Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages

Providing a Benchmark of University Use Of Social Web Services

In a recent post in which I gave My Predictions for 2012 I predicted that “Social networking services will continue to grow in importance across the higher education sector“. But how will we be able to assess the accuracy of that prediction? One approach is to see if there are significant changes in the number of links to social media services from institutional home pages.

The following survey provides a summary of links to social media services which are hosted on the institutional entry point for the 20 Russell Group universities.

Update: The information published about Imperial College was incorrect. This has been updated.

Ref No. Institution Services Type of Link Screenshot Icons for KCL
1 Birmingham None
2 Bristol None
3 Cambridge [iPhone] – [iTunesU] – [YouTube]
– [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [Flickr]
Direct link to institutional presence on social media service
4 Cardiff None
5 Edinburgh None
6 Glasgow [Generic bookmarks] – [WordPress] – [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [email] Link to visitor’s own presence on social media service.
7 Imperial College None [Delicious] – [Twitter] – [Digg] – [Stumble] – [Facebook] Link to visitor’s own presence on social media service.
8 King’s College London [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Favourites ] – [Digg] -[Delicious] – [RSS] See sidebar
9 Leeds [Facebook] – [Twitter]
10 Liverpool None
11 LSE [iTunesU] – [YouTube] – [Twitter] – [Facebook] – [Delicious] – [RSS] – [Flickr] Link to page on institutional web site providing information about institutional use of social media services.
12 Manchester [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [Google Maps] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
13 Newcastle [Facebook] – [Twitter]
– [YouTube] – [iTunesU]
Link to page on institutional web site providing information about institutional use of social media services.
14 Nottingham [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Flickr] – [LinkedIn] – [FourSquare] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
15 Oxford None
16 Queen’s University Belfast [Facebook] – [Twitter] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
17 Sheffield [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
18 Southampton [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
19 UCL [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Facebook] – [Soundcloud] – [Flickr] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
20 Warwick [Facebook] – [YouTube] – [Twitter] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
Total 59 64

A summary of the number of occurrences of the services is given below.

Service Occurrences Note
Facebook 14 15 Links to institutional Facebook page.
Twitter 14 15 Links to institutional Twitter page.
YouTube   9 Links to institutional YouTube page.
iTunesU   6 Links to institutional iTunes page.
Flickr   4 Links to institutional Flickr page.
Delicious   2 3 (1) Provides access to links provided by the Careers Service and (2) allows page to be bookmarked.
Soundcloud   1 Links to institutional SoundCloud page.
LinkedIn   1 Links to institutional LinkedIn page.
FourSquare   1 Links to institutional FourSquare geo-location service.
Digg   2 Allows site to be bookmarked.
WordPress   1 Enables WordPress users to create post with link to University home page.
RSS   1 Purpose of this icon is not defined.
Stumble   1 Allows site to be bookmarked.
iPhone   1 Link to iPhone app about University
Google Maps   1 Link to map of University.
Generic Bookmarks   1 Link to bookmarks providing access to several social media services.
Email   1 Provides an email facility.
Total 5964

Discussion

If either all of the Russell Group University home pages had links to the same social media services or none did, this survey would be uninteresting. However since about 30% of the institutions do not have such links this seems to be suggesting that the value of having such links on a high profile page is not universally agreed.

For those institutions which do provide such links we can see that Facebook and Twitter are the most popular services, followed by social media sharing services. A number of services, including LinkedIn and FourSquare, have links from only a single institution.

It was also interesting to observe that although most institutions provided links to their institutional presence on social media services, a number of institutions used such links to allow visitors to provide links to the institution from the visitor’s own account, so that the institutional home page could be bookmarked or commented on.

Finally we can also observe how institutions label access to these services. This includes use of terms such as “Join us“, “Follow us“,”Find us on …“, and “xxx in the Social Media“.

From a user perspective we should also note that the different purposes provided by these links may be confusing. The norm is for links to provide read access to an institutional presence on a social media service. However in a number of cases the links are intended to allow users with accounts on particular services to bookmark or cite the institutional page on the service. Although this usage may be appropriate across a group of pages with the same purposes (for example, blog posts) this approach may cause confusion for a visitor who is either unfamiliar with the service or who expects the links to provide read access to the service.

Looking to the Future

This post has sought to identify patterns of usage of links to social media services on Russell Group university home pages and highlighted areas in which it may be beneficial for institutions to reappraise their uses of such services. However the main purpose of this survey was to provide a benchmark to help identify future trends in institutional use of social media.

Use of institutional home pages for such benchmarking can be beneficial since changes to institutional home pages will probably require approval at a senior level, and will therefore be less likely to reflect short term technological trends.

It will therefore be interesting at the end of the year to observe whether:

  • The current popular social networking services continue to remain popular.
  • New social media services are provided on social media services.
  • The ways in which the links to social media services are labelled and the functionality they provide changes.

I’d welcome comments on patterns across the wider University sector.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting that none of the sites are using the more advanced Follow/Like buttons offered by Twitter and Facebook. I wonder if this is because they don’t fit with the institution’s design or because of privacy concerns.

    Reply

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