Frequently, people ask us the ROI of Social Media and of our Schools App. We work hard to collect data to support such an economic argument. However, there’s a different lens that some choose to use to look at the ROI of Social Media.
Social networks, whether free or proprietary, are just ways to facilitate connection, communication and community. Kind of like, well, a physical Student Union. Physical Student Unions can cost quite a lot. Ohio State’s new Student Union costs $118 Million Dollars, and the University of Tennessee’s tops that at $160 Million. San Diego State’s new facility, a mere $98 Million, was still such an investment it had to raise their student fees by $94 dollars a semester to update a building that was only forty years old.
Columbia College Chicago has entertained building a Student Union in downtown Chicago, which would cost many many millions of dollars. In the meantime, they’ve invested in their virtual student communication, they’ve invested in our Schools App and several other online communications and community building tools. What’s the ROI? That’s not the question they ask, though they help us try to understand this. Instead, they ask: what does the virtual community infrastructure cost relative to physical facilities?
For those of you with Student Unions already, there’s another punchy way evaluate whether or not to invest in online social networks. People often ask, “Don’t students connect anyway on Facebook?” Well, yes, and they connect and congregate on your campus green, too. But you still wanted a Student Union because it offers an experience and facilities that the campus green can’t. We build software that is specially designed to help students meet one another, feel included, get involved, and get their issues addressed. So, we see it as a tool that goes beyond what students can do in the free social networks they’re already using. It’s like building a virtual Student Union in addition to their virtual campus green.
If you are building a Student Union, wouldn’t you want to invest in your virtual facilities as well? Though it doesn’t seem like a similar asset, the way students experience your school online is becoming almost as important as the way they experience your physical campus.