Social Media Is Complicated for Business, Too

Higher ed marketers face many of the same challenges as their counterparts in business when it comes to social media. 

June 27, 2016

Many social strategists in higher ed believe that those who work in business, are more successful at using social media. We think that the structure of their organizations allows them to be more nimble than we are, not to mention better staffed and funded.

A recent report -- The Eighth Annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner -- reveals much about how business marketers use social media.

And the comforting news is that they, too, are challenged by the fast-changing landscape of social media. Let’s consider some insights from the report.

Return on Investment (ROI)

As far as measuring success is concerned, only 33 percent of respondents agreed that they can measure the ROI of their social activities. The report’s author acknowledges that, “The ROI issue has plagued marketers for years.”

Higher ed marketers agree: we’re also challenged with how to measure success. Most (89 percent) of respondents to the 2015 Survey of Social Media in Advancement reported counting friends, fans, and followers as a measure of social media success, though some tracked more tangible indicators of ROI such as event registrations (43 percent) and form completion (15 percent).

Popular Platforms

Social Media Examiner’s report shows that the top five platforms among B2C marketers (those trying to reach the general public) are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram. Only 5 percent of respondents to their 2016 survey used Snapchat, although 17 percent said they planned to increase their use of it this year.

Responses in 2016 to the Survey of Social Media in Advancement indicate that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram are also the top five platforms used in higher ed marketing and advancement. What’s more, higher ed has embraced Snapchat to a much larger extent than commercial marketers. This year, 10 percent of respondents reported using it; among those institutions that considered themselves to be successful in using social media (32 percent of respondents overall), 26 percent reported using Snapchat. [Results from this survey will be released in September.]

Adopting New Networks

When it comes to responding to emerging social networks, marketers in business have the same sort of challenge as we do in higher ed. A majority (51 percent) selected “I am skeptical and wait and see what happens.” Only 6 percent report jumping into new networks.

We don’t have data on how willing higher ed marketers and advancement professionals are to adopt new networks, but every year, we hear concerns about when is the right time to jump onto a new platform.

Like those in business, higher ed marketers remain focused on being awesome where we are. For most, that means Facebook, and, fortunately, the data continue to support how important it continues to be for many of our main audiences. Right now that includes prospective students. According to Chegg’s 2016 social admissions research, 67 percent of teens report using Facebook for discovering information about colleges, though last year, 71 percent also used YouTube and 70 percent also used Instagram.

We’re All in the Same Boat

Reading this report helps to put social media marketing and engagement in its proper context: everyone is trying to make sense out of a fast-evolving field where established channels are changing and new ones are constantly emerging, as are new types of media such as live video. At the same time, our audiences are wiling to experiment and adopt these new channels and new media types.

The lesson: creating a credible, engaging social presence for an organization -- whether a business or a college or university -- will require smart, focused, informed decisions and hard work for the foreseeable future.


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