follow the future?

So I’m checking out Addict-o-Matic the other day, where I track online buzz and mentions for our college, and I see a Twitter entry from a prospective student who received a scholarship letter from the school and is considering it. We have a Twitter account, @sunyoswego, so the question arises: Should we have that account follow the potential student?

Pros: It’s unlikely any other colleges have paid this type of attention to the student. By following back, the student would receive news, our student blog entries and daily updates of what’s happening on campus … and perhaps find it interesting. I know that when I was looking at colleges, the personal attention Brockport showed me was a big factor in its favor. This could also provide an opportunity for the student to ask questions in a relaxed environment.

Cons: It could seem kind of creepy, no? The student could find it intrusive, perhaps some breach of institution-person etiquette. And … did I mention it could seem kind of creepy?

Do you think, in such a case, a college should follow? What would you think if you were the student being followed by a college Twitter account?

7 Comments

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7 responses to “follow the future?

  1. Tim,

    No, a college should not follow its prospective students on a Twitter account, but not for the reasons you mentioned.

    One of the things that colleges should do — if they’re not already — as part of the admissions process, is check the social media profiles of its applicants: blogs, MySpace, Twitter, whatever’s publicly accessible. Employers would do this, and colleges should, too.

    But the reason they shouldn’t follow prospective students is they stand to gain nothing from it. It’s not like someone’s going to read a Twitter timeline that has perhaps several thousand new additions each year. And unfollowing the individual shows either that the prospective student is being rejected, or worse, that it just isn’t that interested in what the student has to say.

    The college should, however, pimp its own Twitter account in the “thanks for applying” letter/e-mail. A simple “get SUNY Oswego updates on Twitter by following us at…” could show prospective students that you’re not a fuddy-duddy old luddite institution, and could mean the difference to a student who is accepted at multiple schools.

  2. CREEPY!!! Most definitely. First, there’s the “how the F did they find me?!?!” factor. Then, there’s the “will they withdraw my acceptance offer if I post a bad update” fear.

    Just had dinner last night with 3 college seniors and one recent grad Facebook was the main subject of conversation throughout—they are of the age where they are starting to realize that potential employers may be able to see pictures of them drinking on Facebook. They don’t see social media as a way to network or engage with hirers, but rather as a thing to keep hidden from them (and when you’ve pictures of you partying on there, I can see why). So I imagine the mindset with prospective college students and Twitter would be similar.

  3. Laura

    Luddite speaking: isn’t there a way to let the student know that he/she can follow you, that you’re interested and available? Like dating, you give the signals and wait for the person to reciprocate.

  4. I’m wary of following students the same way I’m wary of friending students on Facebook.

    But I agree with Josh’s comment… there’s very little value in it for us. Unless I have further contact with a student — one of our bloggers, our tour guides, or grad assistants — I don’t need to know what they’re doing 24/7. It’s okay that they want to know what we’re doing in the office, but I don’t see a need for that reciprocity.

  5. I’m with mydogischelsea. CREEP-ola. If I found out that UF was following me on Twitter, I’d think, what the hell are they doing that for? I need a fake identity, like fern forest or something, so that I can post whatever the hell I want and only a couple people strewn about upstate New York, Portland, Seattle, Ohio, and Alberta Canada will know the truth.

    I mean, what if I need to tweet, my adviser is being a douchebag today?

  6. Josh makes a good argument here. Let them know that they can follow ‘you’ (maybe even a twitter account targeted at incoming students, separate from the general one – not sure how you’d brand it… welcometooswego maybe?) but there is no reason to follow them. Just make the people that ‘you’ follow be people and/or feeds of interest to the community, like other feeds related to things in and around Oswego (do the venues around campus such as Waterman stage and the campus center arena have their own feeds? how about rudys?), maybe local news organizations and media outlets such as @WRVO and @WNYO. Possibly also follow some staff, (willing and knowing) current students, and (willing) alumni.

  7. Ron

    I wouldn’t follow the student. I’d just keep monitoring the web to see when they’re talking about the institution.

    Or respond to their tweets when it’s something interesting or relevant and maybe they’ll follow you

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