Question of the day: Should universities tweet?

Last November, we set up a Twitter account for our university and mildly publicized the fact on our Name Change Conversations blog. But we haven’t done much with it.

twitter.pngAt this point, we have 11 followers, including myself and a couple other communications staffers, and we’ve updated eight times. I haven’t yet worked with our enrollment management team to inform prospective students of the site, and we haven’t notified our alumni through our traditional communications vehicles (email and the alumni magazine).

So, it’s been a very low-key campaign — if you could call it that.

I haven’t found any examples of other universities using Twitter for marketing, pr or external communications purposes.

This morning, I asked the Twittersphere how university comms/PR/marketing folks might be able to use this tool, and have gotten some interesting responses. Here are a few of them:

fcmartin3rd suggests that campuses use Twitter for “inspirational messages; connection with high schoolers; following thought leaders; reminders; pedagoguery!”

amandachapel says, “there’s very little value here. Besides, why would any org want to hold an open meeting on a lawless freeway?”

toster tweets: “I can see universities Twittering for comms, but little else. Even then, I would expect it to be only partially adopted.”

vargasl suggests: “What about twittering events at school? Gaining prospective student interest… ” (That’s how she handled the Oscars on Sunday night, live-twittering while watching E!)

You can keep track of the conversation on my Twitter page. But I’d also like to hear from you readers, too. I know some of you see little value in this tool, and I know others of you who use it regularly as a personal/semi-professional tool but not necessarily as an official representation of your school.

So, let’s hear all sides on the matter.

How could Twitter be incorporated in a college/university communications strategy?

Also, if you know of any universities currently using Twitter, please let me know so I can see how they’re doing.

Leave your comments below or, if you’re on Twitter and want to keep it to 140 characters or fewer, drop a Tweet to http://twitter.com/andrewcareaga.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

15 thoughts on “Question of the day: Should universities tweet?”

  1. I think the UCSD Twitter feed actually makes sense — it’s like a turbo-charged news feed in that it makes it easy for people to receive it in an RSS reader, IM program or as a text message. And people who Twitter may also be those who are most likely to want updates from a University Communications office.

    One possible use in higher education would be as a way to distribute selected news clips in a way that’s timely and doesn’t run afoul of copyright rules: LA Times on new UCSD library plans tinyurl

    Another would be to create a feed like Twitterlit — some fun piece of trivia or advice every day that related to a key strength of the university.

  2. I set up a Twitter account for Red River College (twitter.com/rrc) several months back, although it’s mostly just republishing our website rss feed. So far I’m the only follower, but I haven’t done anything to publicize it so I guess that’s not a surprise.

    That being said, I’m the only real person I know that uses Twitter anyway, and a quick look at TwitDir shows that not too many people in our immediate marketplace are using it either. At least it’s free and googleable.

  3. If Twitter provides better up-time (i.e. “Bring that Tweet back!”) I’d be more inclined to use Twitter as an alternative communications tool. Also, I get frustrated that Twitter’s default code for embedding Tweets into a Web page leaves hyperlinks inactive.

    On the flip-side, the mash-ups I’ve seen using Twitters API are very interesting (providing there’s service). Most notable was the mash-up with Google during the recent Democratic debate between Obama and Hillary.

    Twitter user,
    @calvincollege via @luker

  4. Twitter needs a bigger prospective student install base, first, (or the university doing this campaign needs to promote it really hard) and then it would depend on what was being said. I could see it useful in many situations for the same way I have written and spoken extensively on the merits of say, adcom transparency. That’s just one example of ways that it would be interesting, but just as you see people totally uninterested in the presidential candidate twitters, it would depend on how honest and useful the content was.

  5. Some good thoughts here, folks. Thanks for chiming in.

    William – Yes, the UCSD feed is interesting, I think, but from what I can tell, it isn’t feeding any info about UCSD to subscribers.

    Colin and Luke – Nice to see a couple of other colleges are at least exploring Twitter. I will follow both accounts (and so will @MissouriSandT) and may use these as examples at an upcoming CASE conference.

    Sam – I think you’ve hit upon the issue: not a lot of prospective students (or alumni) are using Twitter, so there isn’t a big base of users for it yet. Maybe one day.

  6. As what twitter says “to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers”. Maybe some college/universities realized some advantages of using twitter for purpose of mainly getting connected.

    -Jan

  7. I’ve just been blogging in a similar vein myself which is how I’ve managed to stumble over your blog (must link to it given that many of my posts are also about HE PR and Marketing – though from the UK in my case). Anyway, I think Vice Chancellors and senior managers should be encouraged to Tweet! Many have been encouraged with little success to blog but their busy schedules and lack of time makes this tricky for them. However, tweeting would be a great way for VCs and University Presidents, etc, to give themselves a more ‘human’ profile and to stay in touch with the campus community even when they are far away – just a quick text update every day from the car or train or wherever they are. I can’t find any examples of any VCs doing this yet though.

  8. Tracy – Good thoughts about senior managers tweeting. Here in the US, several presidential candidates uses Twitter as a way of communicating. Maybe the top-level presidents/chancellors could be persuaded to use Twitter in a similar vein.

  9. Liberty University set up several twitters. Personally, I don’t see the point. They’re simply pulling existing content from their page, it doesn’t seem to be adding any value to their web presence.

    twitter.com/LibertyU
    twitter.com/libertysplash
    twitter.com/libertyflames

  10. I set up the twitter feed for Concordia University in Ann Arbor – twitter.com/cuaa.

    I do not think twitter adds much to our organization’s communication strategy. It does, however, provide a way for us to update twitter users every time we post a news story to our website or Facebook.

    In order for it to be truly useful, we would have to have a jackhammer of a campaign and then have the staffing to support sending out announcements.

    I don’t think twitter users want to receive spam about college visit day events.

    I am not a twitter-for-organizations enthusiast.

    We have much better success with Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/concordia.university.ann.arbor or http://www.cuaa.edu/facebook

    I think Facebook and LinkedIn are the best places to focus energies if an organization has limited staffing to support social media.

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