Social media can be a very useful and important part of college life. It can help to inform students about school activities and events, encourage students to join organizations, or just share and celebrate those organizations. The question is, just how effective is it? Does social media make a real impact on campus, or is it simply just there?
An empirical study in the American Journal of Business Education followed a university fitness center during its transition from traditional media tools to social media marketing. The fitness center implemented a social media marketing strategy centered around Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. They ran a promotional contest in order to see which of those platforms was most beneficial to the center. The project results focus on three key components: change in total student check-in numbers, change in programs and services, and change in social media network participation.
In terms of student check-ins to the fitness center, an increase of 6% – or nearly 8,000 check-ins – was realized during a 5 month period. In comparison to the prior year without social media marketing, the center’s measured participation in programs and services showed increases ranging from 21% to 720%. Facebook was the most beneficial platform, gaining 3,600 fans. You can easily visualize the change in the fitness center’s presence on campus, based on numbers alone. Implementing social media to this organization’s marketing tactics essentially took it from zero to one hundred, but what about pre-existing social media? How do ever-evolving campus organization media profiles effect students?
Ethan Magram, SUNY Oswego Junior, comments on his involvement with campus use of social media, “I pretty much only follow the organizations I’m a part of. I think when I was first coming here as a freshman, a lot of the organizations handed me papers with their social media. I used those to research how active the clubs were and how many members they had, which ultimately led to my decision on whether to join or not,” He believes he saw an accurate representation of the clubs he was looking at, “more often than not, when a club has a dormant social media presence, then they are less active on campus, and I wanted to be a part of clubs that had plenty of things going on with plenty of people.” Magram also reflects on a negative experience he had with social media, “I followed the Instagram account for my residence hall, expecting it to notify me about activities and information, but the last post was from 3 years ago. I think this is a reflection of that building’s lack of community, and the overall experience I had while living there.”
Jacob Watson, SUNY Oswego Sophomore and computer science major, on the men’s club volleyball team “I actually looked up the volleyball club accounts before I came to this college… I saw videos of our club’s current seniors playing and it got me excited to join,” As an incoming freshman, the club’s social media gave him insight into the team he considered joining. He was able to vet the experience he might have to help him decide. “It might have been a slightly underrated view because it seemed like [the account] wasn’t being consistently updated, but if it was run better it would have been a better representation,”
With the growing number of college clubs and organizations using social media marketing, there are positive and negative effects for both the organizations and the students interested in them. While it may help promote business and participation like the fitness center study, poorly-managed social media may hurt the user’s image, like Ethan’s experience with his residence hall. It seems like for organizations to have a positive outcome from their social media use, it should be updated regularly and show an accurate representation of what that organization has to offer, otherwise it may create the opposite impression. Because students seek out this immediate gratification of being able to vet their prospective experiences, it can be very important for clubs and organizations to adapt to the new age of social media marketing.