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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Higher Ed Social Media: Help Wanted

It’s no doubt that social media has played a prominent role in higher education within the past few years. As each year passes, institutions have gone from hiking aboard the new “trend” to utilizing social media as a tool for marketing, alumni, and prospective students.

In 2010, a study done by CASE, mStoner, and Slover-Linett Strategies Inc., showcased their findings on if constituents are using their institutions social media, what barriers are keeping institutions from using social media, and most importantly, how is social media success measured?

In March 2011 Slover Linett Strategies Inc., mStoner and CASE conducted the Second Comprehensive Study of Social Media Use by Schools, Colleges and Universities via e-mail to 18,000 representative CASE members, of which 951 replied. The results may not surprise anyone but they do show that universities are realizing the importance of not just using social media but using it in the best way possible to reach their social media goals.

Almost every institution is using it.
Though not too surprising, only 4% of institutions aren’t using it. Almost all institutions have jumped into social media. What arises from all institutions using the same types of social media is a lack of originality and driving competition from each institution to stand out. According to the study, 84% of institutions use social media due to competition from peer institutions. An institution needs to have something different from all the rest of its competitors, they need to be ahead of the curve.

Why they're using it – Alumni & Branding.
While most might think that institutions are using their social media to connect with current students or recruit, the big reasons for using it are Alumni and Branding. The study shows that Alumni ranks first in goals of social media with 30% saying it's “Quite a bit” of their social media goal and a whopping 54% say it's “Extensively” part of it.

Branding falls second to Alumni, 40% quote it as being “Quite a bit” of their goal and 35% say it’s “Extensively" part of it. Branding is also the number one motivator for institutions in using social media. Institutions feel that they need to sustain and protect their brand “Quite a bit” (40%) and “Extensively” (20%).

If sustaining and protecting their brand is so important to institutions, why aren’t they using their social media to its fullest potential? Why get lost in the ordinary, mundane social media sites. By having a centralized hub with all of your social media, branded to an institution's exact site, their brand is not only sustained and protected, but they’re a step above the rest.

Facebook: favored by the majority.
Facebook is the front-runner in social media for institutions. Not only do nearly all institutions use it (96%), but most feel that it’s the best tool to help meet their social media goals (91%) and that it’s the most successful in meeting these goals (87%). Only 43% use Twitter to help meet their goals and only 27% consider it the most successful in meeting these goals. Since Facebook is the most widely-used platform, it would be advantageous to any institution to have all the department’s pages accessible on one main page in some sort of mashup. This would be an easy way for a user to visit a single page to connect, share, and like for every department within an institution.

Main basis for success – number of touches.
The most interesting data from the survey is what institutions are using to measure the success of their social media. Without an easy way to determine an ROI, institutions are using the number of touches (number of friends, click-throughs, participation, etc.) to determine how successful their social media is.

Based on this criteria it’s hard for an institution to be successful if no one is seeing the social media they are putting out there. Many display their main accounts on the main page of their website, but what about different departments? Users often have to search for a social media directory (if there is one) or find the social media themselves.

If all an institution's social media was on one page, users would be engaged, able to see all social media available, and pick which is most useful to them. It would increase the number of click-throughs, likes, and friends, and would engage them to participate in multiple social media accounts by only visiting one page.

Staffing considered barrier to success.
Although many institutions find their social media to be successful, (62%-somewhat successful and 22%-very successful), there are still many barriers that they feel inhibit their overall success. According to the study, the two top barriers institutions encountered were due to staffing. Staffing for day-to-day content management was felt to be the biggest obstacle in being successful with 28% of institutions saying it was “quite a bit” of a barrier and 22% saying it was “extensively” a barrier.

Staffing for site development came in a close second. The same percent of institutions believed it was “quite a bit” of a barrier, but only 16% said it was an “extensive” barrier.

Schools often don’t have the staffing ability to train, create, and manage social media. If an institution does have someone working on social media it’s usually only one person, not a group of people. According to the study 41% of institutions have only one person working on social media at least 25% of the time. Even more disheartening is the fact that 85% have no person whose job is to work on social media 100% of the time. What happens when that one person who works on social media is gone or the person working on social media needs to use 100% of their time on something else, does the social media of the institution stop? In the social media world, nothing ever stops and every day things are changing and moving forward.

What institutions need is a simpler way to manage their social media, something that anyone can learn and use easily.

What social media policy?
Half of all institutions using social media don’t have a social media policy. While not stated in the study it’s easy to assume why. As stated above most institutions don’t have the staffing needed to create a policy. While there are many policies out there that can be borrowed from it’s often difficult to fit it to an institution’s exact needs.

With nearly all institutions using social media, policies need to be enacted to regulate their social media. It is an institution’s voice and it needs to be protected just as much as the institutions brand and image (something nearly all universities have a policy on.)

In Closing
This study shows that institutions are seeing the need for more organized, individualized social media. Not only do they need to use it, but they want to use it to protect and sustain their brand. They want to be successful by the standards they set in their social media goals. They want to be in charge of their social media and not hire out. But they can’t seem to find a way to do all this with limited man-power.

That’s the reason SMASHUP was created. It gives institutions the tools they need to make their social media the best it can be. Institutions have freedom and control over their social media with a little outside help. It creates a place for all an institution's social media, making it easier to interact with and more successful. SMASHUP is easy to use and easy to learn, cutting back on the time and man-power needed to sustain it. It gives an institution a big boost in the right direction, all while protecting their brand.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great blog post. Seems that selecting the right tools to help with all of this is another issue many higher eds have issue with, and something I'd sure love to chat with them about!

10/14/11, 6:23 PM  

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