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At The University of Vermont­, a small public research university, officials had realized that mobile would become very important to our stakeholders. It was 2007 and mobile adoption rates had begun to skyrocket. Smart phones had begun to proliferate nationally and at the institution, which has an average combined enrollment of 12,500 undergraduate, graduate, and medical students.

Social media gurus and CRM providers share a vision for a future where CRM and social media go hand in hand. But the idea is in its early stages.

“The CRM system assumes that everything is data, whereas most of what you’re talking about is people and conversations with people,” shares Michael Staton, founder of Inigral, creator of the Schools App. The goal? “A CRM where the entire premise is that you’re interacting, you’re not just logging data about accounts and tracking potential revenue,” he says.

Last August, when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Virginia, people in offices up the East Coast were reading about the quake before they felt their desks not-so-mysteriously begin to wobble. How? Chalk it up to another feat of Twitter (by this time it had already helped topple unruly regimes in the Middle East). During the earthquake, users tweeted at a rate of 5,500 tweets per second, with 40,000 tweets hitting Twitter timelines and TweetDecks in just one minute.

After a somewhat slow start, higher education institutions are increasingly taking advantage of social media to market themselves and keep constituents aware of what they are doing. A recent social media adoption study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth shows usage rates are increasing steadily in every year. For example, university Twitter usage jumped from 59 percent in the 2009-2010 school year to 89 percent in the 2010-2011 school year. Similarly, Facebook usage increased dramatically from 61 percent in 2008-2009 to 98 percent in 2010-2011.

What difference can a year make? When it comes to the mobile web in higher education, it seems that it’s all it took to switch gears and respond to the needs of an increasing mobile user population on campuses—and elsewhere.

Alumnae Beverly Diederich, Mary Habstritt, and Margot Note with “Today Show” host Al Roker.

On February 29, St. Catherine University (Minn.) students, alumnae, faculty, staff, and friends made their presence and appreciation for their school known in a big way. That Wednesday, designated Shout Out St. Kate’s Day, was a chance for everyone to share what drew them to the school, what they think sets St. Kate’s apart, and more. The hashtag #ShoutOutStKates earned trending status on Twitter. Daily total impressions on the university’s Facebook page jumped from 19,000 the day before to 232,000 that day.

UCLA’s Murphy Sculpture Garden was the backdrop for an interview with UCLA art professor James Welling for the four-part mini-series “Naked Art.”

There is more to YouTube than videos of talking dogs. Its vast collection of educational videos includes those from University of California Television (UCTV). In March, order was brought to the chaos by the creation of channels offering original programming funded by YouTube. Existing content creators ranging from TED to Madonna were invited to participate; UCTV has bragging rights as being the only university channel. “YouTube is moving into the content creation business by [investing] in a select few channels,” explains Lynn Burnstan, UCTV’s director.

In November, Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) hit a 50,000 Facebook fan milestone. Two months later, the count neared 54,000. The page didn’t get to be what’s likely tops among community colleges on Facebook by accident. Jeff Fanter, vice president of communications and marketing for the system, which has 200,000-plus students enrolled annually, shares some success secrets:

a mouse with the wire attached to a credit card

When it comes to e-commerce, anything retail can do, college campuses can do, too—and probably better, experts say. That explains in large part why the lone bookstore URLs many colleges and universities began with have blossomed into hundreds of online money opportunities ranging from student fees to concert and athletic tickets, from parking permits to alumni donations.

Social networking, online banking, entertainment... There’s an app for that—and for everything else you can think of. When it comes to higher ed, there’s an app for that, too. From behind-the-scenes mobile CRM apps to in-your-face athletic program apps, campus administrators are developing ways to make students’, administrators’, and faculty members’ lives a bit easier (or just more fun).