While social media giants such as Facebook and YouTube have been in existence for years, educational institutions and other organizations have begun to recognize the value in utilizing such mediums as communication tools.
"North Idaho College maintains communication with prospective students, current students, employees, alumni and community members, all of which are users of these sites," said NIC Public Information Coordinator Stacy Hudson. "Social media is a very viable tool for communication."
According to a study by Anderson Analytics, a market research agency, the average user logs into a social network account about four times daily, five days a week and spends about one hour per day on the network.
The study went on to show that more than half of social network users have associated their profiles with a brand, company or product.
North Idaho College is no exception. Over the past year, NIC has established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr under the direction of the College Relations Office, which is responsible for marketing and communications. In addition, college departments maintain their own profiles on Facebook and MySpace as well, such as the Associated Students of NIC and Outdoor Pursuits.
Each social media site has a distinct purpose and reaches a different demographic.
NIC launched a Facebook presence just over a year ago and maintains two profiles, an institutional identity of which you can become a fan as well as a personal identity, Cecil the Cardinal, the college's mascot. Friends of Cecil's will also receive exclusive invitations to events designed just for Facebook friends.
The average age for the typical Facebook user is from 15 to 34, but 44 percent of 35- to 45-year-olds and 30 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds responded to the Anderson Analytics survey that they have Facebook profiles.
NIC currently has 1,225 fans on Facebook and Cecil the Cardinal has 1,037 friends.
NIC's latest social media venture is on Twitter, a micro-blogging site that is growing rapidly and is most popular with a slightly older demographic than the traditional 18- to 24-year-old student. NIC's College Relations Office posts news, events and even contests to the site, which was actively launched in the summer of 2009. NIC currently has 271 followers.
While some of NIC's Twitter followers are current NIC students, Hudson said the majority are community members and other local and state organizations interested in what's happening at NIC.
"We've had the best responses from contests about NIC's history, pictures of campus and athletics new," Hudson said, "not necessarily from specific enrollment or admissions related information targeted to students. Although that may come as the list of followers grows."
YouTube allows users to post videos to its site. NIC has posted videos depicting college programs and services such as NIC's recreational offerings through Outdoor Pursuits and the college's dual credit program. YouTube has also been used to feature a virtual tour of the Really BIG Raffle house, allowing people who were not able to attend an open house to view the home. The most popular video with 4,567 views was NIC men's basketball player Melvin Jones's 75-foot basket at the buzzer that secured the win against College of Southern Idaho in January 2009.
Flickr allows NIC to make images captured by NIC photographers available to the general public through this photo sharing application. The NIC photostream from Commencement 2009 has had more than 1,100 views.
Users can add NIC to their social media networks at the following web addresses: