As Head of Digital/Social Media Strategy and PR for The University of Texas-Pan American, I wanted to conduct research to better understand the demographic the University serves. In the Fall of 2010, the Social Media Office submitted a survey to students, staff, and faculty, of which there were more than 23,000, to learn about their use of social media on campus.
Benham, C. F., Rodriguez, J. M., & Benham, G. (2011, April). Online social networking as a predictor of social capital and university satisfaction. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, San Antonio, TX.
Online social networking as a predictor of social capital and university satisfaction
Chelse Benham, Jessica Rodriguez, and Grant Benham
Problem: Research suggests that online social networking use is associated with “offline” social capital (resources available through a social network; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). The purpose of the current study was to examine whether general online social networking use and college-specific online social networking use is related to “offline” campus social capital and university satisfaction.
Method:One thousand, one hundred and fifty-three undergraduate students completed an online survey that included questions related to social capital, university satisfaction, online social networking/media use. Global scores of “Social Capital” (α=.77), “University Satisfaction” (α=.85), and “Facebook Use” (α=.75) were calculated from the mean of construct-specific Likert-type questions. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 57 (M=22.2, SD=5.6), two-thirds of the sample (66%) were female, and the large majority (88%) classified themselves as Hispanic. Participants were recruited on a voluntary basis through a mass e-mail invitation.
Results: Eight-five percent of students reported that they used Facebook and 75% of Facebook users reported using it every day. Fifty percent of students said that they prefer to communicate online and 25% felt that they were addicted to online communication. The median number of Facebook friends was 200; the median number of Facebook friends that students would consider “close friends” was 20. Mann-Whitney U tests revealed no significant difference between males and females in the number of Facebook friends (z = -.28, p > .05), the number of Facebook friends that they would consider close (z = -1.00, p > .05), Social Capital (z = -.34, p > .05), or University Satisfaction (z = -1.47, p > .05). University Satisfaction was positively correlated with Social Capital (rs(975) = .60, p<.001). A global measure of Facebook Use was positively correlated with Social Capital (rs(975) = .20, p<.001), but not with University Satisfaction (rs(974) = .05, p>.05). Use of social media to learn about university classes and events was positively correlated with Social Capital (rs(960) = .25, p<.001) and showed a small positive correlation with University Satisfaction (rs(965) = .13, p<.001). Those who strongly agreed to using social media to learn about university classes/events scored significantly higher in University Satisfaction (z = -3.01, p < .01) and Social Capital (z = -5.74, p < .001) than those who strongly disagreed.
Conclusion: Our results support the notion that online social networking (Facebook use) is associated with campus social capital. Those who use Facebook, tend to have a stronger sense of “offline” social network resources on campus (social capital), but this does not appear to translate into university satisfaction. However, those who specifically use online social networking to learn about classes and events show greater university satisfaction. While these results are correlational, our data are in keeping with the notion that attempts to increase student satisfaction may benefit from programs that increase campus-oriented online social networking.