Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Carl Hoagland


Dr. Keith Miller


Dr. Carl Hoagland

Dr. Keith Miller

Dr. Vicki Sauter

Dean Charlie Hoffman


This study examined the digital and social media communication practices of nine urban universities including UMSL and compared those to known corporate best practices.

The purpose of this study was to (1) research how these universities are using social/digital communications to engage with students and prospective students; (2) compare the executional tactics of universities to corporate best practices; (3) determine if by applying corporate best practices universities reap the same benefits as corporate in terms of higher engagement rates with their customers; and (4) determine if a correlation exists between a university’s Forbes ranking and its use of social media communications best practices.

This research employed a case study and correlational analytical approach. All content on Facebook and Twitter for the nine universities under study was examined for a 4-week evaluation period. Adherence to social and digital media corporate best practices were observed and noted. Metrics were created. These metrics were then correlated with overall engagement rates on the various social media platforms.

The results of this study did show that those universities better at applying corporate best practices did see higher engagement rates with statistical significance. This indicates that best practices as determined by corporations for engaging with customers and potential customers also apply for universities in dealing with students.

Additionally, this study sought to understand issues that may hinder a university from being able to quickly adopt to the technological needs of students and the platforms they use for communications. This was done via an extensive review of the literature and various industry journals. There were found to be many reasons why a university may be incapable of implementing cutting edge communication platforms quickly including the fact that universities (1) may be slower in adoption of technology (2) must adhere to FERPA rules and regulations (3) have difficulty in operating strategically (4) are known to be very “siloed” or compartmentalized in structure (5) have limited resources that cannot be easily redeployed as needed, and (6) are confused about their customers.