Social Media in Higher Education

By Sarah Lokitis | Nov 14, 2011
More Articles by Sarah

If you are a College or University, integrating social media to the marketing and communication strategy makes sense. With prospective students, current students, alumni, and prospective donors using social media, creating and maintaining social media presences is an easy way to reach your target audience.

Universities recognize the importance of social media. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found 100% of the sampled colleges and universities use some form of social media. The same study in 2007-2008 found 61% of universities were using at least one form of social media. Currently, Facebook is the most common form of social networking, followed closely by YouTube and Twitter. Surprising to me in the Dartmouth study was that only 68% of schools were monitoring their social media efforts. Monitoring social media and engaging with the people who are talking about your school is a great way to build connections.

As with all marketing, good strategies and communication can lead to effective social media campaigns. Knowing why the university is using social media is important to evaluate and learn what worked and what could be improved. 

Develop a Social Media Strategy

Go over the University marketing objectives and align social media with those objectives. What do you want social media to accomplish? Do you have fundraising efforts that could be promoted? Alumni events and prospective student open houses? Specific goals should be created to help evaluate and improve communication efforts.

After planning, take a look at your resources. Who will be responsible for updating and monitoring the social profiles? Who will engage the community and respond to the mentions? What types of content will you share and where will the content come from? How often will you update? Address these questions early, so expectations can be set and job descriptions can be altered if necessary.

Develop Social Media Principles

With the potential for all employees and professors using social media to represent the University, it is important to go over the rules for social media use.  Create a policy inclusive of copyright and legal reminders, account naming conventions, crisis response policies, and principles like authenticity and transparency. The policy should allow for innovation and evolving tools and goals. Browsing through already developed higher education social media policies is a good place to start.

Choose your Social Profiles

Refer to your social media strategy to help select which platforms to use. If your main goals are to engage alumni and donors, Twitter and LinkedIn might be a good fit because of the higher average user age. If your goal is to promote campus events and grow attendance with social media, Facebook would be a good fit.

Remember to determine the voice that should be used on the social profiles. The university brand should be apparent in the tone of the updates. If your school is serious and conservative, would your audience be reception to a casual voice?

SEO Value of Social Media

Social profiles are beneficial for search engine optimization. Social profiles help own the branded first page search engine results and help promote and control brand reputation. Updates can help spread information about your school, improving the universities search engine rankings.

Regardless of your goals, I recommend creating Google Place Pages for your University. A place page helps own more real estate on your branded search engine results page. In addition, users can quickly find the schools location, as well as additional information about your school.

Do you keep up to date with universities on social media if you are searching for a school, in college or have already graduated? What do you think works well or could be improved with their social media efforts? I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you work for a University, I’d love to hear about the obstacles you face when working in social media. Comment below, find me on Twitter @Lokitis, or find me on Google+ +Sarah Lokitis.

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  • Dean

    The going trend of higher education is the social media segment on the backdrop of online courses becoming more prevalent. More universities are beginning to offer certificate or degree courses online. The University of San Francisco has several programs online and for the sake of this conversation offers social media marketing training.