To cut through the growing chatter across social media channels, many educational institutions are paying to increase the visibility of their content on Facebook, Twitter and other digital platforms, according to a new white paper by CASE, Huron and mStoner, Inc.

"Paying to Play: Social Media in Advancement 2016" reports that 83 percent of surveyed respondents are boosting or promoting posts or advertising on Facebook; 16 percent are advertising or promoting tweets on Twitter and 9 percent report advertising on LinkedIn.

Schools, colleges and universities worldwide are paying to boost and promote content as the organic reach across all social channels declines, write "Paying to Play" co-authors Jennifer Mack of Huron and Michael Stoner of mStoner Inc.

"Paying to improve exposure is the single best way to ensure that a particular piece of content reaches as many fans and followers as possible, allowing them the opportunity to engage with it in some way," according to Mack and Stoner.

Surveyed institutions boosted, promoted or advertised posts to increase attendance at events, encourage more engagement with an important campaign and grow awareness of giving days, among other reasons. These institutions, however, were selective about which posts to boost as most don't yet have much, if any, budget for amplifying social content.

Beyond this growing pay-to-play trend among educational institutions, the white paper reveals common practices of institutions that are most successful with social media. According to the white paper, these institutions are:

  • More likely to boost, promote and advertise their posts
  • More likely to share content generated by their constituents on social channels
  • Likely to use social media for prospect research
  • Adept at turning their expertise in using social media into dollars for their institutions

Other findings include:

  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents agreed that social media is a much more important part of their communications and marketing efforts than three years ago.
  • When convincing senior leadership of the value of social media, 45 percent of respondents point to the opportunity to connect with new audiences while 42 percent name the ability to engage young alumni.
  • Use of Instagram rose from 54 percent in 2015 to 65 percent in 2016.
  • Use of Snapchat grew from 5 percent in 2015 to 15 percent in 2016.

"Paying to Play: Social Media in Advancement 2016" reports on findings from the seventh survey of social media in advancement, which was conducted earlier this year by Huron and mStoner in partnership with CASE. Nearly 1,200 respondents at educational institutions worldwide provided feedback on their use of social media.

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