Potential of the social media as instruments of higher education marketing: a segmentation study

Efthymios Constantinides, Marc C. Zinck Stagno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


The importance of social media as platforms of social interaction, communication and marketing is growing. Increasing numbers of businesses in various industries have already integrated or plan to integrate social media applications into their marketing programs. Higher education institutions show increased interest in the potential of social media as a marketing tool. Particularly important is the potential of these tools to reach and attract future students. An important issue for research is to understand how potential students use social media and what their role is in the decision making process of choosing a program of study, a University, or College. This paper identifies market segments among future students based on the use of the social media and examines the impact of the social media on the choice of a higher education program and institution. The study is based on data collected by means of a national survey among future university students in the Netherlands. Future students are pupils from the last two years of secondary education. Market segmentation was carried out based on the use of social media, by means of a cluster analysis and a factor analysis; the latter proved to be the best choice since it produced more differentiated market segments. The findings indicate the existence of three distinct segments in the population of future students in the Netherlands on the basis of social media use. Another major finding of the study is that future students are mostly interested in social interaction and information seeking when using social media, while the content contributed by this group is limited to photo and video sharing. Compared to traditional communication channels social media still play a secondary role in the students' choice. While penetration of social media is extremely high among future students, the impact of these in the choice of study and institution is relatively low compared to more traditional forms of university marketing. This paper provides university marketers with a useful insight into the developments in the market and discusses various options and opportunities for engaging social media as effective marketing tools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-24
JournalJournal of marketing for higher education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • IR-89284
  • METIS-277008


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