One of the reasons you see all the free advertisements — I mean badges — for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social sites on higher ed websites is that they signal that the institution is engaging with its constituents in spaces beyond its own.

Of course, everything is connected to everything else — and nowhere is this more apparent than online.

Benefits of connecting your site and social channels

Linking to a Facebook page from an .edu website is easy to do, and it makes it very easy for people who want to explore that resource to get there through a simple click. Conversely, having a lot of links to your website from Facebook posts brings people on to your site and allows them to complete actions (such as applying, giving, or requesting more information) that are meaningful and beneficial to your institution. It also allows you to capture information from them into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (you do have one, don’t you?), and, by tracking the click-throughs, you can gain a measure of how effective your social media is.

But the path toward this engagement isn’t always straightforward, so you can’t necessarily measure engagement or return on investment (ROI) from click-throughs alone. That doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t relevant to your audiences: just that you have to use other methods to determine how effective it is.

Our research uncovers surprising fact: Teens don’t click-through

For the past few weeks, I’ve been immersed in research looking at how prospective teenage students use higher ed websites and social media.

During their entire college search and choice process — researching, deciding where to apply, applying, and making the final choice — the most consistently used resources are online resources from colleges, both websites and official social media accounts. This makes sense for a number of reasons: These resources are always available, and they provide official information (and insights) for the broad range of questions and concerns that arise during this process.

But what teens don’t seem to do is to click-through from college social media sites to the associated .edu website or from college websites to the official social media accounts. That’s one of the findings from research we conducted this year to understand how teens view — and use — higher ed websites.

But: Social media still has value

Higher ed professionals should take heart, though. It’s clear that for teens, official higher ed social media — particularly Facebook Pages, Instagram accounts, and Twitter feeds — are valuable sources of information. For example, according to TeensTALK® 2016, 20.1 percent of teens report using Facebook in their college search and 13.9 percent use Instagram. (Just to put things in perspective, 71.1 percent said they used college search sites and 62.9 percent used the College Board site.)

And in our research with teens last year, they told us that social media definitely influences their decisions about where to enroll. They use it to get a sense of campus and watch videos. And, like others who engage with college social sites, they can get a general sense of what the institution is like from browsing the various posts, images, and comments they find.

So social media does matter to teens, and it matters throughout their college search and decision-making process. You’re just not going to be able to demonstrate how important it is by measuring click-throughs.

Learn more

If you’d like to hear more about the Mythbusting Websites research we conducted in partnership with Chegg, join us at the AMA Symposium for Marketing of Higher Education. We’re presenting on Monday, December 5 at 10:15 a.m. EST in the Advanced Marketing Session 1.

If you aren’t attending AMA this year, here are two ways to learn more about the research findings:

  1. Get a preview of the research results on Thursday, November 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. PST on Higher Ed Live. No registration required. Simply tune in at to view the broadcast.
  2. We’re presenting our AMA session on Mythbusting Websites one week after the conference. Reserve your spot and join us on Thursday, December 15, at 2:00 p.m. EST / 11:00 a.m. PST.
Michael Stoner

AUTHOR - Michael Stoner

Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person? Find me on

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