Why College Administrators Should Consider Social Networks

The challenge to blogging more often is finding dynamic, thought provoking, and relevant information, because that is my personal commitment to those who follow my blog. Since I am hot on the trail of improving my social media marketing skills, it should not be too difficult to fulfill that commitment as I continue to explore and discover more about how to use social (and business) networks to promote my business—and, by extension, your colleges and universities.

First, a few statistics to demonstrate why college administrators should consider social networks for connecting with prospective and current students. According to a recent report on social networking demographics available at marketinghub.info (they used Facebook member demographics as the sample population), 84% of the 22 million people in the US using Facebook are 14-26 years old. Forty-seven percent (47%) are currently high school or college students (I could not locate the breakdown of this statistic, but it would be interesting to know how many of them are high school students since for most colleges/universities that is our target market. The report also noted that 55% of these users are female. The short—and somewhat unscientific—interpretation of these statistics is: If you recruit traditional age students, they are hanging out in significant numbers on Facebook (and probably on other social networks in similar proportions).

Until I attended the Social Media Marketing seminar last week, I saw Facebook as my friends and family network. I have tried to preserve that distinction by referring people who found my listing there and wanted to connect to LinkedIn, which I saw as my professional network. I post items of interest about my hobbies and family events on Facebook, while my updates on LinkedIn are based on projects and activities related to my career. After careful consideration—and looking at the demographics on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, I will likely reconsider my initial decision to separate the two in that way. Here’s my reasoning based on data pulled from http://www.quantcast.com.

Total Users
Facebook – 90.8 million users as of July 17, 2009 (all are US users)
Twitter – 26.5 million users as of June, 2009 (all are US users)
LinkedIn – 31.4 million users as of July 17, 2009 (10.9 million are US users)

Age
Facebook – 23.6 million are over 34
Twitter – 13.2 million are over 34
LinkedIn – 8 million are over 34

Education
Facebook has 50.8 million users with a college degree (42%) or graduate degree (14%)
Twitter has 15.1 million users with a college degree (43%) or graduate degree (14%)
LinkedIn has 8.7 million users with a college degree (52%)* or graduate degree (28%)* OR LinkedIn college and graduate degree holders could be as few as 2.4 million users

Missing Data
There is no way to know from the available data what percentage of the US population in each site works in higher education, nor is there a way to know what portion of the LinkedIn users with college and graduate degrees are US users.

Assumptions
The assumptions I make about my target population are that senior managers are more apt to be in the over-34 age range and hold a college or graduate degree.

Conclusion
Based on my assumptions, Facebook would be the better social networking option for potentially reaching my target market because it has more users overall, more users in the over-34 age range, and more users with college or graduate degrees than Twitter or LinkedIn.

(By the way, if you are a statistician and my thumbnail assessment is seriously flawed, I’d love to hear from you! I realize it is not a sophisticated set of assumptions; however, given what data is available, it seemed to make sense.)

Once you decide what your typical student’s demographic profile is, you can decide which social network is most likely to reach the highest number of those people and begin your adventure into connecting with students through social networking with that site.

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