From time to time I have been pleased to feature the research of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. They’ve uncovered some fascinating trends among non-profits, Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing Inc. 500 firms and the latest research turns to social media usage trends at four-year accredited collges and universities in the U.S. Some highlights:

Social media usage soars

100 percent of colleges and universities studied are using some form of social media, up from 95 % last year, 85% in 2009 and 61% in 2008.

Facebook is the most common form of social networking being used with 98% of colleges and universities reporting having a Facebook page (up from 87% last year). Eighty-four percent have a school Twitter account (up from 59%) and 66% have a blog (up from 51%). Podcasting has risen from 22% to 41% in just one year.

College admissions professionals are flocking to LinkedIn with 47% on the professional networking site, up from 16% last year. The number of schools using MySpace has declined from 16% last year to 8% this year. Foursquare and You Tube were included in the study for the first time and are being used by 20% and 86% respectively. The use of message boards and video blogging have remained at approximately the same level as last year (37% and 47% respectively).

The rise of the blog

Blogging continues to be embraced by colleges and universities. While other sectors are reporting a leveling off of blogging (i.e., Fortune 500, Forbes Top Charities) higher ed adoption has grown significantly in the past year.

Eight percent of schools with blogs are using some internally developed applications (down from 14% in 2009-2010). Others cite WordPress (38%) and Blogger (10%) as platforms. The use of WordPress as a blogging platform has doubled in the past year.

When asked who manages their blog, the most popular answers were the admissions office (including the director, staff and students), marketing, and public relations.  The researchers also claim that these institutions are using their blogs “siginificantly” more effectively by developing communities around them. 85 percent now accept comments, up from 63% four years ago.  The report also points to a four-year increase of RSS availability from 46% to 77% as an indicator of an increased sophistication in the use of blogging as a “conversation: and recruitment strategy.

And it seems to be working …

When asked how successful social media tools have been for their schools, respondents have “consistently raved about their experience,” especially Facebook (95% success) and YouTube (92%). For every tool studied, a high degree of success is reported. The relatively new Foursquare is being used by 20 percent of those interviewed while 61% of them report success with it. The exception is MySpace which shows a decrease in perceived success from 42% to 34%.

Surprisingly, school “listening” activities have fallen off. 53 percent in 2007, 54% in 2008 and 73% in 2009 report they monitored the internet for buzz, posts, conversations and news about their institution. The latest research shows a slight decrease to 68%. Given the ease with which monitoring can be done, it is surprising that all schools are not monitoring online buzz about their institutions.

US colleges and universities are taking the lead in using social media as part of their marketing and recruiting plans. Some schools will use search engines and social media sites to garner more information about prospective students. They are evaluating the effectiveness of tools that were adopted early on and making decisions about which new tools to add into their communications strategy. The goal is clearly to reach and engage those tech savvy young people who may be making at least initial decisions about a school based on its online presence.

Looks like colleges and non-profits are leading the way by far over corporations in social media marketing usage. This has been trending for our years now. isn’t it interesting that the organizations with the most money and resources have the least use of these tools … maybe that makes sense?

 

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