Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Guiding Social Media at Our Institutions

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Guiding Social Media at Our Institutions

Article excerpt


Given the increasing use of social media in our society and the growing number of individuals preferring to use social media over other communications tools (e.g., e-mail), many educators are examining how to effectively implement social media on their campuses. Many institutions are using social media to communicate with their communities. They are also looking to use social media to engage students both inside and outside the classroom. These institutions are making decisions on how to support and encourage social media use while considering the costs and implications.

Social media tools have unique characteristics, and the resulting implications go beyond those of traditional technologies. Social media applications are open and primarily free to use. Also, social media platforms are built based on principles of interactivity, allowing users to connect with each other, gather news and information, and create and share content. The functionality of social media provides opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of our institutional processes while providing challenges as well. For example, Joosten (2012) notes, "Because many social media tools are not institutional enterprise systems, educators are concerned about using them in the classroom. At the heart of this concern are issues related to student behavior online, information privacy, and student identities" (p. 79). Concerns arise from a lack of control and ownership of these systems. Additional considerations include the challenge of providing staff, teachers, and researchers with the infrastructure, training and development, and support they need in order to effectively use social media on campus.

Social media is a classification for a wide variety of popular technologies that are open, facilitate interactivity, and encourage connectivity. In the broadest terms, social media spaces exist as "virtual places where people share; everybody and anybody can share anything anywhere anytime" (Joosten 2012, p. 14). Although there are dozens of tools that can be classified as social media, each provides unique media characteristics that have led to their widespread adoption. Social networking applications (e.g., Facebook) are one of the most popular types of social media. Described as a unique place on the web, social networking technologies like Facebook are used by individuals to share a public profile within a bounded system. The unique service offered by such applications is the articulation of a list of other users with whom the user shares a connection (Boyd and Ellison 2007). Other popular social media applications include microblogging (e.g., Twitter), video sharing (e.g., YouTube), and social bookmarking (e.g., Delicious). The ability of individuals to connect with each other and with institutions, to openly share ideas and contribute content, and to view others' connections are reasons for the vast diffusion of social media.

Social media applications are gaining in popularity, becoming a mainstream way in which students, staff, and faculty communicate and share information. Facebook has one billion users (Zuckerberg 2012), YouTube has more than 800 million monthly users who watch four billion hours of videos (Lawler 2012), Twitter has 500 million total users (Lunden 2012), and Google+ has 400 million registered users (Schroeder 2012). As of August 2012, 69 percent of online adults use social networking sites, and 92 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds use social networking sites (Brenner 2012). Further, 71 percent of online adults now use video sharing sites (Moore 2011), and 15 percent of online Americans now use Twitter, with eight percent using it daily (Smith and Brenner 2012). Many individuals use social media regularly, and their experiences lead to expectations for communication with and within our educational institutions.


Social media is transforming the way individuals communicate in higher education. …

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