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5 min read

Social CIO Series: David J. Hinson, Hendrix College

“Be accurate, be transparent, and be yourself.”

“Be accurate, be transparent, and be yourself”

Name: David J. Hinson
Title: CIO and Executive Vice-President
Organization: Hendrix College

1. Tell us a bit about your organization and what it is trying to accomplish.

Hendrix College was founded in 1876 and is recognized as a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the fifth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country’s “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. The College is also featured in the Princeton Review, the latest edition of Loren Pope’s book Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools that Will Change the Way you Think about Colleges, and Forbes magazine’s annual list of America’s Top Colleges, among others.

Hendrix’s motto is “Unto the Whole Person,” and our Odyssey Program, which requires all students to design their own engaged learning experiences outside the classroom in addition to their core curricular work, represents an Ethos on campus which supports this motto and best prepares our students for whichever life path they choose.

2. Tell us a bit about you and how you view your role as CIO.

I am the Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer of Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas. I am also an active mobile developer who has developed commercial titles for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. For 15 years, I was the CEO of Sumner Systems Management, a software development company that created custom applications for social networking services such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and for the Apple iPhone.

My role here at Hendrix is to support the academic mission of the college, maintain the information and communication infrastructure of the institution, and to raise visibility of current and future information system issues at the cabinet level. I also provide communications to our Board of Trustees regarding the planning and implementation of instructional technology, both on campus and in cooperation with our Academic Consortium, the Associated Colleges of the South.

3. What were the key reasons you started to drive social into your organization?

I don’t know that we had so much a concerted drive into social, as we had a growing, ad hoc, and unmanaged progression into various social networks – with no oversight, planning, or any sense of consistent messaging. We quickly recognized that we had an obligation to make sure that we established guidelines and institutional resources for engaging dialog online, among all of our recognized channels, in a way that best represented Hendrix College.

4. How did the arrival of social interplay with your organization's culture?

For us, it’s been a continuous cycle of education, reflection, and discussion among all of our stakeholders, about what constitutes “appropriate response” when staking out institutional position in addressing individuals and groups on social media channels.

“Organizations will always have to walk a fine line in deciding upon how much “open” dialog they will endorse / endure on their official channels, versus removing “offending” content – whatever their community definition of “offending” content has been established to be.”

The illusion of controlling messaging on social media is just that – an illusion. It is therefore vital to make all stakeholders at your school aware of what your expected practice will be in dealing with trolls, hate speech, and adverse public dialog.

That said, one needs to allow for individual maneuverability for specific, fact-dependent crises that inevitably erupt on social media.

I believe the prevalent initial reaction when something adverse occurs on social media is to immediately respond. Timely communication is of course essential, but needs to be considerate of the community and channel on which dialog is happening, and should always be commensurate with the event being addressed.

Not every comment warrants a response, and not every metaphorical battle has to be won in order to effectively influence and engage your communities.

At Hendrix, we also have issues of student privacy to consider, as well as understanding the role of academic freedom and how it fits into larger issues of rights and responsibilities to – and from – the institution.

5. How did you mitigate the change management aspects of introducing social?

Two years ago we organized a Social Media committee, comprised of a representative cross-section of our campus constituencies, to address, coordinate, and direct our messaging on social media. The committee is not there to approve everything that goes out under our branding, but rather is there as a sounding board for guidance, established institution practice, and shared governance.

6. What do you see as your biggest social "win" so far, inside your organization?

For me, personally, I would have to say it was being named a “Rising Star” CIO on Huffington Post (The 50 Most Social CIOs on Twitter (and 20 Rising Stars).

7. What is your advice to traditional CIO's that are leery of "going social"? Any important lessons learned you would like to share?

I guess my key observation is that if you don’t participate in the conversation that is already occurring about your organization within Social Media, you are abdicating the framing of attitudes and opinions to others, who may (or may not) have its best interests at heart.

“I don’t know that a CIO can be 100% effective without having some currency and proficiency in Social Media.”

That’s not to say that it’s easy to jump right in and be a social media rock star, day one.

Success in social media requires being honest about who you are, being considerate and intentional concerning what you contribute and publish, and respecting the community where you are participating. To those ends, at Hendrix we developed the following guidelines to help our various communities:

Think Before You Engage: When participating in any social media setting, think before you post. If you have even the slightest hesitancy to write something because there may be an issue of sensitivity or offense, this is a good indication that your initial instincts are correct and perhaps you should reconsider and do further self-editing. Thoughtful reflection before participating on Twitter or Facebook is worth its weight in gold, because on the Internet, there is no delete button.

Consider Your Communities: Consider the people who will be consuming your content. Is my audience professional? Is this personal? Select content (photos, avatars, video, etc.) carefully, so that they reach the audience that they are intended to influence, and are appropriate for the forums where they are being shared and published.

Be Respectful to Your Audience: You stand a better chance to sway others to your point of view if you exhibit respect when dealing with them online. Being constructive and respectful will help allow disagreements and contradictory points of view online to be discussed with professionalism, detachment, and equanimity.

Add Value to the Conversation: Brazen self-promotion on social media has its place, and it's usually not on someone else's forum. If you are participating in someone else's social space, consider the conversation happening there and contribute appropriately and, most importantly, on topic. "Hard sells" rarely work within social media...and if you must self-promote, you should only do so in spaces that you create and control.

Be Accurate: Have all the facts before you participate. Link your sources whenever possible. Great online communities are built upon trust.

Be Transparent: Be honest about who you are. If you are representing your institution, explicitly say so. If you are not, then indicate that your opinions are personal and your own.

But most importantly – Be Yourself.

About Jostle's CIO Series

At Jostle we recognize the importance of leadership in making social collaboration work inside of organizations. In fact, we are so passionate about it that we sought out some of the top social CIO’s in North America to participate in a Jostle Blog series that focuses on the challenges and successes of applying social tools. We are happy to share these success stories with you and we hope it inspires the social champion in all of you. If you know a Social CIO you feel should be included in this series, please contact us at CIO@jostle.me. There is no requirement that they be using the Jostle People Engagement® platform.

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the fifth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country’s “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2012 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country’s best 377 colleges, the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, Forbes magazine's annual list of America's Top 650 Colleges, and the 2013 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu 

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