In December 2011, we asked the communications department of every Swiss institution of higher education how they are integrating social media into their communications strategy. Almost all Swiss universities and a large number of universities of applied sciences gave us their feedback, and results of that survey are presented below and in a follow-up blog post next week. A comparison with a similar survey conducted in 2010 shows that social media has clearly become an important element of communication efforts within academia. In July 2010, for example, 21% of survey respondents agreed that social media was a priority at their institutions. Eighteen months later, 42% deemed social media a priority.
Business as usual
Survey respondents include individuals with titles such as Head of Communications, Communications Manager, Social Media Specialist, and other positions. Most respondents manage a personal social media account and/or an account for their institution. Only 5% indicate that they manage no social media accounts.
As we have observed before, a high number of participating institutions have an official presence on social media. According to our recent survey, 79% of respondents indicate that their organization has an official presence coordinated by university employees. Sixteen percent are in the midst of establishing official social media accounts and only 5% have no official presence at this point.
Social media managers on the rise
Social media savvy communicators should consider checking the job boards of Swiss universities in the upcoming months. Forty-two percent of the respondents plan to hire a social media manager in the next 12 months, and 27% of already have.
Even though comparing our survey results shows that social media has become more of a priority in the last few months, only 10% of respondents report that their institutions have actually shifted money from traditional communication channels to these new channels in the last 12 months. Forty-two percent have no intentions to allocate any additional budget to social media in the near future, although an impressive 36% do plan to move some budget to social media.
Making do with in-house teams
Given that social media tools are relatively new in the communications arsenal (Facebook pages only launched in November 2007), we were curious to know whether institutions are confident enough to tackle social media with in-house personnel, or whether the rely on outside help. The majority (67%) use existing human resources and 33% consult external parties to support them with social media.
Asked how much planning goes into the use of social media, 11% said that it is very much planned and 44% said that they mostly plan it, but some happens spontaneously. Thirty-three percent tend to have a more spontaneous approach with some planning, and 11% report that they are very spontaneous when it comes to social media.
Strategy, policy, and guidelines in the works
The institutions surveyed do see the need for a strategy as well as policies and guidelines for the use of social media. Forty-seven percent are currently working on a strategy while 58% are working on guidelines and policies. Thirty-seven percent already have policies and guidelines in place and 42% have a strategy ready.
Looking more closely at our quarterly reports, we have noticed that many institutions have departments that are very active on social media. In most institutions, the use of social media is mostly controlled by a specific unit (e.g. communications), but individual departments have some freedom. Sixteen percent of respondents say that their institution has a coordinating committee or group that controls all social media efforts.
Podcasts and Google+ are next
The four most used social media tools in Swiss academia are currently Facebook (90%), Twitter (83%), YouTube (67%), and blogs (56%).
Asked what tools survey respondents want to implement in the near future, podcasts, Google+, and YouTube were among the most named.
For an exclusive insight into potential barriers to social media, the main reasons why academic institutions invest in new tools, and how institutions can measure the impact of social media, check back next week when we post the rest of the survey results.
This week we share top news and a short write-up on SFAMA‘s event with Charlene Li that took place at ING Direct Cafe in SF.
News that caught our eye this week:
- 5 Essential Spreadsheets for Social Media Analytics (Mashable). These spreadsheets are great. Specially if you are keeping tags on a number of pages. Bookmark! HINT: You must make a copy of the file to use it.
- Obama Shows Further Mastery of Social by Tweeting Spotify Campaign Playlist (Venture Beat) This made get a spofity account. Georgy Cohen mentioned in a webinar how a Tufts University Alumni had put together a playlist for incoming freshmen. Perhaps we should put one together for the Spring Study Tour?
- How visible are UK universities in social media terms? (LSE via @FHS-esociety)
And the top headline this week:
- HSG Embraces Social Media. We are so proud of HSG for such professional and successful launch. Can’t wait to see HSG make strides in social media!
- January 2007: The iPhone debuted
- May 2007: Facebook opened its platform to outside developers
- January 2010, Android phones appear in the market
- April 2010: the Ipad is released
- Social media wil be like air: It’s everywhere and hard to avoid. It will permeate all of our activities.
