Using Twitter for Student Bloggers

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

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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:

  1. There is not a user base for the students we are targeting.
  2. It is difficult to get students to buy in to Twitter and start using it.
  3. ” Twitter is a toy for internet techies to communicate.” – Kyle James
  4. Twitter IS a powerful tool, it just hasn’t proven itself for recruitment purposes.
  5. 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?
    1. Me.
    2. Kyle.
    3. Michael.
    4. Add your name here. Or don’t. And pat yourself on the back.

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.

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Comments posted (14)

Yeah, it’s great when it works :(

No kidding. How timely. Just refer to the last sentence of my first quote above. :)

I’m attempting to do something very similar to what you’re doing, except it’s for Student Affairs offices/depts. I’ve set up the accounts, but have only handed the keys over to @Admissions so far. Academic Advising will be next. Then I’ll have those two people join me in explaining things to the larger group, and hopefully have things worked out over the summer so by fall we’re at full speed.

Have just begun to play with the badge and thought it would be nice for students to see what was going on in every SA dept/office all in one place. But after seeing it in action, think it might better serve the SA dept/offices themselves. SA is spread out across campus, and does tons of different stuff, this will let us all be able to see what’s going on in different dept/offices on a daily basis.

Gah… you totally caught me admitting I didn’t know if Twitter was good for anything. And here I am like I’m in an old MikyD’s commercial… “I’m lovin’ it”

Also I wouldn’t say 56 follwers is limited success I’d call that really good. Of course it could always be better, but I think we all realize that twitter isn’t really a big thing for college students… at least not yet… if ever.

Good move with bringing it into the blog page. Twitter seems to be at its best when your feeding it into places where people are already. Even though I’ve been hesitant to jump on the Twitter band wagon, I’ve come to realize that it’s a deeper level of authenticity and something we’re going to find extremely useful.

As Twitter roles out the capability to create groups (expect that in next 30-60 days), I think you’ll find it to be even more relevant. Just think about how admissions can benefit from creating group categories for high school counselors, potential parents, prospective students, etc.

Sure it’s still early in its growth curve, but as more people adopt it, why not be ready for it? If you integrate it into your overall strategy, I think you’ll find the synergy.

Good ideas. I still get a chuckle at your comment on my blog from last fall. ;)

Twitter status updates can also be incorporated into Facebook pages, but as a soon-to-be-former student assistant in our office said in a wall post on my Facebook page: “Dude. What’s the point?”

What he really said was:

so with twitter… you use it to show your status with a few sentences… but what i dont understand is… why have a seperate site for just your status.. when every other site/social community already has one… does it set your status on all of them? perhaps i should just check it out… but i dont think i can bring myself to it.. so maybe you can convince me..

To which I replied:

Good questions about Twitter. I’m not sure I can explain its allure. You just have to try it out for yourself. Set up an account and then add me.

So far, he’s yet to take me up on the offer.

@Todd – keep us updated on that for sure, sounds like a great idea.

@Kyle – ‘ba da ba ba ba….. I’m lovin’ it.’

@Scott – Let us know when you’re ready to take the Twitter plunge! Interesting though on the groups, I hadn’t thought of that being offered through Twitter. Will definitely change how we use it.

@Andrew – Forever etched into the walls of the internet. The one thing about Twitter vs. Facebook is adaptability. I could not pull out my current blogger’s Facebook statuses to the blog. BUT, I can pull their Twitter status, and they can then push their Twitter status to their Facebook status. I love the openness of the site. Let us know if he takes you up on the offer. We’ll help you convert him. :)

An article came out just earlier this week about Twitter saying that it was becoming more accepted. Whether or not I believe that, I don’t know, but I think what you’re doing with your bloggers is a great idea. I’d given up on using Twitter for recruitment because I couldn’t find a good use for it. I thought about using the bloggers to start it, but then I realized they don’t even BLOG, so they probably wouldn’t be the best candidates… I guess maybe it depends upon how “techie” your students are and Springfield may not be the place. I say good work finding a good way to use it. Lets see if it actually catches on.

@Jeremy Wilburn – I think the beauty of Twitter is that it’s simple — you don’t have to be techie to use it. Posting on a blog scares some of the “subject experts” (and takes way more time), but the same people aren’t afraid to enter 140 characters or less and hit update a few times a week. Perhaps your blogger who don’t blog would find Twitter easier to swallow.

As a platform, I think twitter is here to stay for awhile – and why I think you’ve found a pratical use for it now.

I’m still hesitant on the stability and consumer buy-in, at least until they move from Rails back to Java and the cloud so we can stop seeing outages every other day.

As a tool for HigherEd, certainly has potential – I know our journalism newsroom is now using it to monitor leads in the local twitter community to both collect and distribute stories with students.

However for admissions, your on the right track – the less they know they are using service and integrate into an experience they already know (such as butler bloggers), the better.

Kudos Brad.

@Jeremy – do you have a link to that article? I’d like to check it out. Looking forward to seeing how this goes too.

@Jon – The stability kills me too. Like the day I posted this, Twitter was down for several hours and so I just had a big blue box on my site. Frustrating. I think the community will DEMAND stability, and Twitter will provide. It might take some time, but we’ll get there.

I like how you sum it up – the less they know, the better. Great thought.

An addendum to the blog post – 4 students were excited about Twitter, etc, and the 5th emailed me back this:
“Ummm…I don’t get it – what is this Twitter thing and why are we making a big deal out of it/how is it going to help with the blogs?”

What a great question for me to have to think about. I love how my bloggers constantly challenge me and make me think about WHY I am asking them to do things (YouTube, flip cams, Twitter, etc.). Coming from 18-22 year olds, it’s exactly the type of checks and balances that I need to have.

well.. it’s like I thought!

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

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Maybe you could make changes to the page name SquaredPeg » Blog Archive » Using Twitter for Student Bloggers to something more suited for your blog post you write. I enjoyed the blog post even sononetheless.

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