Social media has had an important impact on education, in addition to the other major areas of life that it has fundamentally transformed. The better communication that can arise from good use of social media on an institution's part has the ability to create a well-informed student body, meaning more student engagement, more interested prospective students and community that aspire to go to that institution as well as a safer environment for learning to occur. This makes institutions stronger and proves why social media is so important in the field of education.
With the amount of events that go on around a college campus, it's hard for students to hear about everything that is going on, much less keep track of the days and times those events are. Because students are always on social media, especially when they are bored, social media quite literally injects announcements right in front of students' faces. Instead of requiring students to go to a different location to find these announcements, social media allows a central hub where students can have the streams of both personal and professional life. They can easily learn about the events taking place around campus and even join in on the conversation to immediately ask about important details, such as location and time. Instead of posters, social media allows for back-and-forth communication, instead of a one-way interaction. On top of that, many schools are able to generate buzz via social media by advertising "hashtags" that relate to the event. Each student that tweets about the event using that specified hashtag will extend the reach of audience that the university has. And, best of all, that is being created with no extra cost to the university.
Source: Mashable, http://mashable.com/2009/07/15/social-media-public-affairs/
Marketing (Branding, Customer Service and Feedback)
Social media has also played an important role in helping the reputation of an institution and how it looks in the eyes of the public. In fact, for prospective students alone, according to DigitalTrends, "some 38 percent categorized their social media findings as influential in their enrollment decision." Facebook accounts for 57% of that research method, while YouTube accounts for 42% and Twitter 18%. This means that the online presence they build directly relates back to the interest that is shown from prospective students. To make sure that the smartest and most brilliant people continue to be captivated by a college in this new age, a college must show it is capable of building an online presence that is both engaging and "cool," as in that the institution shows it understands and is relevant to the modern age. With social media being a two-way street, it also allows personal connections to form where students will feel more inclined to apply to a university because of attention he or she may get from the university. A tweet, a favorite or Retweet directed at a particular student may make that one student feel special and spread goodwill about the institution.
Source: DigitalTrends, http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/college-grads/; ZDNet, http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/how-do-universities-use-social-media-successfully/15059
In the past several years, social media has also played a large role in getting the word about alerts and security breaches, not just in universities but in large cities around the world. This has been extremely important because of the far reaches of social media in an age when security is becoming a high priority in society. It has worked really well in getting people to know about the ongoing security events because everyone is always on social media. As USA Today Educate quotes:
'Students use social media on a daily basis,' Sara Estes Cohen, an independent consultant in social media specializing in emergency response, said. 'It is important that emergency managers use the tools their communities are using.'
Again, as mentioned before, in addition to the fact that everyone uses social media, it also allows for a two-way communication: "The fact that it allows the community to post calls for help, questions, and other comments is what makes social media unique." This keeps the community much safer and educates students on the current situations on the campus.