The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Snapshot: Where is Swiss Academia Today?

In December 2011, we asked the communications department of every Swiss institution of higher education how they are integrating social media into their communications strategy. Almost all Swiss universities and a large number of universities of applied sciences gave us their feedback, and results of that survey are presented below and in a follow-up blog post next week. A comparison with a similar survey conducted in 2010 shows that social media has clearly become an important element of communication efforts within academia. In July 2010, for example, 21% of survey respondents agreed that social media was a priority at their institutions. Eighteen months later, 42% deemed social media a priority. 

Business as usual

Survey respondents include individuals with titles such as Head of Communications, Communications Manager, Social Media Specialist, and other positions. Most respondents manage a personal social media account and/or an account for their institution. Only 5% indicate that they manage no social media accounts.


As we have observed before, a high number of participating institutions have an official presence on social media. According to our recent survey, 79% of respondents indicate that their organization has an official presence coordinated by university employees. Sixteen percent are in the midst of establishing official social media accounts and only 5% have no official presence at this point.

Social media managers on the rise

Social media savvy communicators should consider checking the job boards of Swiss universities in the upcoming months. Forty-two percent of the respondents plan to hire a social media manager in the next 12 months, and 27% of already have.

Even though comparing our survey results shows that social media has become more of a priority in the last few months, only 10% of respondents report that their institutions have actually shifted money from traditional communication channels to these new channels in the last 12 months. Forty-two percent have no intentions to allocate any additional budget to social media in the near future, although an impressive 36% do plan to move some budget to social media.

Making do with in-house teams

Given that social media tools are relatively new in the communications arsenal (Facebook pages only launched in November 2007), we were curious to know whether institutions are confident enough to tackle social media with in-house personnel, or whether the rely on outside help. The majority (67%) use existing human resources and 33% consult external parties to support them with social media.

Asked how much planning goes into the use of social media, 11% said that it is very much planned and 44% said that they mostly plan it, but some happens spontaneously. Thirty-three percent tend to have a more spontaneous approach with some planning, and 11% report that they are very spontaneous when it comes to social media.

Strategy, policy, and guidelines in the works

The institutions surveyed do see the need for a strategy as well as policies and guidelines for the use of social media. Forty-seven percent are currently working on a strategy while 58% are working on guidelines and policies. Thirty-seven percent already have policies and guidelines in place and 42% have a strategy ready.

Looking more closely at our quarterly reports, we have noticed that many institutions have departments that are very active on social media. In most institutions, the use of social media is mostly controlled by a specific unit (e.g. communications), but individual departments have some freedom. Sixteen percent of respondents say that their institution has a coordinating committee or group that controls all social media efforts.

Podcasts and Google+ are next

The four most used social media tools in Swiss academia are currently Facebook (90%), Twitter (83%), YouTube (67%), and blogs (56%).

Asked what tools survey respondents want to implement in the near future, podcasts, Google+, and YouTube were among the most named.

For an exclusive insight into potential barriers to social media, the main reasons why academic institutions invest in new tools, and how institutions can measure the impact of social media, check back next week when we post the rest of the survey results.