Research Information:FOCUS ON NORTH AMERICA Social media: why we need it

North American institutions need to embrace

social media, writes Alyssa Weinstein


ocial media is not a new concept. It has been around for decades and, as the years go on, people are starting their social media journeys at a younger age. I think I started mine at around 16, but now I see kids that I used to babysit starting their accounts as early as 10. So, what does this have to do with the way that North America might want to starting thinking about higher education?

Rule number one of marketing is that you need to meet your audience where they already are. The reality is that the North American audience is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and a slew of other sites interacting with their favourite products, celebrities, and friends. So why aren’t higher education institutions and resources stepping up their online presence game?

Some are. But I must say that the numbers that I have seen are astoundingly disappointing. According to the New York Times, about 66 per cent of people who graduate from high school in the US go on to attend college. The NCES states that 20.2 million students attended college in autumn of 2015. Some 100,618 of those students attended The Pennsylvania State University in 2015-2016. Why is this important? Penn State has important Twitter accounts. It has the PSU account with 130,000 followers, Penn State Athletics, which has 66.7k followers, and the PSU Libraries account which has 4,106. I chose Penn State to monitor because they have a huge student population and an even larger alumni network, of which I am a member. Considering that the point of college is an education that can carry you into the working world, the fact that the library only has 4,000 followers is super sad. What is worse: all three of those departments combined do not even come

12 Research Information JUNE/JULY 2016

‘Growing a social media presence is about constant interaction’

close to the 44.9 million followers that Kim Kardashian West has on Twitter. I have run social media for educational programs, including a research database, and can say, first hand, that growing a social media presence is about constant interaction. It is about liking and following and commenting and sharing all of the things that have your name in it, or relate to your goal or product. Without that, you cannot grow. This growth is really important for higher education because, if we expect our students to produce high quality content for their education, they actually need to be aware of the resources that are available to help them achieve that goal. If the students are aware of a data source, they will use it. The libraries will then see high usage statistics, and will be able to evaluate how to make strong purchases for their community of learners; and when libraries purchase, publishers get paid.

The educational ecosystem in which we live includes students who do research at libraries or through online resources that their libraries offer, paying the publishers for content, those publishers will eventually publish the students

who need to be published for grad work or professorship. Tenure has become ‘the brass ring’ in the scholarly publishing community, so with that end goal, social media directed towards undergrads is the starting point of this scholarly, educational ecosystem. You will rarely find an 18-year-old college student at a university famous for football, hanging out at the library, browsing research. You will find them on their phones. So, to keep the ecosystem of higher education and scholarly publishing healthy, we all need to work to be present and helpful promotors of information that will help feed our community. Social media will always help boost your image. Without it, more budgets get cut, more presses fold, and the quality of education is what will ultimately suffer. Popular opinion doesn’t always rule. You can say, present, or share anything you want, assuming it aligns with your mission. So be helpful, be interesting, and start using social media. We can inspire a generation of learning that is not limited to the confines of the library walls. With that said, I look forward to seeing you

all on Twitter.

All of the opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or anyone cited in this editorial.

Alyssa Weinstein is managing director of Civil Coping Mechanisms and a former employee of Project MUSE



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