‘Unofficial’ Education on Social Media
It has been observed that in the last one decade Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in India are moving towards digital presence. Nearly all the institutions have a website ranging from static informational to actively interactive websites. A significant number of institutions have presence on popular social networking sites (SNS) to interact with their stakeholders. Surprisingly, there are a large number of HEI that have unofficial presence on SNS too i.e. accounts/pages of the institutions on social media are not created and maintained by the institution but by someone else and hence, institution has no control over its content. There are HEI that have both official and many unofficial accounts/pages on social media (SM). Facebook here again is the leader in terms of HEI unofficial pages. This development can be seen in both positive and negative ways, though the later part being a serious concern.
When compared it has been seen that Government HEI as compared to private HEI are not present on SM officially but on the contrary are more visible unofficially. There are unofficial accounts and pages on social media that have more likes, tweets and updates when compared with authentic ones. Digging deeper it has been found that there are two primary reasons behind it. First, in Government Institutions it is a long process to get approval and second, in these Institutions social media presence is not their priority. A large number of these Institutions have interactive website. These Institutions are engaging its stakeholders in some way. Therefore, it would be better to have an official presence on social media and synchronize the content with its website. This will strengthen the online presence of the Institution.
There are Institutions that have more than one unofficial page. Different categories of pages such as batch wise, stream wise etc. are formed. When searched for the Institution on social media several pages appear and it becomes difficult to find the authentic one. For instance, IIM- Ahmadabad has a Facebook page which is linked with its website. This page has many likes and is regularly updated. But while searching on Facebook this page does not appear on top of the search results due to many other unofficial pages being available. This can confuse the stakeholder. Moreover, this can be taken from a different perspective as well. If the unofficial page on social media is made by alum of the Institution then it shows high level of loyalty and eagerness to be connected online. This also shows that apart from administration of the Institution, others are also promoting the Institution. Any positive comment or news will improve the image of the institution and it will gain competitive advantage.
On the contrary, unofficial presence on social media can be a matter of concern. As the Institution has no control over the content, any incorrect information can go against the image of the Institution. The unauthorized administrator of the unofficial social media account can upload negative comments, news or images about the institution. The result being aspirants and other stakeholders might be misguided.
Out of Top 20 institutions of the country (including IITs, IIMs) 20 per cent are not on social media officially but have unofficially accounts on social media. These HEI have more than one unauthorized social media account and thus are unable to control the content. Majority of the unofficial accounts do not provide any information related to the institution. IIT Delhi, for example, does not have any official social media presence but there are more than five Facebook pages by the name of IIT Delhi. Most of these pages have irrelevant information. There are also unofficial accounts/ pages of some of these institutions that post negative comments about the institution. This can harm the reputation of the institution.
On the other hand, IIM Calcutta does not have any unofficial presence. It is connected to its stakeholders through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Its content all across social media is synced with its website which itself is very interactive. Therefore, it can be said that these Institutions being a brand and renowned globally will face problems if unofficial accounts are not taken care of. Not only the unofficial, unauthorized and fake accounts on social networking sites of HEI in India must be minimized but also what is trending on social media about the institution must be monitored carefully.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Information Technology and Head, Center for Digital Innovation,
FORE School of Management, New Delhi.