Campus, News

Social media becomes more important to schools, report states


In the recent years, more and more education institutions are using social media as a marketing and communication tool, according to a study published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education on Thursday.

Out of 1,198 institutions that responded to CASE’s study, 86 percent stated that social media is more important to them than it was three years ago. The top five social media channels that schools and universities use are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, according to the report.

While social media is used as a way for schools to reach out to potential and current students, the report also found that many institutions paid Facebook to boost and promote their posts, which allow more flexibility when it comes to targeting the content to a particular group of people. 

The report also suggested that schools should consider whether they should join new platforms to establish a presence, produce new content, build a following and be able to engage with them.

“One way in which the most successful institutions differ from less successful ones is that they’re engaged on more channels — and especially on emerging channels,” the CASE study stated.

At Boston University, Emily Truax, a digital engagement associate and the monitor of BU’s social media accounts, said BU uses Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr as means to communicate, as well as Chinese social networks WeChat, Weibo, and Renren.

“On Facebook, we are primarily interested in driving traffic to BU websites, versus on Instagram we want to visually display what life is like on campus and what it means to have an urban campus,” Truax said. “[And] a lot of the community building and community engagement comes in on Twitter.”

Truax said it’s more effective for the university to reach out to individuals on social media rather than sending out general messages.

“When you show interest in the user, that you engage with them or reach them directly, it’s a good way to sort of breakthrough that noise,” Truax said.

The university must take other things into consideration when deciding whether or not to join a new platform, including the number of users and percentage of college students using the channel, Truax said.

“We look at what our goals are and if there’s a way that [the] platform aligns with what our strategy is,” Truax said.

Lei Guo, an emerging media professor in the College of Communication, said it’s hard for universities to catch students’ attention through social media, especially when battling so much content that other organizations produce.

“The current media landscape is very fragmented, so even though that a lot of people use social media, our attention is limited,” Guo said.

Regarding the report’s finding on paid posts, Guo said although it helps institutions to get the message out, the most important thing is still to produce content that specifically targets a group or audience, be it prospective students, parents or alumni.

“Social media is a tool,” Guo said. “It’s just a tool for you to connect to people, but in a sense, the real stuff is the content and how you attract your students.”

Several students said although they are aware of the university’s presence on social media, they do not use it as a main source of information.

Bailey Montaño, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said although BU does have a presence on social media, the university doesn’t take full advantage of it.

“[Boston University] pick[s] and choose[s] the wrong things to advertise,” Montano said. “There are other more notable things that could be of people’s interest too.”

Audrey Moon, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said she doesn’t usually find out about events through BU’s social media.

“I see [events] not because I follow BU or anything. It’s usually mutual friends who are interested in going [to the event],” Moon said.

Vivien Nguyen, a CAS senior, said that she doesn’t follow any of BU’s official social media pages. Instead, she “only follow specific clubs.”

She added that she mainly finds about on-campus events through emails that the university sends out, and she will register for the ones she is interested in.

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