So I was thinking about this last night. I gave a class presentation on social media, or social networking sites, and how they function in higher education last night.
Let’s start with the prevalence of social media.
In colleges, it is huge. Facebook launched its pages concept in 2007. By January of 2008, 420 universities had a page. 92 of US News top 100 colleges have links to their social networking sites on their home pages.
In 2012, 82% of teens 14-17 had a social media profile and 83% of 18-29 year-olds. These numbers are staggering when you realize that sites such as facebook have over 1 Billion users registered. Not only this, but 52% of facebook users, 33% of Twitter users, and 6% of linkedin users were online every day. Going back to our earlier fact about the number of users, this means that over 500 Million facebook users, 250 Million Twitter users, and 12 Million Linkedin users are online every day.
Needless to say, social media is a crucial and essential part of our world today. Corporations, Universities, and Teams have people whose full job is managing social media. Master’s degrees in Communication are beginning to offer concentrations in social media. My own master’s program offers a course in Technology in higher education (I can only hope this includes elements about social media).
Above the Fold
But it is important to note how we can maximize this. 77% of college website visits only last for a mere 10 seconds (Weinriech & Obendorf, 2008). Not only that but according to Neilson (2006, 2010) only 23% of visitors use the scroll bar. This brings up a popular journalism term, Above the Fold. This idea arose with newspapers. The idea was that you put your prime stories, the elements that would really draw people in above the fold of the newspaper because that is how they would lay in the stand. The same is true for websites. Prime real estate on a website is whatever will appear without the viewer scrolling. Check your own universities website. How are they doing with the above the fold concept on their social media? There is such a huge amount of outreach that can occur and does occur through these sites.
And the rules we arrange for students are so different. We encourage and destroy it. Try going through a panhellenic recruitment and the use of social media is a big no-no. Recruitment counselors lose their phone privileges in a lot of cases, many shut down their profiles for that time.
At the other end, you get events like Housing Conferences. At the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (SAACURH) encourages posting, tweeting, and more, even creating their own hashtags to build the brand and excitement, offering spirit points to schools for their posts.
How to work with social media
There are a few competencies to be aware of. Social media requires attention. Attention on your site improves your outreach. Attention to your site improves its quality. It also requires participation. If you are not posting new stuff, why is anyone going to want to read and review your work or connect with you? It takes collaboration. Your reach stretches so much if you tweet your event at other offices on campus for example. Network awareness is essential as well. Know how and what is appropriate for your website. The final competency is critical consumption (Oblinger, 2010). I like to sum it up like this: Be an expert, Be persistent and consistent, and Be Creative (If you would like more on this ideology, see my post on recruitment: Fraternity Recruitment, Dr Seuss Style)
Also be aware of potential problems. Be aware for yourself as universities and employers are searching you out on social media, but also for your university and office as students post for you and at you, student profiles help to portray the image of the campus, and that anyone can create an “official” page.
So is it a passing fad or is it here to stay? Several people said Television was a passing fad, but look at the way it has changed the face of our time.
Greenwood, G. (2012). Examining the presence of social media on university websites. Journal of College Admission, 216, 24-28.