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Editor's Note

Being Sociable

University Business, Apr 2009

Tim Caption

OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS OR SO the University Business offices have become home to a new lexicon. The UB editors talk about “tweeting” and whom they are following or who is following them, and the “@” key is getting a workout. “Friend” has become a verb. I’m referring, of course, to the social media phenomenon, currently dominated by such services as Twitter, Facebook, and Ning. We’ve become fans of them here, finding them useful for quick communication, staying in touch with colleagues, and for promotion. Twitter, for example, has proven to be an effective way to find sources for stories. Ask a question to the general “Twitterverse” and you’ll receive answers from many people. I have to admit it’s kind of fun when my Twitter client lights up with a response or comment from a celebrity like Guy Kawasaki, Ana Marie Cox, or Adam Savage.

Students check their Facebook pages about as often as their cell phones.

And because your Twitter posts can feed directly into your Facebook page, which we also maintain, the two often go hand-in-hand.

Now, here’s the thing: Just as the critics say, much of the content of these social networks is inane. But that is to be expected as people try them out to see what they can do. As with many technologies that have come before, social media applications start with a high level of novelty. Their value may not be apparent at first, but users will eventually figure out what they can do with the technology and how it can benefit others. The end result may not even resemble the current format, but it’s a start.

Higher education is dipping its toe in the social media pool, too. In a recent (admittedly nonscientific) poll by the social media site DIOSA, 87 percent of respondents said their institution had a Facebook page.

That makes good sense because Facebook, created by and for college students but now open to anyone, last month topped MySpace as the largest social network on the internet with nearly 69 million users.

According to some sources, up to 85 percent of college students have a Facebook page. After they realized that students check their Facebook pages about as often as their cell phones, American University (D.C.), the University of Maryland at College Park, and others began using the service to send important notices. Why? Because e-mail has become pass?.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the emergence of social media in higher education in upcoming issues of University Business. It will also be one of the major themes at the EduComm Conference in Orlando this June. In a session called “The University Long Tail,” presenter Brad J. Ward will explain how to integrate social media into your current strategy and offer practical advice and tips on how to get started. In another session called “Social Media Campaigns: The New Face of Marketing,” Diane McDonald, associate director of marketing at Texas A&M University, will discuss how TAMU employs a social media campaign for enrollment and awareness and how other schools can benefit from this marketing approach.

I want to know whether you or your institution have joined the social media movement. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Ning, or one of the other popular services, tell me what you are doing. Write me at the address below, or send a message through the University Business Facebook page at, or via Twitter @tgoral. And while you’re at it, check out The EduComm Institute on Facebook at

Write to Tim Goral at