Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Concepts, Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 05-15-2008
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about uses for Twitter in Higher Ed. I’ve said before (here):
[...] having the kids sign up for Twitter is just another barrier to communication. While I am typically an advocate for universities using services rather than reinventing the wheel, Twitter has yet to prove its stability to me.
There has also been a lot of talk about Twitter, how to use it in Higher Ed, what might be effective, what might not be, etc. I’ve sort of sat back and soaked this all in, watching developments at other universities and trying to think of how I can use Twitter to enhance a student’s experience on our site.
Jeremy talked about Twitter as a potential use for things like emergency notifications or IM/Chat sessions. Kyle James compiled a terrific post about Twitter. Mike mentioned Twitter for compiling their news feed, which is what I have been doing with our @butlersports account for several months now, with limited success (56 followers). Andrew has talked about Twittering quite a bit, once posing a question if universities should use it. Like MissouriS&T, several schools have Twitter accounts, but we’re all just not sure where it fits in to the overall communication flow. Seth has also covered the topic several times. Many other bloggers have been talking about it too.
In watching/participating in this discussion over the last 4-5 months, I have seen several key areas emerge that I believe the majority can agree on:
- There is not a user base for the students we are targeting.
- It is difficult to get students to buy in to Twitter and start using it.
- ” Twitter is a toy for internet techies to communicate.” – Kyle James
- Twitter IS a powerful tool, it just hasn’t proven itself for recruitment purposes.
- We’ve mostly all said something silly at one point about Twitter being ineffective, so how can we not expect future students to say the same?
So, where is this all going? My new initiative…. Butler Bloggers + Twitter.
I started by confronting questions like the 5 above. How can I use Twitter to enhance the experience of visiting the bloggers without initially needing the buy-in of students? I decided that the answer lies in the Twitter API/Badge system.
If you look at http://go.butler.edu/cs, you will see the latest Twitter updates from my bloggers in the left column. You don’t even know or need to know what Twitter is by looking at that. It’s a simple badge that pulls in all tweets from friends of @butlerbloggers. So all of the summer Bloggers are friends of @butlerbloggers, and their tweets get aggregated here.
This also means that getting new friends for the @butlerbloggers account is not desired or wanted. Just my bloggers, that’s it. I don’t want the bloggers count to have friends or followers, and I don’t need it to. If people want to follow the actual student accounts, that’s where they might find value.
It also means people who visit the site won’t be exposed to Twitter unless they happen to click on a link (student photo, student name, or time posted). At that point, they would get linked to twitter.com/BUStudent and decide if they want to learn more and become more involved in the site, or just continue to get updates on the sidelines when they visit.
And a quick note about the location of the badge. Year to date, http://go.butler.edu/cs is the 2nd most visited page on our site (4.55%), behind the homepage http://go.butler.edu (23.14%). I think it’s a good location for it because it’s all about the Bloggers, and it’s a highly visited page.
So, what I want to accomplish by using Twitter on this site:
Capture life between blog posts. 140 characters at a time. “heading to class but getting something to drink at Starbucks first. love my mochas.” “over to alpha phi to play guitar hero with my friends, pics on my blog l8r!” “just got stuck in the rain b/w classes, good thing i have my rainboots. dont forget urs next yr!”
You get the idea.
And then, IF Twitter becomes a bigger player in the social media market and the younger generation begins to adapt, our infrastructure is there, the conversation has already begun, and we’ll be ready to utilize it further than what we are doing now.
Now, problems: There is no conversation happening. Will tweets translate to blog posts elaborating later? Or do they need to? Is there a benefit of having this here, or is it taking up space for more important things like blog post callouts, which drive a lot of traffic?
And next steps: Having a badge for each blogger on their own blog with just their tweets, which might help with the problem of conversation.
Well those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours on this method of using Twitter without really using Twitter for all its worth.