5 ways higher ed’s social media use has changed from 2015 to 2016

By Meris Stansbury
July 28th, 2016

New data from over a thousand different institutions provides a detailed snapshot of 2016’s college and university social media use.


If 2015 was the year colleges and universities began using social media like any other media-savvy millennial, 2016 is the year of refinement and targeted purpose. From a surge in ‘Pay to Play’ and post curation to new measures of determining success, higher education is becoming a social media leader.

The findings are part of a yearly report (currently in its seventh year) conducted by CASEHuron Education, and mStoner, Inc.—written by Jennifer Mack, senior researcher at Huron Education and Michael Stoner, co-founder and president of mStoner—on higher education’s social media habits.

According to the 2016 report (slideshow is currently available), which received responses from over 1,100 CASE members in the U.S. and abroad (45 percent of respondents work in college and university Communications, 35 percent in Alumni Relations and the rest in other areas like Marketing and Admissions), social media advancement become incredibly refined in higher education.

Here are 5 differences in trends revealed in the 2016 report from the 2015 report:


1.From Campaigns to ‘Pay to Play’

In 2015, according to those surveyed, the number of institutions using social media in campaigns, which the report defined as a planned strategy to achieve a specific goal, was the most notable trend, with 70 percent indicating they used social media in campaigns–up from 50 percent in 2012 and 59 percent in 2014.

In 2016, boosting posts and advertising was the biggest trend, with those surveyed reporting almost 8,200 paid post engagements. With a budget of just $125, institutions that generally reached an average of 2,000 people organically were able to boost their reach to almost 17,000 people. Cost per engagement was estimated at just $0.01.

“Because the organic reach of posts continues to plummet, we boost almost all of our posts,” noted one respondent.

The most successful social media users are more likely to boost and/or promote posts on Facebook and Twitter, while they’re more likely to advertise on LinkedIn, notes the report.

However, respondents warned that selectivity is key for boosting. According to the data, 68 percent boost no more than 1 in 5 Facebook posts, which drops to 1 in 10 for Twitter.

(Next page: Social media changes 2-5)

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