Professionals in the field define social media as "...a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." In terms of business, this means that the consumer generates much of the content on the Internet through blogs, social networking, and other websites that may focus on the business (i.e., ratings, reviews, rankings). For universities, this may mean either happy or not so happy students generating their own stories about their experiences at college, their outlook for career endeavors, reviews of professors, comments about the quality of the institution, potential conflicts on and off campus, and the list continues. Basically, it is the duty of the school and its administration to be aware of the chatter generated by students, alumni, staff, faculty, and leadership online. Establishing the proper social media protocols also allows colleges and universities to quickly respond to negative or inaccurate comments.
Content Sharing CapabilitiesWhen I was in college, there was a saying that “If you experience something positive, you might tell two people. However, when you experience something negative, you will tell at least seven people and they will most likely tell five more.” In today’s terms, that saying would probably read more like: “You will share either a negative or positive experience with your social network. Depending on your current Twitter following or Klout Score, you may tell several thousand people in 140 characters or less in 30 seconds!” Social media is quickly becoming the preferred method for discovering and sharing content whether positive or negative. Universities with a solid social media plan can take advantage of both their own influence as an institution of higher learning as well as the collective influence of its people.
Highly Targeted AudienceWith a growing number of lead generation, marketing, and social media analytics service/software providers such as HubSpot and Sprout Social surfacing almost daily, the amount of data one can derive from something as simple as a single Twitter feed is phenomenal. Such tools allow universities to “listen in” on conversations germane to their particular academic offerings. Imagine the power of honing in on questions or remarks such as “What kind of engineering degree should I pursue?” or “I’m looking for a good MBA program” in terms of adding to enrollment opportunities.
Measurable Return On Investment (ROI)Sudha Jamth suggests three metrics that businesses can track to measure ROI. As applied to universities, they would look something like this:
1. Social media revenue conversion measures how many people become students through social media referral channels. This may also include students who enroll through an online call-to-action.
2. Facebook engagement measures a brand’s ability to communicate successfully with their community of learners, future students, faculty, and alumni on the social network.
3. Social customer support metrics measure the impact of student support on brand health and the cost of staffing a social support program.