Finding satisfaction and belonging through social media engagement

As state funding for public colleges continues to decline not only locally, but across the United States, tuition costs continue to rise colleges can struggle to connect with students.


The research of Melissa Powell, Brent Donaldson and Kelsey Sphar target the use of social media in relation to how to increase satisfaction and retention rates for Northern Kentucky University.


The research was presented at the annual Celebration of Student Research and Creativity poster session..


The faculty sponsor for the research was Austin Lee. The trio are graduate students in communication and the research was in conjunction with a quantitative research methods class.


They evaluated students’ sense of belonging and satisfaction when exposed to the NKU Facebook page and the NKU website. The message was the same across both platforms.


Their research led them to realize that students who were surveyed and exposed to the NKU Facebook page were left overall with higher satisfaction rates and a higher sense of belonging.


“We were looking at retention. Retention isn’t just an issue here, but at every university,” Powell said. “We wanted to see how universities can change the way they communicate with students in order to increase retention and make students feel like they’re more included in their education in the information they hear.”


In the age of social media the platforms that work are ever-changing. To combat decreasing retention rates the way universities communicate with their students must be evaluated, according to the group’s project.


“Trying to get a higher retention rate and trying to get students out to events on campus is such a big problem everywhere,” Sphar said. “How can we tap into those students and how can we get that message across. If this platform isn’t working then what platform can we use? We want to figure that out.”


The survey included 43 students, which the group recognized as a small sampling pool.

Under time restraints and a small sampling population, Powell, Donaldson and Sphar see the project as something that can be expanded upon.


They also said that an interesting avenue to look into would be the comparison of what social media platforms work at different schools.