Posted by: cslfconnects | February 18, 2009

Update on Web 2.0 for Higher Education

Brad J. Ward of refers in January to a broad study done by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth about Social Media within college admissions offices ( and not surprisingly, social media usage trends universally up, in some cases remarkably so, even over last year.

The Center for Marketing Research at UMass compares adoption of social media by admissions offices in 2007 and 2008 across “… all of the accredited four-year institutions in the United States.”  All.  Of note is that though the evidence points to broader application of such tools as blogs, facebook, twitter and YouTube, that schools have yet to fully utilize the potential of social media.

While the strategies and commitment of institutions in higher ed using social media may seem as of yet tentative or lacking depth, the study points out that higher ed seems to be more hip to social media than most Fortune 500 companies. As pointed out astutely in the comments on Mr. Ward’s blog, this isn’t much of an epiphany: the deeper pockets and bigger budgets of the high flying corporate marketing department still feels free to only dabble in social media and still doubts the return on investment that community engagement brings. Colleges and universities (many of whom have seen their endowments shrink this year as the stock market took a down-turn) are taking their cues from smaller, local and non-profit companies, leveraging the connection and loyalty that social media can bring.

A new Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki shows a mere 13% percent of major corporations investing in social media, while UMass Dartmouth’s longitudinal study indicates a whopping 41% of admissions offices at colleges and universities diving into social media.

Not too surprisingly, the private schools still have deeper pockets and outpace public colleges and universities in their use of social media, with 72% of private schools utilizing new technology to reach out to potential students, versus the 28% of public institutions. Since public institutions rely heavily on in-state students’ near automatic application to their admissions’ offices, these statistics would reveal the smaller budgets and less pressing need to recruit students. As the economy continues to shift and families choose even less expensive community colleges over state schools, I predict we’ll see another shift in one to two years.  State colleges and universities will see the ROI inherent in local and national engagement of prospective students.

According to the study, a full 85% of schools are using at least one form of social media.  Will the social media programs in higher education flow to where the technology will be in one to two years?  If they’re savvy, they’ll listen to their built-in experts: their students. They’ll already be using whatever the “new” new media will be.

For more information on Web 2.0 for Higher Education, please see our comprehensive primer on social media:

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  1. We lost a few blogs on the fortune 500, back down to 12%. Though we are preparing to do a count again shortly.

  2. Nice post! Keep it real.I have looked over your blog a few times and I love it.

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