Gaining traction with social media

At the university where I work, we’ve been involved in the social media channels of Facebook and Twitter since 2007. But it wasn’t until this past weekend, as freshmen were moving into their rooms and Greek housing, that the level of engagement with our audiences on social media started to reach a point that I would consider critical mass in the sociodynamic sense.

OK, that may be a bit hyperbolic. Maybe “critical mass” is the wrong term. But the levels and quality of social media activity between our university and our audiences seems to be increasing.

Maybe it’s just that normal activity has resumed on social networks following a summer lull. But when I look at the data, I see indicators of increased engagement.

Facebook interactions and activity has been on the rise in terms of daily, weekly and monthly active users, likes and interactions (comments).

Twitter activity has also been on the uptick, with significant growth over the past three months (see chart below) and more interaction with followers, including retweets.

MissouriSandT Twitter Counter

I’m not sure what this means — yet. It could be that students, alumni and other target audiences are becoming more comfortable with the main social media tools as a means for interacting with colleges and universities. This rise in acceptance and activity would be consistent with the findings of the Pew Internet and American Life Project and others. (See Pew’s findings on social networking sites and our lives.)

It could also mean that the steady, persistent use of social media by campuses is starting to pay off. This would lend credibility to the argument that social media is not a quick fix, and that colleges and universities should not expect instant results from their efforts. This also suggests that consistent and persistent engagement in social media by an organization — university, business, non-profit, individual — will yield dividends over the long haul.

Whatever it means, it’s an exciting time to be involved in social media marketing/communication in higher ed.

As a new school year begins, what are you seeing with your social media efforts?

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

5 thoughts on “Gaining traction with social media”

  1. Great post. I definitely see a momentum shift as you hit critical mass. When searching for an outlet, your channels just seem more official once you get a decent community set up. Then it snowballs. We are doubling fans, views etc on a yearly basis now.

  2. How about tipping point as opposed to critical mass? The challenge now becomes, what to do with that new-found engagement? Higher numbers are great, but how do we convert those new numbers into a higher level of engagement that will produce influencers, brand ambassadors, and conversions? That, friend, is your next big challenge.

  3. Chris – Yes, whether you prefer tipping point or critical mass (in the sociodynamic sense, not in the “going nuclear” sense), the issue is the same: engagement leading to influence and brand ambassadors. The reason I prefer critical mass is the concept of a social system become somewhat self-sustaining — in other words, the community members take it upon themselves to be your brand ambassadors, with little prompting from the institution. It probably wasn’t clear in this post, but that is one of the things I’m seeing with our online communities. Perhaps you’re also seeing that, Eddie?

    Thanks for the insights.

  4. Interaction is the key for any meaningful impact in social media. I’ve seen plenty of Twitter and Facebook accounts with thousands upon thousands of followers that just stagnate and go nowhere. Now a Twitter or Facebook presence with that many active, participating followers is priceless.

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