Colleges and Universities have started using social media as a major channel for communication. Although there are many interesting ways universities use social media, the major goals are to stay in touch with their community (including alumni relations), to communicate news and updates to the world, to raise funds and to attract talent. My assessment is that many universities have not yet fully realized the potential of social media. I thought it would be interesting to present a case study about the use of social media by different groups and departments at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Twitter

As can be expected, there’s plenty of diversity and variation in the Twitter use by different departments, labs and initiatives at MIT. There’s no official directory of social accounts from MIT so I manually searched for Twitter accounts from MIT community and found over 25 of those. I used a few basic measures such as followers, activity and influence to create a list of 10 MIT Twitter accounts:

medialab, techreview, mitpress, mitsloan, mitocw, mitworld, mitsloanexeced, mit_alumni, mitentforum and mit100k.

I examined the growth of these Twitter accounts over a period of 3 months, from May 2010 to August 2010. Here’s a brief summary of what I observed.

  • MIT Media lab‘s @medialab is the most followed, most actively growing and most listed twitter account from MIT.
  • MIT Technology Review @techreview had the most tweets and the highest Klout (a measure of user influence score, more at Klout.com). It was number 2 in terms of followers and listings.
  • These were followed by @mitpress (MIT Press), @mitsloan (Sloan School of Business) and @mitocw (OpenCourseware, praised here)

Facebook

There are 50 or so different places within Facebook where different MIT groups interact. But it is easy to get started because the MIT Alumni Facebook page has all the information. The tab called MIT on Facebook provides a listing of the Class Pages, University groups and Alumni groups and pages. It is easy to see the decentralized social media model at work here. The fan base and level of activity varies widely. Some of the existing groups are beginning to migrate to pages – most likely because of better insights which are available for Facebook pages.

MIT OpenCourseWare is the most popular on Facebook with over 7000 fans (see its praise here). It makes sense as the OCW program generates plenty of interest from knowledge seekers around the world and its Facebook page has valuable content such as engaging videos from YouTube.

MIT Alumni Association is second with over 4600 fans (as of this writing). The official MIT alumni blog, Slice of MIT, is promoted through this page. The fan page of MIT Enterprise Forum – an organization within MIT Alumni Association which promotes technology entrepreneurship – has over 2600 fans from around the world. Some pages have custom apps as well, notably Alumni Page and Sloan Executive Education. Overall, the inclusion of rich media, customization and a larger scale of members makes Facebook an important channel for MIT – one which can be potentially utilized in a much better way than it is being used now.

Disclaimer: Even though I have been associated with MIT Alumni Association and MIT Enterprise Forum of Dallas Fort Worth, the views in this post are based on my personal opinion. All of the information for this post was collected from public sources.

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