Reviewing Recent Surveys of Institutional Use of Social Media

A number of recent posts have described institutional use of social media by UK universities, including surveys of use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and links to social media services. These surveys were followed by a post on Institutional Use of Social Media In Europe. Such evidence-gathering can be helpful in identifying patterns of usage and informing policy-making.

But what about institutional use of social media by UK universities hosted in other countries?

Following my post on Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages André Shappo, who teaches IT Internationalisation at Loughborough University and who has written about his interests in Chinese social networking services on his blog, sent me an email in which he informed me that:

There are also a small number of UK universities using China’s Sina Wēibó social media. So far I have found 20 UK universities using Sina Wēibó, two of which are Russell Group universities. My list is at

André went on to add that:

Much more impressive is the number of western companies/brands using Sina Wēibó. So far I have found over 300 of them. My list is at There are also other regional social media systems that could be used. It seems to me that UK universities are, in general, slow to take advantage of regional social media.

Are the twenty UK universities which André has identified leading the way? Are they established practices which could be adopted by others? A brief survey is described below which aims to provide evidence of the ways in which UK universities are using the Weibo social networking service. Note that as described in Wikipedia:

Sina Weibo (Chinese: 新浪微博; pinyin: Xīnlàng Wēibó; literally “Sina Microblog”) is a Chinese microblogging (weibo) website. Akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30% of Internet users, with a similar market penetration that Twitter has established in the USA. It was launched by SINA Corporation on 14 August 2009 and has more than 250 million registered users as of October 2011.

The Survey

The survey was carried out on Wednesday 29 February 2012. The findings are given in the following table, which includes links to the institutional entry on the Weibo service. Note that the survey is based on the twenty verified UK University accounts mentioned in André Shappo ‘s list. André has informed that there this is at least one additional institutional account, but this has not yet been verified.

Ref. No. Institution Sina Page Nos. of Fans
 1 Birmingham City University  1,603
 2 Coventry University  2,858
 3 Kingston University London 13,836
 4 Lancaster University   3,190
 5 Leeds Metropolitan University   1,330
 6 London Metropolitan University   1,455
 7 Northumbria University   2,605
 8 Sheffield Hallam University     800
 9 University of Bristol   4,612
10 University of Derby     315
11 University of Essex   4,408
12 University of Huddersfield 30,340
13 University of Leicester   3,648
14 University of Manchester Business School   3,180
15 University of Northampton   1,486
16 University of Sheffield   3,312
17 University of Sunderland   2,941
18 University of Ulster   1,827
19 University of Wales, Newport     829
20 University of Westminster   4,919
TOTAL 89,494


We can see that nineteen of the twenty organisations have a branded URL for their presence on the Weibo service. However it was interesting to note that whilst some institutions make use of the institutional name (coventryuniversityleedsmetropolitan and universityofessex) others provide a Chinese context (derbychinahudchina and westminsterchina).

The University of Huddersfield has the largest number of followers by a significant amount, with over twice as many followers as the next largest (Kingston University).

The University of Huddersfield’s site is illustrated. Since the site was viewed using the Chrome browser it was possible to use Google’s translate feature to read some of the posts. It was interesting to spot one post which illustrated how the University is making use of the service:

Revisiting Andre Shappo’s suggestion that:

It seems to me that UK universities are, in general, slow to take advantage of regional social media.

it does seem to me that, in light of changes to UK University funding models, we will see a greater emphasis on ways of marketing to and engaging with potential students from overseas. Clearly use of social media should provide a more cost-effective mechanisms for such engagement than physically transporting people and publications to countries such as China. However in order to maximise the benefits to the UK higher educational institutional as a whole we should be looking to identify and share best practices across the sector. This initial survey aims to provide an initial summary of use of Weibo by the early institutional adopters.

Paradata: The data published in the table was collected on Wednesday 29 February 2012.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]