Volume 78 | Issue 6
November 2010

Technology survey reveals members' social media habits and preferences

In June and July 2010, ACUI conducted a New Technologies Survey to better understand the online engagement, needs, and preferences of the membership. Knowing the growing influence and availability of new technologies and the draft goal related to technology of the 2011–2015 ACUI Strategic Plan, it was important to collect some baseline data about these factors. There were 641 responses—a 16.6 percent response rate.

Respondents were reasonably representative of the Association membership in terms of primary functional responsibilities (i.e., 22.1 percent administration, finance, and management; 9.1 percent auxiliary services; 43.4 percent campus life and program management; 24.1 percent facilities and operations; and 1.3 percent other) and professional levels (i.e., 24.3 percent senior-level; 52.3 percent mid-level; 12.7 percent entry-level; 4.0 percent graduate student; 5.9 percent undergraduate student; and 0.8 percent other).

Social Technology Profile

The first question of the survey asked respondents to select the one engagement level that best described them in terms of their usage of new social media technologies, which resulted in the following distribution:

I create content, consider myself a social media expert or thought leader
11.3 percent
I comment, rate, and contribute to existing content
40.9 percent
I read, consume, and rate existing content
39.6 percent
I am not connected, not active, not engaged
8.2 percent

According to Jakob Neilsen in his 2006 Alertbox column on web usability called “Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute,” participation in online communities is likely characterized by what he calls the 90-9-1 rule. According to this rule, 90 percent of users read and observe but do not actively contribute, 9 percent contribute intermittently, and 1 percent account for almost all of the contributions. While the respondents to the
New Technologies Survey were more balanced on a bell curve across engagement levels, ACUI recognizes that its members most likely reflect the 90-9-1 rule in reality. Regardless, the distribution of the survey participants allowed the Central Office to conduct a meaningful analysis of needs and preferences at each level.

Respondents were then asked the extent to which a series of statements described them, in reference to social technologies.

Statements that resonated the most
Average Rating (Out of 7)

I think these technologies can be used to learn
and obtain new information
 I use these technologies to stay connected
with people I already know
I think these technologies can be used to
share my knowledge with others

Statements that resonated the least
Average Rating (Out of 7)

I am an online extrovert
 I would like to learn about these technologies,
but do not see myself using them
 I have no interest in learning about or using
new social media technologies

Social Technology Usage

To understand what sorts of technologies ACUI members use, participants were then asked to rate how frequently they view content and contribute content through various tools. The results below reveal that text messaging, networking sites, calendar sharing, and instant messaging were the tools used most frequently both to view and to contribute content; the least frequently used tools to view and to contribute content were social bookmarking, wikis, and subscriptions.

  Technology Tool                                                  Viewing Frequency   Contributing Frequency


Text messaging  5.93 
 Networking (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn)  5.58  4.95
Calendar sharing (e.g., iCal, Google Calendar)  4.52  3.89
Instant messaging 3.93  3.69
Video sharing (e.g., YouTube)  3.89  2.11
Photo sharing (e.g., Flickr)  3.43  2.61
Document sharing (e.g., Google Docs)
 3.35  2.82
Discussion forums (e.g., ACUI Forum) 3.20  2.50
Blogs (e.g., Wordpress, Blogspot)  3.18  2.01
Podcasts (e.g., BlogTalkRadio, iTunes)  2.94
Microblogging (e.g., Twitter)  2.92  2.50
Subscriptions/feeds (e.g., RSS, iGoogle)  2.70  1.68
Wikis (e.g., PBworks)  2.51  1.79
Social bookmarking (e.g.,  1.77  1.47