The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Gains on Facebook and the Power of Twitter Reach

We are well into 2012, which means brand new numbers about Swiss academia and their social media presence. Those of you participating in the program have already received the quarterly reports about official and unofficial presence. In this blog post we first present a short overview about official presence during the first quarter of 2012, then give detailed insight into Twitter activity. Many universities and universities of applied sciences set up official Twitter accounts in the past 12 months. We were curious about how much those groups are tweeting and what their potential reach is. Read on to find out.

Official Social Media Presence Q1/2012: EHL Shakes it up on Facebook

The last quarter of 2011 was quite eventful, with three institutions setting up an official Facebook page and four an official Twitter account. The new figures for social media presence don’t reveal any major shifts in the first quarter of 2012. While no new accounts were created, there have certainly been increases in likes, check-ins, and other metrics.

A quick look at Facebook likes on official pages shows that EHL and EPFL are still leading, but EHL has passed EPFL for the first time. Newcomers HSG, UZH, and FHNW, who have set up profiles in the last quarter of 2011, have taken Facebook by storm, doubling their likes or more since we last checked them at the end of 2011. HSG, for example is already tied with UNIBAS, who joined Facebook in 2009 and is a Facebook pioneer among Swiss academia.

Facebook likes for official pages Q1 2011 – Q1 2012
* not all 2011 numbers are available

For a list of all official Facebook pages found for program participants, visit this page with a list of links.

No new Twitter accounts have showed up in this first quarter of 2012, but the channel has certainly become a little bit louder. As of February 2012, yet another program participant is chirping in the Twitter sphere: The university of applied sciences ZHAW has started tweeting (they quietly set up their account in the last quarter of 2011).

Twitter followers for official accounts Q1 2011 – Q1 2012
* not all 2011 numbers are available

Take a look at this list of official Twitter accounts, found for program participants.

Prominently placing links to official channels on the institution homepage takes visitors directly to those pages and makes sure that official pages are easily identified. Half of the participating institutions link to their official social media channels on their homepage. Along with their newly established presence on Facebook and Twitter ( at the end of 2011), UZH has now joined the majority of institutions and prominently features links to their official presence on their homepage.

UZH’s homepage (German version) with links to their official presence on social media

To get an overview of who else is linking to official presence on their homepage, which institutions have an official Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, or Linkedin page, take a look a this list.

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Twitter Insights for Q1/2012

At this point, every Swiss university and most universities of applied sciences have at least one official Twitter account. We thought that was a good reason to take a deeper dive into the numbers and learn more about how Swiss academia is using Twitter. We took a look at each peer group, checked the number of tweets they generated in the first quarter of 2012, how many new followers they gained, and what their potential reach was.

Swiss Universities: Federal Institutes Take the Lead

Among all Swiss universities, the two federal institutes clearly stand out with their high numbers of followers. Accounts in English and German for ETH, and English and French for EPFL allow them to target their messages to specific audiences. EPFL was the most active institution on Twitter and generated 188 tweets in the first quarter of 2012, followed by UNIBE with 100 tweets, ETH with 98, and HSG with 89.

Does activity on Twitter have an influence on number of followers, in the sense that the more you tweet, the more followers you get? This hypothesis may have its limitations (it is difficult to prove causality, for one, even if there is a correlation), but let’s assume for a second that it is true. In that case, we could divide the number of new followers by the number of tweets during that time and use that ratio as an indicator for the success of Twitter activity. We did this for all official Twitter accounts as you can see in the chart below. UNIL has the highest follower per tweet ratio with 17 new followers per tweet in the first quarter of 2012. ETH received nine new followers for every tweet they generated. Of course, you should take this with a grain of salt. Other factors such as the content of the tweets, the time they are sent, and the way you engage with your followers play an important role in acquiring new followers, but it’s interesting to look at these numbers every now and then.

Number of new followers in Q1 2012 divided by number of tweets during that time (e.g. UNIL had 154 new followers and 9 tweets: 154/9=17.1)

Twitter followers are very valuable. Depending on their own follower base, a retweet or mention by a follower can reach hundreds or even thousands of people. “Twitter reach” is the magic word and shows the potential audience on Twitter.

What is Twitter reach? The reach of  a certain brand (in our case the Twitter handles) is a measure of the impression the brand is making online (in our case only on Twitter): how far it’s moved across the Web and how many eyes, ears, and mouths are seeing, hearing, and talking about it (Source: 10 Key Awareness Metrics to Track by Amber Naslund)

We estimated Twitter reach for Swiss universities and found once again, that the federal institutes are the frontrunners with a Twitter follower reach of 327,000 (EPFL) and 260,000 (ETH) in March and April 2012.

Twitter reach of Swiss universities – March & April 2012 (Source: Radian6)


Universities of Applied Sciences: HSLU Tweets the Most

EHL and HSLU were the first two in this peer group to join Twitter in Spring 2009 and are the most followed universities of applied sciences, as shown earlier. HSLU was also the most active institution in the first quarter of 2012, followed by BFH who started tweeting in Summer of 2011.*

HSLU did not have the highest follower per tweet ratio in this quarter, however. That belonged to ZHAW with four new followers per tweet in the last quarter. The institution, who joined Twitter in the last quarter of 2011, sent its first tweet on February 10, 2012 and gained around 50 followers in the first quarter of 2012.

Tweets, retweets, and mentions helped universities of applied sciences expand their social media audience in March and April 2012. HWZ had a potential reach of almost 89,000 followers on Twitter, for example, while HSLU had almost 55,000.

Twitter reach of Swiss universities of applied sciences- March & April 2012 (Source: Radian6)

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Realizing the Potential of Twitter Reach

The first quarter of 2012 may not have brought a whole lot of new presence, but looking at the increase of likes and followers shows us that institutions are active on social media and are continuously expanding their fan base. In this blog post, we highlighted reach on Twitter to illustrate one of the key benefits of social media. The potential reach a larger audience on Twitter is only limited by the social graph of your established audience. Retweets by followers, for example, have the potential to be seen by many more people than just the followers of  that institution. For those who are interested in strengthening relationships with the community, listen to our past webinar with Georgy Cohen, who gives general advice on how to engage with your community, but also how to reach out to press through Twitter.

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* Our research for universities of applied sciences is limited to the universities participating in the program. Depending on the structure and nature of the institutions, they either participate as a whole (like BFH or HSLU) or as sub schools (e.g. most of the sub schools of the university of applied sciences in Zurich participate, such as the HWZ or ZHAW).