Red River College is the province’s largest post-secondary institution for diploma and certificate programs. In the 2011/12 academic year, the College had 9,135 students enrolled in full-time programs, 16,530 part-time registrations, and 3,408 apprenticeship students.
Not surprisingly, the college’s website generates a significant amount of web traffic on a daily basis from staff, students, prospective students, industry and employers and the general public. Looking at a snapshot of the last 3 months, the RRC website had almost 200,000 unique visitors viewing more than a million web pages.
To help the college get a glimpse of what’s going on, Research and Planning uses tools like Google Analytics as well as other web analytic tools to help understand what pages people are looking at, how they discover the website, and how long they stay.
The Wellness Blog: A Case Study
While there are many ways that web analytics are used to understand the RRC website, one interesting case study has been using these tools to get a better understanding of the College’s blogs – particularly the Wellness blog.
The Wellness blog was created in January 2012 to provide a collaborative communication hub for the Wellness Committee, other wellness stakeholders at the college, and for staff and students. Over the past fifteen months, the blog has featured 130 posts from twenty-five authors on topics ranging from recipes and recreational activities to meditation and mental health.
Along the way Google Analytics has been used to help answer three main questions:
- Who is visiting the blog?
- What drives traffic to the blog?
- What posts are people reading?
The term social media refers to a variety of internet-based applications that people use to create and share content (ideas, information, art) with each other, and foster networks and connections with friends, colleagues, and the general public. The most commonly known applications include online “newspapers” (very generically any news or informational hub online) and blogs (such as this one), as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
Many of these applications are being used by millions of people, or in the case of Facebook – billions of people worldwide (1.2 billion to be precise). The photo sharing website Flickr has over 5 billion images on it, while there are some 490 million unique users of YouTube users every month. Crazy!
So how does RRC staff and faculty stack up? In September 2011 and again in April 2012, Research and Planning asked a random sample of 100 staff and faculty (each month) how often they used social media tools for work and for personal reasons. The six categories offered ranged from “daily” to “never”. The gap between the end of the bar and the 100% marker represents those who never use these tools.
To summarize this information, we rolled up results to look at those using social media at least several times a month.
- As you can see, just over 50% of staff/faculty use online “newspapers”, YouTube, and/or Facebook for personal reasons several times a month.
- Blogs are used by only a fifth of staff (21%) whereas one tenth (10%) use Twitter and/or LinkedIn for personal reasons.
- Work usage is lower across the board, with online newspapers (41%) and YouTube (34%) leading the way.
- Many of the other tools, like blogs, are used by only 5% of staff for work reasons.
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