What can Twitter tell us about Higher Education Marketing?

By June 1, 2012General

I was thinking about higher education and wondered what their twitter feeds could tell us about individual schools. So to find out, I followed all the Ivy League Schools, the University of Michigan and two on-line universities, the University of Phoenix and Davenport University, for a week and analyzed their Twitter feed.

First, I created the framework to analyze their posts by creating eight categories:  New Students, Events, Commencement, Programs, News, Celebratory, Financial, and Other.  Then, that week, I started classifying.  Initially, I had one primary observation:  all the posts from Yale were about their commencement. Since Yale’s commencement was that week, they had over 70 posts on commencement, which was about 78% of their feed.  Because of that bias, I decided to remove the Commencement category from the data set, as any university with commencement in one week would give that category a highly weighted favor.

After my labeling, I concluded the following:

Conclusions (Quantitative and Qualitative)
• The average amount of posts per day is 2-3, but Harvard posts 9 times per day.  Harvard (9) was seen 200% more on Twitter than Penn (4) the second highest and more than nine times more than Columbia and Princeton. 
• The University of Michigan, a large university, posts relatively infrequently compared to its Ivy counterparts. (Ranked 6 out of 10)
• Universities post a lot of news and events.  (50% to 100% of university’s posts that week were about news or events.)

Twitter data graph from universities

• Penn has a unique posting concept – they post contests for students, alumni, and friends.

• Harvard posts some repeated ideas with different phrases to create a larger and longer awareness.

• The University of Phoenix posts a lot of tips (i.e. on budgeting) as opposed to campus related events and programs, in part, because all their campuses are on-line.

In conclusion, Twitter can tell us a lot about higher education marketing. We know what they are doing, but does it match their strategy for what they really should be doing? This week-long study answered the question "What piece of the pie do you have?" as opposed to "What piece of the pie do you want?"   Now, let's eat.

Jessica WeberGuest post by Jessica Weber. Jessica is a higher education and legal professional currently residing in the Detroit area.  She has a research and administrative background in higher education, law, and government. If you would like a copy of the data, please contact Jessica via LinkedIn.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Hello Jessica Weber. Before I give my own piece of the pie, i mean my own piece of comment about what you wrote, I would like to congratulate you for writing such interesting article. You got me reading the whole article from start to finish, which I seldom do because I find most of the articles available in the internet, so boring. So please be proud that I read yours. lol. Just joking.
    Okay, let’s go to what you discussed in this article. I want to say that it’s great that universities are making efforts to get the people know on the whereabouts of each of the universities you included in this post and other universities out there who are into twitter. It is a good idea for them to utilize social media for either for news or marketing but this should be only at a certain extent. Also, social media should serve its rightful purpose, to communicate with their students first and foremost. If this purpose, they don’t meet, then I think they should get away from using it and focus on improving their schools.

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