Why Universities Need to Get Social

Why Universities Need to Get Social

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Social media has become such an essential part of business that universities have begun to implement social media courses across a variety of programs – from communications to marketing to business management. While universities are quick to teach of the benefits of social media, they tend to be a bit slower in implementing it into their own ecosystem as they have yet to use it in a way that can bring them the social media success similar to large companies such as Virgin America, Intel, and Nordstrom.

Universities are fortunate to already have such a specific and dedicated audience. This audience is made up of students (prospective, current, former), faculty, educators, and more — all of whom are directly connected with or interested in the university. And, for the most part, their audience is already very well versed, active, and familiar with new and social media. So, when used strategically, social media can help universities to increase their own following, engagement, and return a greater ROI.

Working for a social media intelligence company has given me an insider’s look in how universities can use social media to their benefit, as we work with a number of universities to help them reach their social media goals. As a result, I’ve put together the top five reasons that universities need to get social.

1) Reach students. This includes all types of students: prospective, current, and alumni. When a student is vested in a particular university, it is more than likely that he or she follows the university on social platforms as a follower on Twitter, fan on Facebook, member of a Google+ circle, connection in an LinkedIn group, etc. or has mentioned the university in some capacity online. This gives universities the chance to identify and reach students with a specific message – why prospective students should join the university, what current students can look forward to this week, and what alumni can fondly look back on or participate in.

2) Build an active community. Because a university’s audience is likely well versed and active on social media, the school can use these platforms and outlets to build an active community. This involves sharing relevant and interesting content and asking the online community to participate in the events. An active, engaged community is a sign of a thriving relationship as the connection and interaction calls for two-way communication. Schools can turn to their community for feedback and ideas, while the community can reach out with questions or concerns.

3) Keep audiences informed and updated. The percentage of people getting their news from social media rather than traditional news sites has been on a steady rise. Today more and more people turn to Twitter or Facebook to find out breaking news. Universities can capitalize on this by announcing important and breaking news or posting information to their networks. Audiences will know they can turn directly to these social channels for news.

4) Monitor reputation. Social media has become the go-to place for talking about a particular brand or business. Social media users are quick to voice their appreciation or disdain about a particular brand, product, or service. By now we’ve seen the effects of viral content, both positive (think Psy’s “Gangnam Style”) and negative (the abuse videos that lead to the firing of Rutgers coach Mike Rice). A university’s reputation is a big deciding factor for funding, applications, and job applications so monitoring what is being said on the social web can help build, maintain, or repair a reputation.

5) Measure campaign success. Perhaps a university wants to try out some new ideas by implementing social media campaigns alongside their traditional campaigns. Prior to starting a new campaign, you should always set a benchmark so you have something to compare with along the way. Over time, you’ll be able to see which campaigns were the most successful so you can continue to run them or which campaigns fell a little flat so you can tweak them to do better moving forward.

Instead of just employing social media experts and teaching successful social media techniques, universities should practice what they preach and establish a strong social media presence. Whatever the goal of the university may be, incorporating social strategy based on these five reasons will tremendously help the cause. And with such a dedicated, media savvy audience, universities already have the upper hand in developing a strong online community.


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