How colleges can stay on the leading edge of social media

DT: Overall, what would you say is some of your best advice to colleges and universities to improve their social media [use]?

NB: As a college or university thinks about its brand and having all of these people talking about it, how do you manage that? How do you strategize around that? My advice for colleges and universities is to think about that. Think about strategy now. It’s not so much grabbing the tools. Now it’s about the strategy. Now it’s about the risk. Now it’s about the measurement.

My advice is to move to I guess what we can call social media 2.0, or maybe social media 3.0, which is the next stage beyond comments and hits to measure on engagement—to measure interaction and to do some kind of quality connections, which we haven’t been doing before.

DT: Anything that we haven’t talked about that you think is important?

NB:  I think right now is an easier time than ever before to get help, advice, information, and examples from other institutions. Your site,, is a fabulous place to look at what other schools are doing. That is where you begin. You always begin is to look at your peer institutions. Look at some inspirational schools. Look at what they’re doing, how they’re using social media and again, sites like yours can help them to see that.

For those of us who are doing these studies, I think we’re going to have to change what we’re doing. We’re past the point where we can say, “Do you have a blog? Do you have a Facebook page? Do you have a Twitter account?” Because, depending on who you talk to on the campus, that answer may be different. Even in the admissions office, they may no longer be managing their message.

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes is a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and has been named a Senior Research Fellow by the Society for New Communications Research. Working closely with businesses in the Northeast U.S., Nora and her students have provided marketing research assistance to hundreds of small businesses. She has published articles in academic and professional journals and proceedings, has contributed chapters to books, and has been awarded numerous research grants. Her work has been covered online and in print by Business Week, the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the Huffington Post, and Computer World, among others. is the home of the Top 100 Social Media Colleges rankings. All of its information, guides, and tools are free to the public.

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