Elite universities lead the way in social media use

From inventive hashtags to social media sites that drew droves of alums to campus to a widspread sharing on the college experience on popular social platforms, elite universities are leading higher education in social media use, according to a new national ranking.

Twitter use was a key in the 2013 rankings.

Prestigious schools, including Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and Yale universities, cracked the top-10 of an annual social media ranking created by StudentAdvisor, a company that tracks how colleges and universities use social media to communicate with students, faculty, and alumni.

Several public and for-profit schools made StudentAdvisor’s top-25 social media colleges, including the University of Oregon, the University of Florida, and the for-profit Full Sail University.

Harvard claimed the top spot in StudentAdvisor’s rankings thanks to an impromptu — and incredibly successful — use of a Twitter hashtag in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing that closed down much of the city.

The citywide lockdown prevented accepted Harvard students from visiting the historical campus, so the university instead created the #virtualvisitas hashtag that allowed current and future students to share videos, images, and text documenting their on-campus experience.

The university’s creative use of Twitter netted Harvard its largest incoming class since 1973, thanks in large part to the online sharing that substituted for the in-person visit.

See page 2 for details on how Duke rocketed up the annual social media rankings…

Duke University saw the most dramatic rise in StudentAdvisor’s annual rankings, moving from 44th in 2012 to fifth in 2013. The school’s One Day at Duke initiative, available for anyone to view on YouTube, caught the attention of colleges and universities nationwide.

The One Day at Duke project combined thousands of pieces of social media content from around the world, showing prospective students what it was like on the Duke campus.

Social media, once considered non-essential in higher education, is now the focus of student and alumni outreach programs and initiatives at elite schools and community colleges alike.

Social media presence matters to students, according to a recent survey.

The education consulting firm Art & Science Group released the results of a study that showed 44 percent of student respondents said they had used some form of social media in their search for a college or university, elite or otherwise.

That’s more than double than 18 percent of students who used social media in their college research five years ago.

The preferred social media platforms were hardly surprising, with 36 percent of students using Twitter and Facebook, while 13 percent used Google+. A mere 7 percent used YouTube in their school searches.

There was a split, however, in how certain students went about their social media-based school research.

Perspective college students with the highest SAT scores (over 1300) were more likely to examine blogs and notes found on social media sites, while students with SAT scores of less than 1100 didn’t focus on blogs and notes, according to the Art & Science Group study.

The marked increase in social media-based research hardly meant that students made their school decisions after reading a college’s Twitter timeline or perusing its Facebook page.

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