Blogging, social media use skyrocketing at universities

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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  • Excellent post this morning Mark, and extremely interesting data.

    Working in the field, I fully see this impact in the University and College system north of border. Personally, working with our local College (Georgian College) we’re having conversations now that we would have only been dreaming about in 2008, or 2009.

    However, I fully agree with your point about listening, as this is one area that many schools (and businesses) are really missing out on. In fact, I would say that they are only getting a quarter of the results they could be getting because they are often trying to be the ones starting the conversation (i.e. Facebook Fan Page, Blog ext) vs. listening to what others are saying about them or other schools, and jumping into the conversation.

    Great post, and thanks for sharing

  • Mark, interesting statistics, thanks for sharing.

    I have to wonder, does education do a better job of taking a long term view than major corporations? Resources are a challenge everywhere, but social media takes a concerted effort over time, something some large companies still seem to have difficulty with in their planning.

    Alternatively, is “getting to know them” that much more critical that social media has a quick return in education, by allowing prospective students to have a better understanding about making a four year decision at a relatively young age?

    Thought provoking, thank you for sharing!

    — @wittlake

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  • Really interesting observations, Josh. Thanks!

  • My theory is, that like any good marketer, colleges are “going where the customers are.” And for young people, that means social media.  One of the obstacles at companies is restrictive policies. I think something like 70% of B2B companies don’t allow social media use during business hours.

  • I think it is smart for universities to stay cutting edge.  I have had conversations with my former professors about how my alma maters’s website was dull and uninteresting; how that could negatively affect a prospective new student’s interest in applying there.  They have since revived it a bit.

    Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is really important when trying to connect with young people.  Non-profits are smart to take advantage of these free, priceless tools.  

  • I always questions statistics, and I have to question the statement that colleges and universities are embracing blogging while Fortune 500 companies are leveling off.

    The thing is there is a limited amount of Fortune 500 companies…there are 500 of them! How many colleges and universities are there? A lot more. That leaves a lot more room for growth.

    If all 500 companies embraced blogging then you would see a level-off real quick 🙂

  • The statistics are expressed on a percentage basis so the absolute number is less important unless you believe this is too small of a sample size. Between the F500 and Inc 500 you have detailed data from 1,000 companies. That’s a pretty substantial piece of research.

    The data are presented in a way that is statistically significant, which is why i run research from this university on this blog.  That kind of depth is rare on the social web.  Even without the statistical validity, you can probably eyeball the data and intutively judge that there is a difference between 66% and 23%. : )  I think there is a legitimate difference. Agree?

  • Really great point Krysia.  Everything communicates right?  Simply being on these social media platforms sends a message. Thanks!

  • Oh well, I tried 🙂


  • Good stuff Mark. I’m not sure the fall off if listening is too surprising… maybe, but you have to wonder if it’s just the effect of decimated state budgets and budget cuts at many universities. Monitoring SM may be easy, but as has been stated here at {grow} many times, it is not free.

    I would love to see this data segmented futher — by type of school (ivy, state, etc.) for the higher ed and by industry for the Fortune 500. Would be interesting to see if there are trends in who is adopting.

  • Oh, if only social media use was increasing within school.  If only social media use was increasing for professors to do their jobs, or to interact with students.  Alas, that isn’t happening according to anecdotal evidence.

  • Mark,

    Thanks for sharing this post. Colleges and Universities are using Social Media for
    Marketing and Recruiting but overall what happens when the students
    arrive in the classroom? 

    Do students find too many text book lectures and
    standardized tests?

    Are students learning and connecting with faculty
    and industry pros using new technology and social platforms?

    Do faculty connect and share with each other using Social Media and Blogs? 

    Are accreditation bodies, journal publications, and the tenure system
    requiring or encouraging faculty in the new digital learning paradigm shift or supporting the
    status quo? 

    There are individual professors and some programs using Social Media well but are they the rule or the exception for Higher Education?

    Bill (Dr. William J. Ward) aka DR4WARD

    Social Media Professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University

  • Good insight Adam.  You may be right. 

  • That is my experience too … even among those TEACHING it! 

  • Agree completely.  It has been frustrating and shocking to see the resistance to these tools in J schools and b schools.  

  • Maybe part of it has to do with the fact the schools and universities are much closer to the Gen X, Y, Millennials – which have also been the first to embrace Social Media.

    Also as not-for-profits, they are much less gun-shy when it comes to experimenting.

  • Yes I think you are probably correct Jeff.

  • As someone with clients in the education sector I read this with interest. Over here in Sweden I can see an increase in production but it’s very much a case of broadcasting rather than engagement. Even social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are more about getting news and info out, rather than bringing a community together. 

    Do you think blogs and social media are just the most successfully integrated-news platform for this sector? Or is there something deeper at work here?

  • Mazudy

    I grew up UGG bereft of UGG ? hugs. Neither of my ?? parents was the cuddly type. Greetings UGG?? involving kissing caused UGG ?? me to wince, and hugging UGG?? generally just made me feel awkward.Then ?? ?? one hug changed all that. ????UGG One month before my 40th birthday my dad had heart surgery. As he came round, days later, he grabbed me and hugged me so hard I had to push with all my might to keep my head from pressing down on his newly stitched torso.It was a hug to make up for all those we had ????UGG never had. ?? ?? Days later as he slowly started to gain UGG?? strength he told me for UGG ?? the first time ever UGG?? that he loved me, ?? and through my tears I told him I UGG loved him too UGG ?.

  • …and when university staff refuse to accept criticism their social media channels need help, then what?

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  • claudia

    this statistic emphasize more the role of internet and its features as social networks and blogs in university life, that is why we say that universities are changing more and more and a new area of online universities has began

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