- People want to be known: Consumers will expect a better consumer experience when they shop. After all information from social media accounts provide merchants with the interests and likes. One interesting factoid caught my attention: check-ins constitute 40% of social media conversations for big retailers such as Safeway (grocery store)
- Connected employees will create a culture of sharing: Employees speak about your brand/organization so empower then via training but also provide them with social media guidelines.
- It’s time to get serious about social media: All of the above points to the importance of having a coherent plan, a triage, and response plan for social media. A quick show of hands at the event, still showed that very of us present have all of these in place.
A couple of weeks have passed since the fall study tour participants left the swissnex San Francisco building and flew away from the Golden Gate. We’re still talking (and tweeting) about it. #fallstudytour
The final day of the study tour was full of meetings and new ideas, as was each day before it. But something occurred to me on day five. Our little group had become a community of friends as well as colleagues, making the study tour a wild success in many ways.
Sure, the week was well planned. Of course, the meetings were informative and motivating. We promised they would be. But the participants (you, if you’re reading) played the biggest role in this victory. The group was inquisitive, professional, thoughtful, and really really nice. It’s hard to emphasize that enough. Reeeeealllllly nice.
On day five, it truly felt as though lasting connections had been made not only between the swissnex San Francisco staff and the study tour participants, but among the participants as well. This was evident in the banter and conversations between meetings, in the tweets, goodbye toasts, final presentations (silly and sincere), and certainly at the North Beach beatnik bar Vesuvio.
This kind of camaraderie is all we at swissnex could have hoped for. The spirit of social media is, well, social. Without that element, without sharing, it’s hard to grasp the full potential of the tools let alone successfully practice them to benefit a university. The supportive environment that was fostered here during the study tour will allow the participants to help each other as they lift their individual institutions into a new era of communications. The benefits will likely help promote the excellence of Swiss higher education globally.
Lessons from Day 5
David Harris doesn’t believe in a social media strategy. Period. It sounded shocking at first. “What? But, but,” we were tempted to interject.
“Social media is a tool,” he continued. “You should have a communications strategy, but social media is just one of the tools that you use to achieve those goals.”
Harris also covered how to measure success with social media tools, from general awareness to engagement and investment. He led an exercise in strategic planning (complete with little red workbooks), where participants were encouraged to outline goals, define audiences, and suggest reasonable metrics to measure success.
Gold Rush City
Our walking tour of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast took us back to 1850s San Francisco, when life along then named Yerba Buena Cove was lurid and wild. Strangely enough, the swissnex San Francisco building was a lone bastion of civilized culture back in those days: it housed the Golden Era literary magazine, which Mark Twain and Bret Harte wrote for.
The walking tour ended on Gold Street directly in front of Blackboard Mobile. If anyone doubted the power or influence of mobile technologies, this meeting with the company’s “Mobile Evangelist” David Small probably changed his or her mind.
Blackboard Mobile began as a small start-up of Stanford University students who built an app for the school. They were acquired by the e-learning giant Blackboard and have been steadily growing since. Our final company visit of the study tour, Blackboard Mobile’s presentation drove home how important mobile is for the future of university communications. It’s not enough to think about the website and social media channels. Forward-looking leaders within the institution should be staring at the smartphone.
Goodbye for now, but stay in touch
The study tour ended officially with a goodbye dinner at Fog City Diner. Some returned to swissnex San Francisco for an event on Swiss university spin-off companies working in the robotics field. And some explored the city after that, even using social media to find the group when lost (you know who you are).
All that was learned and thought throughout the week will never really fade thanks to social media. There’s this blog, for one. There’s the Paper.li, Social Media Study Tour Daily (check the archive editions to see what was captured September 26-30, 2011), and our Storify. Multiple participants made videos, webdocs, and contributed to the Flickr album. And many of the presentations and materials from the week are accessible in the library on this very website.
For the 11 fall study tour participants reading this, we’re quite far from a goodbye—we are actually planning a hello. Our conference call on October 31st will give us the chance to check in with everyone, ask follow-up questions, share ideas and progress, and generally re-energize. Fill in the Google document to help define the agenda and stay tuned for the exact time.