Many higher ed institutions across the globe are boosting their social budgets to keep up with a new generation of students who rely primarily on social media for their news and information about a variety of topics, according to a new report from Hootsuite, a social media monitoring company.
These results and others are found in “The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Ed in 2018,” which is to be released today in conjunction with a webinar conducted by Phil Chatterton, the industry principle for higher education at the company. Chatterton said the company received more than 800 responses from institutions around the world in regards to their survey. The study revealed that on 70% of campuses, students had spurred the increased focus on social media. Chatterton said the analysis revealed higher ed administrators and executives are increasingly aware of the need to invest in social media, with 66% of executives viewing it as a strategic area of focus and 63% believing it is an important aspect of a school’s strategic planning and the fulfillment of its institutional mission.
“There’s definitely a sense social is connected into that process,” he said. “I think executives want to get a better idea of the ROI on what social can offer campuses.”
Higher ed executives are 10% more likely to be using social media compared to individuals in positions of leadership in the corporate world at Fortune 500 companies, undercutting the conventional thinking that higher ed institutions consistently lag behind private industry. The report also indicated that a variety of departments throughout higher ed institutions were using social media as a tool, with communications and marketing departments unsurprisingly using it most frequently. Student services, faculty groups, and even athletics departments are also investing time and resources in social. Chatterton also noted that during on-site visits to campuses he had interacted with researchers who also saw social media as a cost-efficient and effective way to alert the campus and public to events and educational advancements taking place at the university.
Chatterton said higher ed administrators also find social media is a valuable tool in attracting and recruiting international students, especially at a time when international student recruitment may be suffering due to the country's fractious political climate. Chatterton said institutions in the U.S. and Great Britain, with its own ongoing concerns over Brexit, are striving to promote international recruitment even more in light of expected declines in interest, and social media is proving to be a valuable tool. The decreasing number of recent high school grads on campus is also leading to a feeling of increased competition, and Chatterton said higher ed institutions are increasingly viewing a robust social media presence as a way to gain an advantage over competitors, be they traditional four-year universities or non-traditional programs.
Institutions might also find that communicating with their student populations is easier and more cost-efficient with social media, as opposed to phone or e-mail communications; students, for example, may use social media tools more frequently than they would check e-mail (this could also be useful in the event of a campus disaster or site of danger, or during an active shooter situation). Higher ed administrators who invest in social media may also have a better chance of addressing campus controversies before they become problematic enough that they threaten to upend stability on the campus itself.
"There’s this kind of vacuum of knowledge on social and how it has impacted education,” Chatterton said. “This has changed the way people communicate, and education is a big part of that.”