This post was written by Hilal Chouman, social media strategist for Cisco Networking Academy
Since late 2009, Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad), one of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, has been present on various social media networks. The earliest presence was on the rising social network of that time: Facebook.
In late 2010, NetAcad’s Facebook page hit its first 100,000 likes. After this milestone, the Facebook page continued its growth, following the growth of the number of students in the NetAcad program.
Today, NetAcad’s Facebook page hit a half million likes (fans).
It is amazing how a social presence can accelerate in content and size, as soon as it grasps the right connection with the audience.
Networking Academy trains 1 million students in 165 countries each year to design, build, manage, and secure computer networks. The program helps ensure a steady supply of ICT professionals around the world and prepares students for entry-level jobs, continuing education, and globally recognized Cisco certifications.
In the beginning, the Facebook page focused on pushing out relevant IT and NetAcad content and replying to fans. Shortly after, an ambassadorship program was created. Volunteers — including NetAcad instructors, students, and self-study users — took part in managing the page. They gave more insights on the type of content that would be most relevant to the audience. The Ambassadors also helped reply to technical questions.
The Ambassadorship program changed the way our team looks at NetAcad’s social presence. It is not a place where only communication content is pushed out to receive likes and hits, but rather a space built on the idea of engagement. This shed light on a question: How can we really understand what’s relevant, interesting, and important to our community members?
At that time, Facebook was introducing serious changes to its brand pages, including the promotion of the “share” service, the redesigning of old Facebook pages formats into timelines, and the emphasis on photos in Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which specifies what content shows in users’ newsfeeds and what stays undiscoverable.
With the ease of monitoring tools and daily interaction, we discovered that students like to announce their success in passing the certifications exams. As a follow up to this user experience discovery, NetAcad page admins started to share certification photos featuring the name of the student, the academy, and the country he/she comes from in an ongoing campaign. This proved to be a highly engaging process, resulting in high success metrics.
Although this created a spirit of excitement on the page, this campaign was limited to the idea of individual recognition. The next goal was to find a way to increase the user content and make it more engaging for the entire community — to drive more interaction between the community members.
Social Media Supports Education
It was then when photos of Packet Tracer scenarios (Cisco’s simulation software used by NetAcad students to troubleshoot real-life networking scenarios) were shared on the page. A couple of reasons were behind such postings. First, there was a need to drive awareness about Packet Tracer. Second was the aim to have real global interaction and to share possible scenarios that can be re-implemented and troubleshot by other Facebook community members. These members can also comment back with feedback and ideas to improve such scenarios. At the same time, these postings facilitated student and instructor recognition.
This initiative ramped up quickly, and we received many packet tracer scenarios through a special email alias. To date, more than 600 community-generated posts have been shared by the page administrators, yielding more than 400,000 likes, 20,000 comments, and 61,000 shares.
Today, this community-generated content composes about 60 to 70 percent of the NetAcad Facebook page content. In other words, there was a move from an Ambassadorship program composed of a few people to a model where anyone can submit content to be shared with the audience. As a consequence, both the reach and the engagement numbers of the page increased in a noticeable way.
As this community-generated content continues to fuel the Facebook page, the usual question arises: What’s next? How can the community content add more to the educational experience that NetAcad is presenting to its stakeholders? How can this global interaction and sharing of knowledge be leveraged as an essential part of the learning and education in our program?
This next question is not limited to Cisco Networking Academy, but to the needs of any brand and its social media presence. As social media networks continue to evolve, the need for innovation of services is expected to follow.
Reaching a half million likes on Facebook is another milestone in a long and unpredictable social media journey. Even with some lack of clarity on the next Facebook changes, NetAcad is expected to be ready, to adjust quickly to the changes in the social network’s user experience, and to meet the continuous rise in the needs of our community.
NetAcad’s journey in social networks shall continue, well beyond a half million likes.
Visit and join half a million others on the NetAcad Facebook page.