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Foster Design Group
January 27, 2017

Featuring a Social Media hub can turn your Higher Education website into an engagement powerhouse. 

While Facebook may be losing some of its luster among teens and young adults, Social Media as a whole has never been stronger. Pew research reports 89% of those 18-29 use Social Media. Millennials have five times as many “friends” as their parents, and spend much more time at Social sites—a study by Ipsos says 18-34 year old Social Media users spend an average of 3.8 hours each day with Social vs. 2.4 hours for those 50-64. Social Media are growing as a connection tool for college alumni as well—a study by iStrategy reports college alumni Social usage up 65% in the past three years.

With Social Media such an important tool for connecting with Higher Ed constituencies, it’s surprising how little effort is put into Social Media by colleges, and how few of their websites feature it. Looking at 102 Higher Education websites in Massachusetts—arguably one of the more technology progressive states in the nation—only 11 schools featured Social Media content on their home page, and only 14 had Social Media directories. The majority of sites all but hid Social icons at the bottom of the home page. While there are lots of examples of fun, creative uses of Social Media by colleges, most of these are one-off programs that garner a flurry of student or alumni engagement, with no follow-through to build Social Media equity.

Are schools afraid of a medium they can’t control? Or are most Higher Ed marketing teams just stretched too thinly to give Social the time and resources it deserves? As long as Social is treated as a separate effort, it’s likely to get short shrift. A solution is to develop an integrated digital strategy that works college-wide, with Social a key component of all digital efforts. That way Social is on everyone’s radar screen, and Social can get attention from the whole digital team, playing a lead or supportive role, as needed.

Web redesign is a great place for this to start—almost a third of colleges say they will redesign their sites this year to make them mobile-responsive; in planning for their new sites, they should build in a Social Media hub, either on the homepage, or a featured Social homepage section that links to a Social hub. Wherever housed, Social hubs are much more than a collection of Social icons, they’re an opportunity for the entire school community—students, faculty, staff, alumni—to connect, engage, promote and celebrate what’s happening at the school, and participate in its advancement.

Think Social should get more attention at your school, but not sure who will benefit? Featuring a Social Media hub on your college website will have positive impact across the board:

Seeing and hearing what their peers are doing—in class projects, internships, community volunteering, semesters abroad—will inspire your students to get more involved and take full advantage of the learning opportunities your school offers.

Sharing information on campus events will broaden and diversify participation, improving the events themselves, and student satisfaction with life on your campus.

High school juniors and seniors will see your school as energetic and cutting edge, predisposing talented achievers to you.

Prospects will learn what your college has to offer from the best advocates you have—your most engaged students—encouraging more applications and enrollments.

Faculty will engage colleagues, students and alumni in dialogs about their research, findings and writing—giving greater exposure to their work and helping to attract and retain talented teachers.

Alumni will be able to share their stories—about careers, family, causes—helping students find their life direction and prepare for the world after graduation.

Alumni can build career and interest networks, reinforcing their ties to your school and encouraging them to contribute time, expertise and money.

If you think Social should play a greater role at your school, we’d be happy to offer you an hour or two of our time to brainstorm Social engagement programs, and how to link them in a Social Media hub.