Power of a tweet: How does social media interaction affect social identity and university satisfaction

Date

2016-08-08

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Abstract

The more undergraduate college students report satisfaction with their university, the more likely they are to remain enrolled and graduate. College student satisfaction is strongly influenced by students’ social identification with their university (e.g., they demonstrate pride as and strongly identify with being a student of the university). Students can interact with their university directly and its associated "brand" on social media platforms, using platforms such as Twitter (e.g., by posting tweets directed at a university's Twitter account or posting tweets about the university). Universities often expend substantial effort to produce content through such channels to engage students. Interacting with the university through social media may strengthen students’ social identity with the university and lead to increased student retention. This study thus examined how social media interactions with and about a college student's university may play a role in their social identity with the university and overall university satisfaction. Online questionnaires were completed by participants before and after their Twitter data was collected by the researcher to assess changes in the social identity and university satisfaction of 198 undergraduate students at a large public four-year university over a period of approximately 30 days. Data from the students’ Twitter accounts were collected during this interim time period, and a content analysis of the tweets was conducted to identify interactions with the university's Twitter account and tweets about the university in general. Results indicated that, in both the pre- and post-collection questionnaires, the more students reported social identification as a university student, the more likely they were to report overall satisfaction with the university. The more students directly interacted with the university's Twitter account, the more likely they were to report higher levels of social identification as a student; however, general interaction with the university "brand" (i.e., tweeting about the university in general) did not reveal the same significant relationship. More Twitter interaction of either kind also did not result in greater university satisfaction, despite the significant association with social identification, and therefore, future research is necessary to better understand the relationship between social identification and satisfaction. Results from this study suggest that, based upon social identity theory, when trying to build stronger identification among undergraduate students with their university, universities should focus their efforts on creating opportunities that encourage direct engagement with the university's account.

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Keywords

Social media, Social identity theory, Twitter, Undergraduate students, College, Retention, Interaction, Organizational identification, College satisfaction

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