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How Community Colleges Are Using Social Media: 2013 Case Study


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Presents the results of a 2013 community college social media study. The purpose of this study was to explore how community colleges use social media to communicate and build relationships with students and the campus community. The survey sought information about current usage, initial implementation, policies and guidelines, and best practices for institutional social media use.

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How Community Colleges Are Using Social Media: 2013 Case Study

  1. 1. How Community Colleges Are Using Social Media to Build Relationships & Drive Engagement Leigh-Anne Mauk Lawrence October 22, 2013
  2. 2. Hagerstown CC Quick Facts o Founded in Maryland in 1946 o 100+ Programs of study o Annual credit population of 6,7000 o Annual non-credit population of 9,500 o Special emphasis on STEM programming, health care, business, and lifelong learning 2
  3. 3. Why a Community College Study? Past Studies Had a Narrow Focus  Focused primarily on four-year schools  Focused on how social media can be incorporated into the curriculum or used as a learning tool  Have not addressed how social media can be used to build relationships or foster community discussion (or be used as a PR tool) Community colleges are wondering what’s next  How do we maximize our social media effectiveness?  How do we continue to build relationships and increase engagement? 3
  4. 4. Survey Design & Methodology  Voluntary, opt-in survey administered through in Nov. 2012  Survey questions were drawn from existing higher ed social media research and the researcher’s own experience as a social media administrator at a community college  Study participants were selected from the NCMPR member directory  Survey sent to PR/marketing/communications directors at 574 community colleges and technical schools across the nation 4
  5. 5. Population Sample Population Data by School  188 schools from 44 states responded for a response rate of 33%  42% were rural  33% were city-based  25% were city-adjacent (within 25 miles of a major city)  Majority offered between 50-100 programs of study and had between 5,000-10,000 credit students 98% use social media 5
  6. 6. Who, What, How, and Why 6
  7. 7. Major Findings: What are schools using? 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Facebook Twitter YouTube Google+ Foursquare LinkedIn Flickr Pinterest Other 78% have been using social media for 3 years or more 7
  8. 8. Major Findings: Why are they using it? Top Seven Reasons Colleges Use Social Media Sharing News & Events Increasing Student Engagement General Marketing/College Promotion Community/Relationship Building Promoting Student Support Services #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 Recruiting Prospective Students Connecting with Alumni and/or Potential Donors #6 #7 Not just for students anymore: 82% use social media to communicate and share information with community members and the public 8
  9. 9. Major Findings: How are schools using it? Posting Frequency Time of year plays a key factor in determining a posting schedule (i.e., if classes are in session) as well as the target audience and the popularity of a particular platform with that audience  50% post content daily  35% post more than twice a day to certain platforms  10% post on a weekly basis Content type  Varies by platform type  Majority of schools agree that different platforms appeal to different audiences  That same 95% agree that content should be tailored to fit the intended audience and platform through which content is being shared 9
  10. 10. Top Contender: Facebook  All 184 schools using social media have at least one Facebook page  70% of those schools have several different Facebook pages for different campuses, departments, or programs  91% said that Facebook is their most popular social media platform 10
  11. 11. Top Contender: Facebook 11
  12. 12. Top Contender #2: Twitter 12
  13. 13. Top Contender #2: Twitter 13
  14. 14. Schools Not Using Social Media  Of the 188 respondents, only four were not yet using social media  All plan to use social media—namely Facebook—in the future and anticipate social media playing an important role in their colleges’ communications plans “One billion Facebook users can’t be wrong.” -Survey Respondent 14
  15. 15. Challenges Before & After Implementation 15
  16. 16. Initial Social Media Concerns  Insufficient resources to properly manage social media (e.g., staffing, funding, etc.)  Concern about inappropriate posts by students  Privacy concerns (e.g., FERPA violations)  Concern about how to develop guidelines, policies, procedures, and strategies for social media usage and implementation 16
  17. 17. Initial Barriers Encountered  Resistance by administration  Lack of buy-in by staff and faculty However… o 45% did not encounter any barriers when implementing social media at their institutions o Of those that did encounter resistance initially, schools have now found that “all embrace [social media.]” 17
  18. 18. Challenges Faced After Implementation Other Primary concerns: How to manage newly established social media accounts and/or how to ensure that all staff and faculty were on the same page in regard to usage and administration 18
  19. 19. What Goes in a Social Media Policy? 19
  20. 20. To Policy or Not to Policy?  40% have established official policies to guide social media usage at their institutions  32% are working on drafting a social media policy  28% did not have an official, board-approved policy, but had created guidelines  85% felt that having social media policies and/or guidelines greatly benefited the institution A Brand New Policy?  Many school chose not to create a separate social media policy, but instead expanded existing policies on online communications, computer usage, or other electronic media policies  Polices governed both students and employees 20
  21. 21. Common factors among schools 1. One department oversaw institutional social media usage Only 11% had another department overseeing social media usage and in the majority of those cases, social media was managed in collaboration with the PR/marketing office 21
  22. 22. Common factors among schools 2. Content was not censored - Students were free to post their opinions as long as those comments were not “inappropriate” Examples of inappropriate content included: • • • • • • • • “Hate speech” Profanity or vulgarity Name-calling or threatening language Harassment of any kind (e.g., sexual, religious, racial, etc.) Content that violated state or federal laws including copyrights Partisan political activity Selling of goods or services for personal or financial gain Confidential information about the college, its staff, or its students 22
  23. 23. Common factors among schools 3. Social media administrators were required to adhere to specific guidelines Examples of guidelines/requirements included: • • • • • • Training in social media etiquette Posting content a certain number of times per week Responding to student questions and complaints Integrating multimedia into their postings (e.g., photos, videos, etc.) Taking classes/workshops on how to write for social media Creating a social media plan for the institution prior to implementation 23
  24. 24. Engagement & Relationship-Building Using Social Media 24
  25. 25. Engaging Students is Key “We want [our students] to feel connected to the college and to each other. We have to keep content coming on a regular basis to do that. And we keep trying new things.” -Survey Respondent 71% feel that social media could have a positive effect on student engagement and 58% believe that it can have a positive effect on student outcomes 64% believe that social media can positively impact student retention 25
  26. 26. How Do You Build an Online Community? Effective social media management + Regular posting of fresh, multimedia-driven content = Engagement Most Rewarding & Beneficial Social Media Practices Posting content on a regular basis Allowing students to post comments and answering student questions in a timely manner Having one dedicated staff member oversee all college social media accounts (i.e., a social media specialist or similar position) Posting college delays or closings and inclement weather announcements Highlighting positive human interest stories about faculty, staff, and other students #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 26
  27. 27. Top 3 Ways Schools Are Engaging Students  By asking questions and seeking student opinions and feedback on campus initiatives and improvements  By allowing students to post directly on college social media accounts (complaints and questions)  By sharing stories and photos/videos that students care about (e.g., student life, faculty and student success stories, etc.) 27
  28. 28. Going Beyond Campus: Community Engagement  Schools are using social media to connect with alumni, potential donors, community leaders, prospective students, and the media  Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular platforms for communicating with non-students, although LinkedIn is growing in popularity  Engagement by non-students mostly consists of shares and retweets, but that is expected to change as schools continue to integrate social media into their communications plans 28
  29. 29. What’s Next on the Social Horizon? Predictions based on the 2012 study  Schools will need to pick and choose what platforms will suit their intended audience(s) best and develop plans on how to use those platforms effectively  As funding allows, more schools will begin hiring dedicated social media managers to help guide institutional social media usage  Colleges will need to provide training for faculty and staff administrators  Colleges will need to start offering training for students on how to use social media professionally and how to monitor their online reputation 29
  30. 30. Final Takeaways – Advice from the Trenches  Choose your gatekeeper  Find the keymaster  Establish a social media policy  Look before you leap and don’t be greedy  Avoid “shiny object syndrome”  Hold faculty and staff accountable 30
  31. 31. Final Takeaways – Advice from the Trenches  Establish your voice  Know your audience  Post content regularly  Catch their eye  Go beyond the text message  Get students involved  Answer student questions  Be open-minded and willing to learn 31
  32. 32. Questions? Leigh-Anne Mauk Lawrence @writenowsocial 32