hearing voices: doing a 180 on how we use 140.

When we launched the @sunyoswego Twitter account a few years ago, we weren’t using it in an ideal manner. But some evolution in Twitter itself and a change of our philosophy has led to a 180-degree change in how we use our 140 or less characters.

Going in, I knew Twitter was about interacting. But it began as One More Thing To Do, so the initial efforts were more push than interaction, and I didn’t do a great job budgeting time to responding to tweets mentioning our school. Of course, we had all those misleading polls and articles alleging Teens Don’t Tweet, although we discovered that was a fallacy fairly quickly.

So, with the help of great social media interns, we went more interactive, provided more live-tweeting, posted more photos in addition to answering questions. And it was good. But I realized that, while this painted a pretty good portrait of the campus, something was missing: Other voices.

Starting a few months ago, I placed greater emphasis on putting other voices into our stream, generally through retweets. Some thought-provoking #highedweb11 presentations provided inspiration, as did the idea from roller derby (and, before it, yes, professional wrestling) of “putting over” skaters, or helping audiences care and/or understand more about the players. I set up Tweetdeck columns for “sunyoswego” “suny oswego” and “oswego state” which keep us apprised of our mentions. Our goal: Weave in the stories of other accounts on campus and our supporters already tweeting our praises on social media — alumni, current students and incoming students.

The stream now features retweets of various organizations and offices on campus doing awesome events and programs. It provides value and validation to those accounts and their activities — growing not only their followers and participants but providing a better cross-section of what happens on campus. We’ve had accounts on campus ask for us to retweet them which we will do when they are providing value. A few times we’ll have someone ask to tweet their account’s existence, check to find they’ve posted no content and suggested they include @sunyoswego in a tweet of something they’re doing when they want a retweet. Saying “hey, check out this account that isn’t posting any content of value” lessens the value or our validations.

For the past week, we’ve had all kinds of students happily tweeting about their acceptance into SUNY Oswego. Here I stick with the awesome advice of Scott Stratten, aka @unmarketing: “I don’t know the ROI (return on investment) of tweeting back when a student says they’ve been accepted. And I don’t care. Just do it! It’s the right thing to do.” We usually retweet with a congratulations and/or welcome and/or something related to their tweet. A straight-up retweet seems lame and self-promotional, while adding some greeting or congratulations is more engaging and special to the recipient.

As a result of all this, we’ve seen a flood of new followers (the people we retweet will follow us, and often retweet our retweet, which leads to more followers), and a higher level of interaction than ever. We’ve been able to show those followers a wider swath of campus life. And most importantly we’re building a larger, more engaged and richer community experience … which is, as Stratten says, the right thing to do.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “hearing voices: doing a 180 on how we use 140.

  1. Great post, Tim – I agree and love the point you make about validity and what you’re adding to your stream. I wrote a blog yesterday about engaging with our audiences in general – this is SO critical, yet is somewhat rare.

  2. Very nice. So many schools don’t use Twitter properly – love the quote from @unmarketing too. People just want to be acknowledged.

  3. John Lucas

    Another really useful post, Tim– just shared with my community. Along these lines, I’d love to do a study of yield (enrolls) for admitted students who receive personalized congratulatory tweets vs. those who do not. Or the percentage of alums who engage with the institution on Twitter who ultimately become donors, versus the general population. I suspect we’ll begin to see some kind of impact, eventually. Those are the kind of ROI measures I’d like to get to someday. Keep it up!

  4. Tim Nekritz

    MEG: I definitely agree! I knew we could/should do more, so was happy to figure out how to make it happen. Time management and making it a point of emphasis helped. And loved your blog entry!

    TALMADGE: Exactly. People want to be treated with respect, and as humans. Why is this is so difficult for some to understand? And @unmarketing is a never-ending goldmine of great quotes.

    JOHN: That would be a great study. I’ve thought the same things with Facebook pages. I know @mikepetroff did a pretty good survey at Emerson, although I think that was later in the cycle. To me, that would indeed be a great ROI metric.

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