Social media continues to take the world of higher education by storm. It was a dominant theme at last year’s EDUCAUSE, as a growing number of university administrators and admissions officers turn to social media to bolster recruiting efforts. The University of Southern California (USC) is a great example of how this can be achieved. The school created a campaign called USC Dorms which was modeled off the popular MTV show Cribs. By profiling distinctive dorm rooms across the USC campus, the University was able to give prospective students an insider look at campus life. What’s more, this initiative stemmed from social listening tools that indicated housing on campus was a recurring concern of prospective students. USC is a great example of how campuses are using social media for recruiting, but they are far from the only university doing so. In fact, 98 percent of U.S. universities are on Facebook and 84 percent active on Twitter.
Our survey on student retention found that 75 percent of universities and colleges currently use social media as part of their student retention efforts. Another 7 percent plan to start doing so soon. Often it is through social media that an advisor will first learn of a student’s restlessness. Similarly, social media can provide the earliest indication of a recruit’s decision process in selecting a college.
The impact of social media in higher education extends well beyond recruiting and can also help universities connect with current students and alumni. Social media has proven to be an especially powerful engagement tool with current students. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have come to the forefront as the place where students can share feedback and communicate with their schools. Through social listening, colleges and universities hear students’ opinions, learn about their concerns, answer their questions and take action.
The trend is not exclusively in the US. A UK survey found that 27 per cent of students are now using social networking sites to get in touch with their tutors. For students, Facebook is the most popular at 85 per cent, followed by Twitter at 36 per cent and WhatsApp at 23 per cent.
From an alumni relations perspective, social media has been instrumental in helping colleges stay connected with their graduates. For some universities, alumni are oftentimes the most interactive and engaged members on social channels, sharing stories from their own student days. Conversely, social media is also a way for schools to share alumni’s life and career achievements.
With college and high school aged students all over the social web, as well as alumni trying to stay connected with their alma maters, it should be a no-brainer for universities to leverage social media to their advantage. As digital and social tools continue to permeate campuses across the globe, it is important now more than ever for universities and colleges to have the infrastructure in place that supports these emerging technologies.
For insight into how higher education CIOs are taking full advantage of social media, follow The Top 50 Most Social CIOs In Higher Education as tabulated by Vala Afshar for the Huffington Post. You’ll see how they are able to exchange ideas with peers around the world, communicate with students, and participate in twitter chats on special topics. Stay tuned for the forthcoming Huffington Post blog on Top Social IT Directors in K-12 Education.