I’m on Facebook. What about you, St. Bonaventure?

[St. Bonaventure has more followers on Facebook than Niagara has on its Facebook and Twitter combined – Graphic composed of various Web images]

Survey reveals current students say SBU does a mediocre job informing students via social media 

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

ST. BONAVENTURE (March 21) — Kelley Burke sits in a library, typing up an English paper on her laptop, her earphone buds blasting music.

The strategic placement of her Apple iPod, iPhone and MacBook looks like a college student’s war zone command center. A Word document fills up two-thirds of the screen while the other third shows an all-too-familiar website called Facebook.

The sophomore journalism and mass communication major is the modern St. Bonaventure University student — heavily integrated with technology and social media. 

“I think just because I like to know what’s going on,” Burke said about her technology and social-media dependence. “You don’t necessarily hear everything from the campus.”

Students like Burke have changed how St. Bonaventure allocates funds and hires faculty. Social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn have become one of the top news sources for prospective students, current students and alumni.

Emily Sinsabaugh, vice president of university relations, said St. Bonaventure recognized that change and has adjusted its marketing plan.

She said social media allows a small university in western New York an opportunity to reach alumni and potential students in ways never before done.

“It wasn’t difficult to figure out that (social media) would be the next big thing,” Sinsabaugh said, “and we did not want to be behind the curve.”

She hired Mark Inman, an assistant director of print and electronic publications, specifically for that task.

Inman in his three years has created the university’s official Facebook and Twitter pages and maintained them. As of March 21, St. Bonaventure’s Facebook page has more than 5,400 Likes and 1,300 Twitter followers. 

In comparison, Canisius College’s Facebook page has more than 3,200 Likes and 1,600 Twitter followers; Niagara University has more than 4,500 Likes and 340 followers.

Inman said social media allowed the alumni, especially on LinkedIn, to interact back with the university. However, he said reaching students is a different story.

In a survey of 30 current Bona students, 30 said they use Facebook, but 13 Liked St. Bonaventure’s official Facebook, nine for the Twitter.

However, Inman said students have picked up Twitter usage from when he started the job three years ago.

“And it’s not just from Shelley Jack’s social media class,” he said.

Shelley Jack, a visiting professor, teaches IMC 506, New Media: Digital Communications, for graduate students and JMC 401, Special Studies: Digital Media, for undergraduates. 

Jack said Sinsabaugh has impressed her because from a resource standpoint, a lot of universities do not make social-media presence a financial priority. 

She added Inman impressed her, too, because he makes an effort to not only interact with followers but also have a consistent conversation with them.

“He understands it’s not just marketing the university but also there are opportunities with admissions,” said Jack, who said examples of when Inman retweeted a student who got accepted into St. Bonaventure.

However, Joe Bucher, a sophomore who follows St. Bonaventure on Facebook and Twitter, said the university has done a sub-par job for current students.

“I feel like Bonaventure could do more to inform the people (about) who is visiting, who is doing what, what options do we have for things to do,” the journalism and mass communication major said.

Bucher said the university does that well in the Notice Board emails but not on social media.

“I definitely check my Twitter and Facebook more often than my e-mail,” he said. 

Burke agreed.

“As soon as something happens, let us know,” she said. “Don’t let us hear through the grapevines.”

Sinsabaugh agreed and said she wants shift more university funding to web-based sites and social media from traditional marketing like TV commercials and newspaper ads.  

“It’s been a really wonderful tool in our marketing tool box,” she said. “And really trying to find the right way to use those social media tools — not that we have the answer — has become a priority.”

Sinsabaugh said the university has improved its social-media presence, but it still needs work. Whatever that work may be, she said she feels confident St. Bonaventure now has the staff and marketing strategy to improve it. 

“Frankly, I didn’t know exactly what he would be doing,” Sinsabaugh said of Inman. “But I’m really happy with what Mark has done, not that there always can’t be improvements, but that’s the paradigm. There is always something changing.” 

tony.lee@theintrepid.org

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