During the past three years, I saw social media usage spread across organisations of all types and sizes. From corporate giants and start-ups to police forces and local councils, each sector found its own uses for social media in areas such as marketing, customer service, intelligence gathering or product development. As the social media immersion is led by the younger members of society, there is no surprise that education institutions were among the first to jump in. Craig Russel from The University of Leicester recently published on his blog a comprehensive dataset of UK university social media accounts. His first conclusions on the data are as follows:
“Most universities only operate in two, three or four social media communities. I expect that the reasons for this are mainly down to the popularity of a service and the availability of resources in the university to manage an on-line social presence. Also the combination of services being used is interesting. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and to a lesser extent Flickr, seem to be a complimentary set of services to use.
Of course this analysis can say little about how these services are being used in institutions. Simply having an account doesn’t presume that they are being used well. Are they regularly attended to? Is there a strategy guiding their use? Are they used just to push information out or as a two-way communication channels? There are a lot more questions to be asked about how universities in the UK are using social media and embedding it (or not) in to their strategy.”
Based on discussions with decision makers and researchers in the education sector, I would add my own observations to the ones above: there is currently a knowledge gap about social media across the majority of organisations, and education institutions make no exception. All UK education institutions are on social media, but not all of them have acquired the knowledge to assess the potential impact of social media. In an attempt to bridge this gap, we teamed up with sector experts and used both new and established research to highlight some of the risks and considerations of social media for the education sector.