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Can Universities & Nonprofits Use Social Media?

August 5, 2009

Social Networking Site LogosOne thing I’m asked again and again is how are universities and nonprofits utilizing social media tools? And, less often, why are they investing significant resources in it?

Why Nonprofits and Higher Ed Institutions Should Be Using Social Media

Well. The why piece is easy. They want to:

  • Meet their customers where they are. There are over 250 million users on Facebook alone — it’s the 4th most visited website in the world! (More people receive their news from social media sites than the New York Times & CNN.)
  • Broaden awareness of their “brands.” If they want to attract more students, faculty, staff, alumni, fans, donors, employees, volunteers, or media, then they know that those audiences are all online, so they had better be there too…’cause the competition certainly is!
  • Offer an opportunity for a two-way conversation. Marketing has changed. It’s all about engagement now. These days, airlines are scrambling to deal with customer complaints sent out on Twitter and negative feedback on YouTube — more than one has learned that one negative tweet, blog entry, or video can “go viral,” creating an overnight public relations nightmare. They ignore social media at their peril! On the flip side, some entities are pioneering use of social media tools as a customer service mechanism, publicly offering solutions to problems shared by users in a way that other users may see and benefit. This simply builds goodwill and attracts more customers! Back-and-forth dialogue and relationship-building are key in attracting prospective students, new faculty, media coverage, alumni donations, and more…

How Nonprofits and Higher Ed Institutions Should Be Using Social Media

The how piece is more complicated, but a good start is this excellent article on 10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media. Also worth checking out is this recent research from BlueFuego, a company specializing in working with higher ed institutions, helping them maximize the Web’s potential for marketing, admissions, etc. BlueFuego tracks what other universities are doing online industry-wide.

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