The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 8

Facebook has become a key to colleges' marketing campaigns.

The past year saw higher-education leaders embrace social media more than ever before to engage current students, entice prospective ones, and encourage alumni to open their wallets. And while there are no hard, fast rules when it comes to social media use in academia, attendees of the annual EDUCAUSE conference in October were encouraged to keep experimenting with their tweeting, linking, and posting until they strike the right balance in terms of effectiveness.

Massive social media advertising campaigns have proven effective for colleges and universities both large and small, and an analysis released in July showed that institutions that invest the most in social media ads spend less per student on marketing than do campuses that stick to traditional strategies … with comparable results.

Carefully crafted social media strategies and web videos that tug alumni heartstrings are becoming a foundation of campus fundraising efforts, as college officials use dwindling resources to recover from the largest-ever one-year decline in alumni contributions.

The results of these social media money-raising efforts have been mixed, but at least one school—the University of Wisconsin (UW), La Crosse—has credited the use of online videos spread via eMail marketing with raising $21 million to help pay for two new buildings on campus.

Higher education’s efforts to use social media have come as new research points to the prevalence of social media use among young people.

In fact, University of Maryland students who went 24 hours without TV, cell phones, MP3 players, and laptops during a recent study reported symptoms you might expect from someone struggling with substance abuse, including an “unbearable” need for electronic communication, persistent anxiety, and a frantic “craving for some technology.”

These withdrawal symptoms also were reported by students who took part in a campus-wide social media blackout at Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania this past fall, and they raise important questions about the toll our constantly wired mentality might be extracting on society.

Related links:

Colleges increasingly use social media to interact

Social media use on the rise, but fewer young people are blogging

Can social media cure low student engagement?

Class in 140 characters or less?

Social media is changing the peer-review process

Social media: Colleges’ newest battlefield for students, alumni donations

Are today’s students addicted to social media?

Colleges click the ‘like’ button on social media classes

How colleges can drive traffic to their web sites

Software helps schools monitor athletes’ postings

Schools reach out to prospective students via Facebook

B-schools all a-Twitter over social media

New OSU social media network helps students connect

More college marketing cash going to social media

Social media help college students forge professional opportunities

Students: Social media blackout eye-opening, ‘annoying’

Students dependent on technology—for better or worse

How to use higher education’s ‘new toy’: Social media

Do students need a social media safeguard?

Can Twitter use help improve grades? Some researchers think so

Technology helps save college fundraising

College students more likely to tweet