Vincos Blog post highlights the changing landscape of social networks from June 2009 to the present. The most recent map, December 2010, was just released according to Alexa and Google Trends for Websites.
As we seek to stay abreast of new platforms and engaged with our students in the social media world it is important we understand where our students come from, both literally and figuratively. While Facebook is the most popular social network in the US, that is not the case in Brazil, Japan and China. True that Facebook is continually reaching the #1 position in more countries each month (just compare the charts for the past 18 months), but in places like China Facebook (as well as other social media sites) is still blocked.
If your institution has Facebook groups for the incoming class, or other pre-term campus activities, how do you include students in Japan who are on Mixi but don’t have a Facebook profile? Or in China where your incoming student group can’t log on to www.facebook.com? It’s important to find ways to engage your entire community so all students feel included in your online discussions. It may be possible to encourage students to join Facebook after they arrive on campus but don’t underestimate the importance of reaching out and communicating with your new students before they arrive for orientation.
Just like we don’t want to see every country speaking the same language, diversity in social media platforms is good. While it may take you a bit more work to create online groups across different platforms it will be worth the effort when your new students from those countries see your institution took the time to sign up and engage with them on their own social platform.
If you’re not familiar with how a social network popular in another country works (or don’t speak the primary language it is written in) hire a current student from that country to manage the account and engage with those incoming or current students. Not only are you making the effort to create a presence on the social network by having an institutional profile (marketing and branding your school) you’re encouraging your new students to engage with their peers who share a similar cultural background. The outcome is win-win as you’ll be building your brand image across countries and lasting friendships on your campus.