Slightly less than half of MSU students, faculty and staff reported they were more than satisfied with the university’s official website, according to the 2011 MSU Internet Use and Opinion Survey results released last week.
The survey — prepared by a team of researchers with MSU’s Office for University Outreach and Engagement — reported 49.5 percent of about 1,304 survey respondents rated their satisfaction with the msu.edu website as “above average or greater.”
Of that same group, about 27.5 percent of respondents said MSU’s online presence in terms of social media outside of MSU’s official website was satisfactory.
Graham Pierce, a user experience researcher with University Outreach and Engagement, said the results are being evaluated by his department, who is in the process of preparing another survey with different questions geared toward different MSU community members. No formal plans for changing the university website have been made.
The difference brings into question what users expect from certain departments and colleges in terms of webpage performance and accessibility, Pierce said.
“While we have a reasonably good idea of what users expect from a web page, we know much less about their expectations for social media and email communications,” he said in an email. “Users have very strong opinions; some love social media, some hate it.”
According to a database of social media networks at the university, all 17 of MSU’s colleges operate Facebook pages, and all but three colleges operate Twitter accounts.
Departments such as the Office for International Studies and Programs and the Office of Admissions operate Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts, according to the website.
Political science and pre-law sophomore Ashley Zacharski said she does not often visit MSU’s official web page and finds it easier to use social media.
“I’m more likely to go check Facebook than go find information on MSU’s website,” she said.
The survey said about 81.6 percent of survey respondents regularly used Facebook, and 20.8 percent said they used Twitter.
Zacharski said more MSU colleges and departments could operate Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. According to the social media database, six departments operate currently operate both.
Director of Virtual University Design and Technology Brendan Guenther said social media efforts are being explored in different ways by different MSU colleges and departments.
“Right now, you’re seeing adoption on a college-by-college basis,” he said. “Each college tends to have people they look at as their on-campus communicators. Social media is an avenue some people are looking at.”
Guenther cited the MSU University Archives and Historical Collections’ blog and other websites as unique forms of communication by university departments.
Pierce said he thinks MSU needs to continue to push social media forward but with caution.
“There’s a delicate balance to reaching people without pushing them away,” he said. “If you go entirely with social media, you lose the people who aren’t participating in it.”
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