Penn’s reputation as the “Social Ivy” also extends to the online realm.
The University was ranked second in social media use among American and European universities in a recent study done by social media consulting firm Sociagility. It was ranked behind Harvard, but ahead of other peer universities, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California Berkeley.
The study was based on Sociagility’s own formula to measure social media impact. The study measured popularity, receptiveness, interaction, network reach and trust in social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Among the college-age group, “online engagement is second nature … and social networking is the number one activity,” the study reports.
Two months ago, the University hired Matt Griffin, a specialist dedicated to improving current online avenues and future social media options.
Griffin, manager of New Media Communications, said, “One of the things we do great is we have each individual school do their own social media.” This allows each school to appeal to its own audience, he added.
Currently, the four avenues of social media that he is managing and developing are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google .
With these social networks, he hopes to “create more places for conversation. We want to have more than just news. We want more engagement with students,” Griffin said.
Associate Vice President of University Communications Phyllis Holtzman said social media is important for attracting the public to the University.
Holtzman cited as an example the video of quadrotors, autonomous flying robots developed by students and professors in the Engineering school playing the James Bond theme, which is posted on Penn’s official website.
The YouTube video has garnered almost three million views and still receives a few thousand views every day, Holtzmann said.
Penn is also exploring new avenues of social media for the future in order to stay competitive.
“There’s a lot of things coming down the pipeline,” Griffin said, citing Foursquare and Pinterest as two social media businesses they are looking into.
Foursquare allows users to publicly check into places. Griffin said the University’s use of this platform “would give more identity to individual buildings on campus.”
However, Griffin said there is a lot of “strategic” thinking that goes into deploying new social media for the University.
We “don’t want to just jump on any one thing without knowing the value of the thing,” he said, adding that the University “wants to use [new social media] to enhance Penn experience.”
Engineering freshman Abhishek Gadiraju, who is in the Market Systems and Social Engineering Program, said “Penn has done a great a job of integrating social media into its webpages” through the use of embedded Twitter and Facebook links.
Even though Penn might have attained such a high spot on the social media rankings this year, the Office of University Communications does not intend to become complacent.
“We are excited to be recognized, but we are not resting on our laurels. It’s a fast-changing world, and we have to change with it,” Holtzman said.
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