As colleges and universities begin the Fall 2014 semester, there is great preparation to welcome new and returning students. As leadership finishes event plans, opens activity centers and residence halls, and get classrooms ready for learning, college students are ready to begin or continue their journey toward earning a degree. Amidst all of this transition, students who are actively engaged in social media (#SoMe) will want to learn what avenues exist on campus to make connections via #SoMe easy, consistent, and unique.
According to a 2013 College Explorer Study, the average 18-34 year-old college student owns seven tech devices, which is an increase over 2012. Trends in a 2014 Study Breaks Report note that on average 40% of students check Facebook 6+ times a day, while 63% of students check Twitter at least once a day. Among the Twitter users in this study, 33% of participants check their Twitter account six or more times daily. This study also notes that 75% of college students are most likely to access social media via their smartphone instead of the traditional laptop, tablet, or desktop. Josie Ahlquist, Student Affairs Blogger and expert on Digital Research, has extensively discussed The YouTube Generation that exists on college campuses.
For campuses who are still strategizing about social media, seeking to adapt to student usage trends, or even considering enhancing their current social media presence, I have identified several powerful best practice examples. Let’s explore how a few campuses make it easy for students to connect via #SoMe:
- Michigan State University offers a dynamic Social Media Portal that serves as a directory for the entire university’s social network presence in online communicates such as Facebook, Flickr, Google +, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Slideshare and YouTube. Academic colleges, departments, the libraries, student service offices, student groups and clubs, and athletics are all represented on the MSU directory. MSU also offers a simple online form where university stakeholders can add or amend their offerings within the social media portal;
- Florida Institute of Technology also offers an easily accessible Social Media Portal which specifically offers a series of unique blogs to tell the campus story. The Institutional Blog captures many elements of the campus experience, while the Alumni Blog keeps engagement for the school’s graduates high. The unique Online Learning Blogshares the FIT experience for distance and online learners in an engaging series of posts;
- New students attending Georgia Southern University can take advantage of a uniquely interactive Social Media Portal that offers #SoMe engagement opportunities such as Foursquare, a YouTube Channel, and Google+ for Campus Recreation and Intramurals in addition to traditional pages such as Twitter and Facebook;
- On my campus, new Indiana University Southeast students can download the Grenadier Athletics App which allows them to interactively connect with the sports teams on campus. Following the trend of many campuses, IU Southeast offers a highly interactive #IUS18 hashtag for new students as well as an interactive Instagram Page where our new students are telling their first-year story;
- Among Central Washington University’s social media options, their campus radio station can be accessed over Instagram, Sound Cloud, and a cool YouTube Channelwhere new students can even learn the CWU Fight Song; and
- At UCLA, parents of new students attending college for the first time can take advantage of the UCLA Parent & Family Programs which offers parents information to help their students “Build and Maintain a Positive Digital Reputation.”UCLA also offers a Student Blog where new and perspective students can read about the experiences of students at UCLA “whether they are studying for finals, organizing student clubs, attending concerts on campus or exploring Los Angeles.”
In order to effectively navigate the resources above, or to responsibly manage other campus #SoMe options, I urge students to read “10 Dos and Don’ts for Back-to-School Social Media Etiquette.” This post offers student a series of strategies to “navigate the social media world responsibly, and keep your online reputation as clean as possible.” Another great post from USA Today College discusses neat options to use social media as a learning tool from the perspective of University of North Carolina at Wilmington junior Kaitlyn Russell.
In addition to a campus experience that offers great teachers, top-notch facilities, and student engagement, many students are seeking a #SoMe friendly experience. Offering students a university that embraces their race to access #SoMe as a routine part of college life has become an important part of many campus strategies. Based on the trends of #SoMe use among students, colleges and universities must keep pace or students may choose a campus that has already crossed the finish line.