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Adrian Gray, Kim Smith, Ph.D., Arthea Perry, MFA
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North Carolina A&T State University
Studentadvisor.com compiled its top-100 list in 2011 of colleges and universities deemed best at using social media for high school recruiting. Authors studied media richness and social support functions in the content on the home pages of the universities on the list. Media richness proposes that the more content resembles face-to-face communication the more people are more likely to engage with it. We found that 93% of the pages lacked videos--an indication of high media richness--in the top banner or middle sections of their pages that served as prime-viewing real estate. The content also failed to adequately fulfill the social support functions-the informational, emotional, esteem, tangible and social network needs-of young people. We argue that media-rich content that also meets the social support functions (needs) of high school students would make home pages more appealing, and lead to, perhaps, increased campus visits and ultimately enrollment. See the studentadvisor.com list.
WHAT ARE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Web-based and mobile technologies that turn communication into interactive dialogue and allow for the creation and exchange of usergenerated content (Kaplan & Haenlein , 2010). A concise history of social media •The first social media was the telephone (Dominick, 2011) • Sixdegrees.com: First web-based social media (1997) • Friendster 2002 •Linkedin 2003 •Myspace 2003 •Flickr 2004 • YouTube 2005 •Facebook and Twitter 2006 •Today, millions of users--many of them young people--have integrated these famous and lesser-known examples of social media into their daily lives (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).
METHODOLOGY (CONTENT ANALYSIS)
The authors used a coding sheet to study 94 out of 100 home pages from the list of the 100 best universities using social media. Six pages were not functioning during the time the study took place. Authors focused on the top banner and middle sections of the home pages because this is prime real estate for the viewing of content (Sklar, 2000). These are the most important places people look at on a web site. Authors coded for evidence of media richness and social support functions. Intercoder reliability among the three coders was .85 (Scott’s pi), which is acceptable.
What percentage of home pages linked to universities’ social media sites?
Links to Social Media From Home Page
80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
35% 23% 10%
R1: To what extent are universities using videos or other media rich types of communication on the front pages of their sites?
0% Facebook Twitter Youtube Flickr Other SM No links
Social media sites boom in popularity:
•24% of university-sponsored Twitter sites had between 100,001 and 200,000 followers •24% of university-sponsored Twitter site had more than 500,000 followers •24% of university-sponsored YouTube accounts had more than 500,000 video viewers. •85% of university-sponsored Facebook pages had more than 5,000 “likes.”
WHAT IS MEDIA RICHNESS?
Types of Rich Media
WHY IS THIS STUDY IMPORTANT?
•With the growing popularity of social media, university websites have had to update their sites in order to stay competitive in the student recruiting game (McCrae, 2012). •University websites ranked second to campus visits as the source for high school students researching colleges (Abrahamson, 2000). •72% of high school students said their first stop is the university’s home page after a Google search •Eighty-eight percent said they would drop a college or university for consideration if the websites did not have the content they needed (Will & Callison, 2006). •Few studies have attempted to examine the content found on the allimportant front page of university websites--the virtual, 24-hour gateway--through the lenses of media richness and social support functions. If universities understood the importance of media richness, the needs that the Internet and social media fulfill among young people, and applied these lessons, universities might reap greater recruiting benefits among students who visit their sites.
Daft and Lengel (1984) first introduced the idea of media richness to explain why and how organizations meet their information needs and reduce ambiguity in the communication process. It proposes that media users are more likely to respond to media content that closely resembles face-to-face communication. Video is richer than text. Audio slideshows are richer than just audio. Media richness helps explain why desktop conferencing over a webcam in the business world is a more effective form of communication than an audio conference (Caplan, 2007).
Types of Rich Media Slideshows 0
WHAT ARE SOCIAL SUPPORT FUNCTIONS?
Social support functions are the needs that the Internet and social media fulfill in the lives of people. Cutrona & Suhr (1992) discovered five social support functions that explain why people use the Internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter. •People seek informational support from a variety of sources, including their own research and information obtained from and about family and friends. •People seek emotional support through online interaction from family members and friends. They want to know that things will be OK when they have a bad day. • People seek esteem support, i.e. praise and admiration for a job well done. • People seek tangible aid online. They use social media to ask friends and family for help, such as moving furniture. • People also seek social network support among people who share common goals and experiences .
R2: To what extent are colleges using elements of social support on the front pages of their sites to fulfill the social support needs of high school students they are trying to recruit? Note: Percentages will not equal 100 because coders found more than one social support function on the top banner and middle pages.
• University home pages score poorly in media-rich content in the top banner and middle sections of web sites, which is where most people look. •University home pages don’t do nearly enough when it comes to tapping into the social support needs of high school students. •It is clear that university social media sites are outpacing university home pages in traffic and popularity, even though it is the home page that most high school students are going to come to first. •University home pages should provide more media-rich content in order to attract more students.
• Abrahamson, T. (2000). Life and death of the Internet: To web or not to web is no longer the question. The Journal of College Admissions, 68, 6-11. • Boyd, D.M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x • Caplan, E. S., Perse, E.M. & Gennaria, J.E. (2007). Computer-Mediated Technology and Social Interaction. In C. A. A. Lin, D.J. (Ed.), Communication Technology and Social Change: Theory and Implications (pp. 43). Mahway, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. • Cutrona, C. E., &, & Suhr, J. A. (1992). Controllability of stressful events and satisfaction with spouse support behaviors. Communication Research, 19, 154-174. • Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1984). Information richness: A new approach to managerial • behavior and organization design. . Research in Organizational Behavior, 6, 191-233. • Dominick, J.R. (2011). The dynamics of mass communication: Media in transition, (11th ed). New York: McGraw Hill, p. 72. • Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media Business Horizons, 53(1), 59-68. • McCrae, K. (2012). Aggies new website for users, A&T Register, p. 1. Retrieved from http://www.ncatregister.com/theyard/campus_news/aggies-revamp-new-website-for-users/article_5691c1be628e-11e1-99c6-001a4bcf6878.html • Sklar, J. (2000). Principles of Web Design. Boston, MA: Course Technology. • Will, E.M., & Callison, C. (2006). We b presence of universities: Is higher education sending the right message online? Public Relations Review, 32 (2), 180-183.
Social Support Functions Found in Content on Home Page
R1: To what extent are universities using videos or other media rich types of communication on the front pages of their sites? R2: To what extent are colleges using elements of social support on the front pages of their sites to fulfill the social support needs of high school students they are trying to recruit?
50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Informational Esteem Emotional Tangible Aid Social Networking 17% 16% 0 0
Kim Smith, Ph.D., Assistant prof: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 704-953-3290 Adrian Gray, Student, email@example.com, 252-312-9163 Arthea Perry, Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-334-7900
RESEARCH POSTER PRESENTATION DESIGN © 2012
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