How colleges can stay on the leading edge of social media

Nearly every U.S. college has an official Facebook page.

Dean Tsouvalas, editor-in-chief of, recently interviewed Nora Barnes, a chancellor professor of marketing and director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, about the Center’s newest study, titled “Social Media Adoption Soars as Higher-Ed Experiments and Reevaluates Its Use of New Communications Tools.”

The new report is the outcome of a statistically valid study of the nation’s four-year accredited colleges and universities.

The study examined these institutions to quantify their adoption of social media tools and technologies. This is the fourth year that UMass-Dartmouth has tracked social media adoption by the higher-education sector. The findings are based on 456 interviews conducted during the 2010-11 academic year and have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

DT: Back in 2007, why did you create the first statistically significant study on the usage of social media by colleges and universities in the U.S.?

NB:  Intuitively, we thought the business world would be ahead with these kinds of technologies and so, being a college professor and our center being located on a college campus, it seemed like it made sense to do that one next. And it was nothing but surprises for everybody when we found out higher education was actually ahead of the business world and continues to be ahead of the business world in the use of these new technologies.

DT: What have been the biggest changes since your first study in 2007 and the most recent one in 2011?

NB: Virtually everything has increased. Everything. Probably the biggest increase was in podcasting, which has almost doubled. Between the 2010 and 2011 academic years, podcasting went from 22 percent to 41 percent.  Facebook is up to 98 percent usage, so virtually every school we talked to has a Facebook page. In just one year, this was up 10 [percentage] points. We now have Twitter usage at 84 percent. It was actually 59 percent the year before, so we’re looking at dramatic increases in Twitter accounts. And blogging’s increasing, too. About two-thirds of the schools currently have blogs.

DT: What do you think are some of the most significant highlights from this 2011 study?

NB: …I think [one] of the other things that [is] interesting is whether schools are creating a social media policy. It’s important that schools have some kind of basic guidelines on how social media can be used, and of course, this is more important than ever if they’re going to proliferate. If everyone’s going to have a blog and everyone’s blogging from a college campus, then the question becomes: “Are there any rules?” Is there anything that we should be doing that we’re not doing now?

More schools have social media policies now than have had them in the past, but the number is still small. We’ve gone from maybe 20 percent of the schools to 30 percent of the schools that have social media policies, sometimes as high as 40 percent. The majority of the schools have no such policy, and that’s a problem. That’s compounded by the fact that many of our blogs are run by students or student interns, or maybe students who work in the office.

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eCampus News Staff

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