10 Twitter Tips for Higher Education: Making a Home in the Twitterverse, One Tweet at a Time

By Mansfield, Heather | University Business, May 2009 | Go to article overview

10 Twitter Tips for Higher Education: Making a Home in the Twitterverse, One Tweet at a Time


Mansfield, Heather, University Business


MY FAVORITE QUOTE about, Twitter is from Newsweek: "Suddenly, all the world is a-Twitter." It's true. Seemingly every time I turn on CNN or NPR there is a story about Twitter. From second-graders tweeting from classroom computers to churchgoers tweeting via mobile phones during services, Twitter is a phenomenon that is occurring worldwide and experiencing exponential growth. In fact, in March 2009 Nielsen Online reported that Twitter has now surpassed Facebook to become the fastest-growing social networking site--ever.

Simple and powerful, Twitter is a must for higher education. But it is much more than a site for pushing or breaking news about what's happening on your campus. It's a community where conversations occur and are inspired--that is, tweeted and retweeted. While there are some great examples of early adopters in the higher education community on Twitter, the vast majority of colleges and universities are still struggling with Twitter conversation etiquette and getting past the news pushing component of participating in the "Twitterverse."

I created and manage a portal to colleges and universities on Twitter (www.twitter.com/higheredu), and based on my experience using the site, here are 10 of my favorite Twitter tips for beginners:

1. Put authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community. Colleges and universities that are most successful at utilizing social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace know from trial, error, and experience that a "marketing and recruitment approach" on social networking sites does not work. Simply put, it comes across as lame to the technologically hip users of social networking sites. Traditional marketing and development content is perfectly fine for your website, e-mail newsletters, and print materials, but Web 2.0 is much more about having personality, inspiring conversation, and building online community. Nowhere is this more true than on Twitter. Relax, experiment, let go a bit, find your voice, be authentic.

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2. Don't use Twitter for RSS or publish "News" unless you call your Twitter profile "News."

RSS is definitely not authentic, lacks personality, and does little to no community building. It's a marketing tool that better serves media folks than the vast majority of your followers in the Twitterverse. No offense, but news releases are not that interesting to read. That's why Twitter profiles that are simply RSS have very few followers. So if you are going to use Twitter for RSS or to publish news releases, then call your Twitter profile "X University News" and create separate Twitter profiles for your other Twitter accounts. One example: @UCSDnews www.twitter.com/ucsdnews).

To test this tip, sign up for an account on TwitClicks (www.twitclicks.com). You can get stats on how many people click your tweets.

3. Have many Twitter accounts. Create separate accounts for news, athletics, admissions, alumni, student life, etc., and then one account for your college or university that serves as a central hub for your Twitter presence. The more tweets and tweeters you have out there, the better. It's important to keep in mind the demographics of the Twitterverse. Less than 4 percent are 17 and under, and the vast majority are 35 and older. So currently, Twitter is not so great for the recruitment of traditional day students and is much better for engaging alumni and recruiting nontraditional students or online students. A few examples are @UTexasMcCombs, @UTMcCombsAlumni, and @McCombsTrainers.

4. Be nice. Be thankful. Reply and retweet. Twitter functions much like karma. The nicer you are to people in the Twitterverse, the nicer they are to you in return. The more you retweet (RT) others, the more they will RT your tweets in return. And whether it's Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube, if someone does something nice for you in the public commons of Web 2. …

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