The adoption of social media is a phenomenon that characterizes many professional and non professional environments and brings new opportunities by introducing new ways to interact and communicate.
Photo credit: James Steidl
Many commercial companies have started integrating social media in their communication strategies to strengthen and augment the quality of their interactions with their own customers. But what about universities? Are they taking advantage of the same opportunities?
In the following report edited by Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson, researchers at the Center for Marketing Research at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, you will be able to take a look at the outcome of research work which has been carried out within the admission departments of some of the most important American universities.
This research explores the adoption of social media within such environments and the immediate consequences of such phenomenon.
The Game Has Changed: College Admissions Outpace Corporations in Embracing Social Media
By Nora Barnes, Ph.D. and Eric Mattson
Universities are a mixture of powerful and often contradictory forces. The unlimited potential of young people, ever-increasing budget pressures, academia's love of new ideas, and strong traditions combine to create a culture that is simultaneously incredibly innovative and slow to change. How then, are colleges and universities responding to the new wave of social media?
This study seeks to answer that question in a definitive manner by following up on our previous research into social media adoption. Recently, we revealed how fast-growing companies of Inc. 500 were embracing social media. Using a similar methodology, this research reached out to the "marketing teams" (i.e., the admission departments) of over 2,000 accredited four-year colleges and universities nationwide to learn how they were using these exciting new technologies. Their answers are fascinating and prove (in a statistically significant way) that the use of social media in the "ivory tower" is outpacing even the business world.
The analysis that follows is based on detailed interviews with 453 admissions departments. The responding institutions are diverse in student size (from under 50 students to over 50,000), annual tuition (from less than $1,000 to over $40,000), funding (69% private, 31% public) and location (49 states are represented). The sample includes well-known private schools like Duke, Carnegie Mellon, Vassar and Wesleyan as well as many large public universities from states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.
In order to enable a valid comparison this study followed a similar pattern to our corporate social media research and asked detailed questions about the organizations' familiarity with, usage of, monitoring of and attitude towards six common forms of social media (blogs, wikis, podcasts, online video, message boards and social networking). Given the frequently uncertain definitions of these media, common understanding was sought by providing definitions from Wikipedia at the time of the survey.
The results are very interesting and in some ways more surprising than the previous Inc. 500 adoption data. The new data indicates that college admissions' social media usage is racing far ahead of predictions and even ahead of corporate usage. The research results that follow are statistically valid at +/- 4%.
To begin, respondents were asked to rank their familiarity with each technology from "very familiar" to "very unfamiliar". The social media that was most familiar to college admissions departments is social networking with 55% of respondents claiming to be "very familiar with it".
However, as the graph below shows, a significant percentage of admissions departments are "very familiar" with all the technologies. In addition, for almost every technology the admissions departments are equally or significantly more familiar with the technologies than the corporations of the Inc. 500. This is the highest familiarity rate documented for a group with respect to blogging. (See Figure 1)
Image description: Figure 1
From familiarity the survey moved into examining actual usage of social media by the admissions departments. Sixty-one percent of the respondents use at least one form of social media. Blogging is the most common form with 33% of admissions departments using it. Notably, this usage rate is 14% higher than that of the Inc. 500 respondents.
Four of the other six social media also have strong adoption rates that are similar to those of corporations. The only exception is the adoption of wikis which are used by only 3% of admissions departments compared with 17% of responding businesses in the Inc. 500. (See Figure 2)
Image description: Figure 2
The adoption of social media by admissions departments is being driven by familiarity and their recognition of the increasing role of social media in today's world. Interestingly, admissions departments feel that social media is "very important" to their future strategy in almost a 2:1 ratio to Inc. 500 businesses that feel the same way (51% compared to 26%). (See Figure 3)
Image description: Figure 3
These results only begin to scratch the surface of the data gathered. And while we're saving some additional detailed and exciting results for several academic articles (see below) later this year, there is one point that must be shared right now because of its ground-breaking nature.
A significant proportion of schools are beginning to research students via search engines (26%) and social networks (21%). While certainly the traditional factors will still play dominant roles in admissions decisions, no longer can students place damaging material online without potential consequences. (See Figure 4)
Image description: Figure 4
The results are conclusive. Social media has arrived in college admissions. The ivory tower is innovating even faster than the elite Inc. 500. And the game has changed forever.
Note from the editors:
A more thorough write-up of our research into social media adoption by university and college admissions departments will be published in several journals in the second half of 2007. To be added to the editors email distribution list so that you can stay abreast of their research and writings, please email eric [at] ericmattson.com or nbarnes [at] umassd.edu.
Originally published as "The Game Has Changed: College Admissions Outpace Corporations in Embracing Social Media" by Nora Ganim Barnes on the website of the Center for Marketing Research at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
About the author
Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes earned a Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior from the University of Connecticut and is a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. As Director of the Center for Marketing Research, she has provided services in brand and product development, research, promotion, and commercial television production to hundreds of clients.
Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson -
Reference: University of Massachusets Dartmouth - Center for Marketing Research [ Read more ]