How Universities Are Taking Advantage of Social Media

My chosen infographic (found below) is based on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s latest social media adoption study, which shows that, based on the colleges and universities surveyed, 100% of them are using some form of social media, and that usages are rising.

I wasn’t surprised to find that Facebook is—at least at the time this was studied (the most recent years noted being 2010-2011)—the most commonly used social media platform. I wonder now how this has changed, especially with the prominence of Instagram and Snapchat. Nonetheless, Facebook, then, was the most widely used platform, followed by Twitter (best for sending quick, up-to-date announcements), then blogging and message-boards (neither of which between the three school years studied saw much of a rise or fall in usage).

The study also looked at how these platforms are used, and found that they’re most commonly employed for classroom announcements, blogging (like—oh, hey!—what we’re doing here), boosting school pride, outreach (to prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni groups), professional development, and continued education.

In addition, the study noted the pros and cons of social media.

Benefits include:

  • Engages students
  • Keeps students informed
  • Makes safe communities (as some sites allow teachers to control, monitor, and approve online content)
  • Encourages collaboration (for students to critique and comment on others’ work and hold discussions)
  • Invites students to participate and produce content, showing the personality of a school

Challenges include:

  • Lack of knowledge (those managing accounts must know social media and the school)
  • Lack of features (social media needs to provide one-on-one connection)
  • Not enough of a presence, if not used properly (social media requires daily maintenance and interaction, as students will judge their school based on how it presents itself)

I worked in advertising for a year, and did quite a bit of work both managing and copywriting for various brands’ social media. Brands feed millions of dollars into their various social media accounts—including millions into the agencies that strategically produce the content for them—because they know that a social media presence can make or break a brand. Now, I don’t love seeing our university as a “brand,” and perhaps you don’t either, but, indeed, it is. And to attract students, keep students engaged—inside and outside of the classroom (I actually wish this infographic had included more information on how faculty are utilizing social media in the classroom beyond blogging, so I’m looking forward to reading my other classmates’ findings this week)—and attract money from proud alumni, it’s a smart move for universities to invest in and be smart about their social media usage.