Colleges Embracing Social Media At More Fleeted Pace Than Businesses

    August 4, 2010

A new study bNora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson, Social Media and College Admissions: Higher-Ed Beats Business in Adoption of New Tools for Third Year, suggests that US colleges are studying the "rules of engagement" in the online world in order to increase their effectiveness at recruiting prospective students.  This is the third year of their data collecting on this topic.

The longitudinal analysis shows that colleges and universities continue to embrace social media as their adoption of blogging again outpaces both the Fortune 500 (22% have a corporate blog) and the fast-growing Inc. 500 (42% have a corporate blog). The latest research shows 51% of colleges and universities have an admissions blog for their school. It is not limited to blogging. My alma mater, Tufts, has prospective students send them YouTube videos.

There have been many reports of business looking through social media to screen out prospective employees.  They should look to schools to learn of more positive ways to use social media for recruiting.  Colleges are also looking at social media for screening purposes. There was an increase in social media use for screening in 2009 while a decrease in the use of search engines for the same purpose.

Social networking, the social media that was most familiar to college admissions officers in 2007 and 2008 is still the most familiar. Familiarity with social networking has jumped from 55% reporting they were very familiar with it in 2007, to 63% in 2008 and now to 83%. Fifty-five percent of admissions officers report they are very familiar with Twitter.

This familiarity extends to usage as 95% of college admissions offices used at least one form of social media in 2009. Social networking is the most common form with 87% of admissions departments using it. Fifty-nine percent have a school Twitter account and, as noted above, 51% have a blog. In addition, more admissions departments feel that social media is “very important” to their future strategy than Inc. 500 businesses (50% compared to 43%). Good for them.

The colleges are also looking at social media to see what is being said about them. Fifty-three percent in 2007 and 54% in 2008 report they monitored the Internet for buzz, posts, conversations and news about their institution. The latest research shows an increase of close to 20% with 73% of schools now monitoring their school name. I wonder how that compares with business.

Barnes and Matteson at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research have conducted a number of studies on social media.  See for example, Social Media in the Inc. 500: 2007 – 2009. This one is another useful addition to their work.