Facebook remains the most common use of social media in higher education, with 98 percent of institutions using the site, up from 87 percent last year.
Twitter use among colleges has seen one of the sharpest spikes, according to the research, spiking from 59 percent last year to 84 percent this year.
LinkedIn, a social network reserved mostly for business professionals, saw the largest gains in higher education this year. Nearly half of colleges surveyed said they used LinkedIn for official purposes, a marked increase from 16 percent last school year.
Menachem Wecker, founder of the Association for Social Media and Higher Education, said establishing social media presence has become a common goal on campuses, but the management of Facebook and Twitter accounts is too often farmed out to a small group of staffers who don’t share information with other departments, officials, and faculty members.
“Unless that person or team is providing regular social media alerts and updates to the larger community, there is a missed opportunity,” Wecker said. “Social media, at least in my experience, helps keep us engaged, humble, and up-to-date in a frightfully fast-evolving 24/7 news cycle. Schools that don’t buy in to the game do so at their own peril.”
Wecker, a former writer for the George Washington University’s online daily news service, said he would monitor “the GW brand aggressively,” scanning social sites for mentions of the school by prospective students.
When Wecker reached out to the prospective student on Facebook or Twitter, the student often said GW had been the only school to respond to his online postings.
“I am pretty surprised that most schools don’t seem to be playing any kind of offensive game in the social media space, and many won’t even respond to messages sent to them, unless they are glowing endorsements,” he said.
Establishing a presence on each of the major social media websites, the researchers said, confirms that admissions and recruitment officers will use each platform to scrutinize perspective students.
“It is clear that online behavior can have important consequences for young people and that these tools can, and will, be utilized by others to make decisions about them,” Ganim Barnes and Lescault wrote.
The percentage of school officials keeping an eye on what’s being said about their institution on the internet is lower than the researchers expected.