For colleges, social media no longer optional

LinkedIn has seen the largest increase in usage among colleges.

There won’t be big gains in the number of campuses using social media next year, according to two researchers who say every college and university they studied has already hopped aboard the social networking bandwagon.

Only six in 10 colleges had an official social media presence during the 2007-08 academic year, according to the report from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research.

In 2009, 85 percent of university admissions offices were using social media like Twitter and Facebook. That number rose to 100 percent during the 2010-11 school year.

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Communicating with current and prospective students through popular social media platforms is no longer reserved for tech-savvy schools trying to show teenagers and 20-somethings that the campus is in touch with technology trends, according to the research, conducted by Ava Lescault, a senior researcher at UMass-Dartmouth, and Nora Ganim Barnes, a chancellor professor at the university.

Instead, social networking is for campuses that want to maintain and grow enrollment numbers.

“Their involvement with technology exceeds any other generation and presents an enormous challenge for those targeting this hyper-connected group,” Lescault and Barnes wrote.

For campus officials, “the competition for these students is fierce and survival ultimately depends on engaging them through the use of social media and new communications tools. … The goal is clearly to reach and engage those tech savvy young people who may be making at least initial decisions about a school based on its online presence.”