Higher Education Marketing

Social Media as Addictive as Cigarettes and Alcohol

Date posted: February 7, 2012

A new study is suggesting that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter may be more difficult to resist than cigarettes or alcohol. The study (conducted by a team from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business) which involved 205 people in Wurtzburg, Germany, analyzed addictive social media habits by polling participants, via smartphone. Participants were asked seven times a day (over the course of a week) whether they experienced a desire (to visit a social media site) within the past 30 minutes, and whether or not the succumbed to that desire. Desires were then gauged on a scale from mild to “irresistible.”

Social Media, Addictive?

Of the 10,558 responses recorded, 7,827 “desire episodes” were reported. The study will soon be published in the Psychological Science journal, but preliminary data the high rates of “self-control failures” related to social media services.

“Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist,” said Wilhelm Hofmann, the leader of team conducting the study. Hofmann believes that people may fail to resist social media because there is no obvious or immediate downside (even if they may be a drain on your time).

We’ll have to wait until the final report is published to get all the details. In the meantime, it’s believed that mobile visitors to Facebook could see advertisingas early as March. Facebook has avoided selling ads on its mobile site or app thus far, but with its impending IPO, that looks set to change. The company is set to be valued at $100 billion dollars, a valuation that many expect will force the company into selling its users’ data.

What does this have to do with education marketing? Well, pretty much everything. A key to both your school’s marketing and recruiting strategies is knowing your target audience and then deciding how to best reach that audience. With more and more prospective students experiencing the Web through smartphones, and social media an increasingly important part of the overall Web experience, it’s becoming abundantly clear that schools need to have both a comprehensive social media strategy and a mobile friendly website or app. Don’t be left behind.

What do you think about the new study? Is Facebook and Twitter more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol?