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What Are “Friends” For? Social Media and Higher Education Marketing

When it comes to social media marketing, higher education gets an “A” for effort.

In fact, Inside Higher Education reports that a whopping 96 percent of colleges’ fundraising and communications-related divisions are now using social media.
Here are some interesting facts from a recent Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) survey:

  • The top social media tool is Facebook, with 94 percent of respondents reporting that their units have pages there.
  • Twitter is being used by 67 percent of respondents, LinkedIn by 61 percent and YouTube by 59 percent.
  • About one-third use blogs, Flickr and Ning, and still others used their own social media tools or those sold by vendors.

Facebook

Twitter    LinkedIn     Flickr

So who are they “socializing” with? Alumni, mostly. Approximately 96 percent of respondents named graduates as their target audience, followed by “friends and supporters” (77 percent), students (69 percent) and donors (66 percent). Not surprisingly, additional research shows that alumni who are engaged with their colleges through social media are more likely to be donors.

What I did find surprising, based on our own work with colleges, is this: nearly 83 percent of survey respondents say they have at least one full-time person working on social media issues. Within that total, 8 percent reported having three full-time people and 7 percent reported having four or more people. That’s a lot of blogging, tweeting and “liking.”

But researchers caution that colleges and universities (or any marketer, for that matter) must show some “self-restraint.” They should not post every press release to Twitter or Facebook, and understand what social media is really all about: “listening.”

How are you using social media? Tell us: we’d really like to hear what you have to say.

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Vice President, Communications Strategist

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