Social Media & Advancement Survey 2011: Changes, But Not Big Ones

Michael Stoner is president of mStoner. He co-presented the key findings of the 2011 social media survey at the CASE Social Media and Community conference in April 2011.

While advancement offices at many institutions are engaged in using some social media platforms (especially Facebook, which 96 percent of institutions utilize), institutions are still struggling with how to manage social media. And there weren’t significant shifts in usage, management or other trends since our first survey was conducted in April and May, 2010.

These are key findings from the 2011 survey of social media in advancement, which mStoner conducted in February and March in partnership with Slover Linett Strategies and CASE. The first survey was released in July 2010.

I’ll report briefly on some of the findings in this post. You can download the topline findings and a presentation about them that Cheryl Slover-Linett and I did at CASE’s Social Media and Community Conference last week. We’re working on a white paper further analyzing the data, which we’ll release at the CASE Summit in July.

What Institutions Do

Institutions utilize an array of the most popular social media platforms: 75 percent use Twitter, 66 percent use LinkedIn or YouTube, 40 percent have blogs, use Flickr, or offer a social community developed by an outside vendor. Only 4 percent don’t use social media at all.

Top goals for social media remain alumni engagement (at 84 percent of institutions responding) and strengthening brand image (75 percent); also engaging prospective students (68 percent of respondents), admitted students (63 percent), increasing awareness and rankings (61 percent). But only 38 percent of development offices use it for fundraising.

Staffing for social media varies across institutions. At the institutional level, 25 percent of institutions have at least one person working full-time on social media. It’s far more common for staff to have social media responsibilities incorporated into their jobs, along with other responsibilities: at the department level, roughly .5 FTE focuses on social media.

There were some changes since 2010:

  • The use of Twitter has increased.
  • While institutions struggle with social media, they believe that it has value and that it’s here to stay.
  • More institutions have the IT and content management resources they need to augment their social media activities.
  • More institutions have policies on legal and privacy issues and negative postings.

Success with Social Media

Again this year, we asked institutions to report how successful they are with social media and 62 percent reported that they are moderately successful with their social media initiatives, measuring success by the number of touches (friends, fans, comments, likes, etc.) they receive. Facebook is viewed as the most successful social media platform (by a large majority, 87 percent of institutions). They’re still challenged by staffing, lack of full support and buy-in from senior staff and lack of readily available expertise and funding.

Institutions that are successful report a number of characteristics: they have specific goals for their social media; they are less spontaneous and plan more; they have institutional buy-in and support for their social media activities; they control social media content and staff with their own department; they use multiple social media platforms and target multiple audiences; and they are more likely to have policies. They are also more likely to evaluate their success in multiple ways.

Looking ahead to 2011, we’ll see institutions creating social media plans (51 percent), expanding their activities to new audiences (46 percent), adding new social media tools to current programs (44 percent), and developing formal policies (37 percent).

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