics parameters above. Not all parameters related to news update but it should be able to improve the presence and impact parameter.
Webometrics is not always interesting to give perspective whether a university is good or not. People can always claim that not all rankings are objective and they can fail to address all elements. But at least, for branding, news improvement is quite representative as long as it is integrated well with official social networking such as facebook, twitter, instagram, and other.
Most importantly, all social networking should be managed well. Sharing, tagging, mentioning and reaching the right target are the keys. The reaching meant here is connectivity with alumni and policy makers’ accounts: other university academicians, business community and the government.
For that aspect, social media strategies are needed. Capability on interaction optimization has an important role. It is ineffective if news production ran well but the promotion in social media (representing the cyber space) is not much.
If the maximization has been done, university branding also runs well. Only consistency needs to be maintained. Talking about branding, the benchmark is no longer the ranking but satisfaction for maintaining popularity of university. At least, netizens will view that the news is produced and published in the cyber space. That satisfaction is beyond the ranking aspect.
The analogy may be the same with Sufyan Ats-Tsauri, a pious muslim from Kufah who worships worships God consistently. What he did was for the sake of spiritual satisfaction and happiness. He always communicates with others but he deemed his activity as a way to worship God sincerely without expecting praises and disregarding what others say.
Brilliant and successful branding will make the university satisfied and pleased. To be able to interact with global community is an abstract achievement even though the website dynamics and fluctuations can be measured statistically, they are not always the main thing. (*)
Editor: Bambang Bes