US outperforms UK on social media strategy (UK)

By Daisy Wyatt

Universities in the US are better at using social media than their UK counterparts, a report has found. Social media consultancy Sociagility measured the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and website engagement of the top 25 US and top 25 UK universities in the 2011-2012 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  The report found an almost exact correlation between the institutions’ social media strategy scores and their ranking.  The universities’ use of social media was assessed across five attributes known as “Print”: Popularity, including site traffic, followers and fans; Receptiveness, such as linking and referencing; Interaction; Network reach; and Trust, including positive endorsements and ratings.

Only two UK universities, the University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield made the top 10 for their social media strategies, with ranks of seven and eight respectively. Harvard – the “home” of Facebook – came first, followed by the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The average Print score for universities was set at 100. UK universities as a group scored 72 while US universities averaged 127. The report acknowledged that the dominance of US universities in the top 10 was due in part to much larger student bodies and increased funding in comparison to UK institutions – factors that skewed their Print measurements of popularity and network reach.  Oxford and Cambridge neared the top of the UK table for social media engagement, coming first and third respectively.

The report found that institutions such as the universities of Sheffield (ranked two), Lancaster (four) and Nottingham (six) were outperforming higher-ranked universities in their use of social media. In the UK rankings for use of individual social media platforms, the University of Sheffield came first for its YouTube strategy, while Lancaster University topped the chart for its Twitter engagement.  Although US universities have devoted more effort over a longer period of time to social media, the report found that British universities are failing to get the basics right. “One very simple step that every university can take right now is to ensure that its primary social media accounts are clearly signposted on the home page of its website. The number of UK universities who have not done so is astounding,” the report says.

Source: Times Higher Education