Does Your Campus Social Media Program Matter?

This post was originally written for the Higher Ed Experts Faculty Voices series. As a member of the faculty, I teach Social Media Measurement for Higher Ed, a 4-week online certificate course to help higher education professionals improve their ability to quantify their social media efforts.

Three years ago, I left my job as Director of Marketing and Communications at a two-year campus in Wisconsin. Earlier last year, I found out that my former position had been eliminated, along with similar positions at campuses around the state. In the midst of multi-million dollar budget cuts, nearly a third of administrative positions within the 13-campus system disappeared.

This situation makes me wonder if the leaders making these tough decisions were presented with data about the value of each role that was brought to the chopping block. My gut tells me that this is probably not the case, since higher education professionals are not used to thinking about our jobs in this way. But, higher education is a business, and most positions are intended to create revenue (by making the campus attractive to prospective students), reduce costs, or mitigate risk.

If you found yourself in a similar situation, and were asked to justify your campus social media program, could you do it? Or would you only be able to say, “we engage students”? The all-too-common engagement answer does not make a compelling budgetary argument. But what if you were able to say:

“We contribute to admissions efforts, and last year our social media program was responsible for 1,500 website visits, 200 of which resulted in applications. Based on our acceptance and yield rate, we believe our efforts resulted in 50 new students, who will contribute $2,250,000 in tuition over the next four years.”

Let’s say your annual salary, benefits, and software expenses are $100,000. I don’t think many campus leaders would be quick to cut a position/program that has an ROI of almost $2 million.

I believe that a successful social media manager should be able to explain on one page (or in a short elevator ride) the purpose of their program, how effectiveness is measured, and what value—in dollars—it provides to the campus or department.

This cannot be accomplished without spending time formulating clear goals that contribute to institutional objectives, understanding the appropriate measurement techniques to monitor progress, and understanding exactly how your social media efforts contribute to the campus bottom line. Unfortunately, we rarely prioritize our time to work on initiatives like this. But we must if we want to be able to articulate why our work matters.

So, tell me—what would you say if you were asked why your social media program matters? Please share in the comments.

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