Twitter for Higher Ed

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 03-27-2009


I’ve been pretty deep in the research of 400 college and university Twitter accounts, and I’ve been impressed with both the adoption and the growth of this niche on Twitter in the past month.

We are looking at all types of accounts: Admissions, Athletics, Alumni, Departments and Colleges, PR, News, general institution accounts and more. Just wanted to share a few very brief stats and notes from the in-depth research.

  • Of the 400 accounts we are tracking, 26% did not follow anyone new in the past month.
  • The 400 accounts averaged a 93.3% growth in # of followers over the past month.
  • Harvard, always known for its brand monitoring (no logos on shot glasses, etc.) was late to the @HarvardU boat. Take control of your brand, or deal with updates such as this one.
  • Conversation is everything…………… or is it???
  • A small handful of schools are in the top 10% of # of followers, # of following, and # of updates.
  • Admission offices usually have the lowest # of followers out of all types of accounts.

One trend I’ve noticed is that higher education accounts just go out and follow EVERYONE, typically scanning lists of other institutions to build their following/follower numbers.

For a history lesson, here’s where I think it started.  Way back, nearly 18 months ago, a few of us who had become regulars with our personal accounts started branching out into institutional accounts. I consider @andrewcareaga the Nostradamus of Higher Ed Twitter with the tweet below. (Yeah… I was the only one who responded.)Missouri S&T Twitter

So what does this have to do with the trend of ‘follow everyone!’ Back then, we were lone rangers on uncharted territories.  We stuck together. Our follower lists were tributes to other brave souls giving this new tool a try at their college or university.  And somewhere along the way, it became standard. But also… back then, we didn’t really know what we were going to use the tool for. # of Followers, # of Following, it didn’t really matter.  There was no one else to talk to because you didn’t know who else was around. (Unless you were using Tweetscan, which is sooooo 2007.)

So is it good or bad to follow and everyone? We’ll talk more about that at the webinar. :)

With Twitter’s phenomenal growth (1392% from Feb ’08 to Feb ’09), it’s time to get serious.  Time to make Twitter work for you, and make it accomplish something.  Chris Brogan recently said that we are now in the ‘prove it’ stage of social media. And it’s the truth. It’s time for practitioners to step up to the plate and make something happen. And it starts with a strategy and knowing what you want to accomplish.  It’s more than following 500 random people and more than waiting for people to come follow you.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about in the Twitter for Higher Ed webinar in 2 weeks.  Hope you’ll consider joining the rest of the schools who are ready to get serious about Twitter and who want to work smarter, not harder. :)


Twitter for Higher Ed Webinar – 2 dates!  April 9th or 10th.
Only $99 to attend.  More information here.
Bring your pen and pad.

Comments posted (14)

You bring up some interesting points here. I’m very excited to attend your webinar and learn more!

SWEET! That’s better than being a “guru” or an “evangelist.” Now I get to predict the coming cataclysmic events that will bring Twitter to its ultimate demise. I’ll start working on that after lunch.

Now where’d I put that crystal ball?

These are some great stats. I’ve notice many accounts that don’t serve any other purpose than to post news whereas conversation is the most valuable aspect of twitter.

We opened the college’s twitter account over a month ago. We are having challenges bringing up awareness of the account even though there is a social media page on the website. Looking forward to seeing more opinions about getting followers.

Interesting summary, Brad. Have you looked into demographics at all on Twitter? According to Quantcast there’s a very small percentage of pre-college aged students (12-17) currently on Twitter.

I’m wondering if anyone has any information that may point to a shift in this age group.

I’m intrigued about this bullet point:

“Conversation is everything…………… or is it???”

Will you have some data to share in this regard?

Interesting points. I think the one I would add is that it is important for higher ed to use Twitter to have the one-on-one conversations that are so important for conversion these days. Do you agree?

[...] Each finalist was given a short period of time to revise the statement that their nominee provided for them when they were notified of their finalist status. These statements were then placed on the EMG website for the public to vote. Here is a reprise of Andrew’s statement: Over the past two-plus years, Andrew has led a campuswide rebranding effort as the campus formerly known as the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) became Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T). The name change was a substantial rebranding that occurred in a very short time frame (at least by higher ed standards). As part of the rebranding, Andrew and the entire communications team embraced social media to address controversies surrounding the name change (through the “name change conversations” blog and to relaunch the university as one that is truly among the nation’s distinctive technological universities. Missouri S&T was one of the first to embrace micro-blogging site Twitter, setting up its account ( in December 2007. This led to social media higher ed consultant to label Andy “the Nostradamus of Higher Ed Twitter” in a March 2009 blog post ( [...]

[...] Ward has been doing some digging into how colleges and universities are using Twitter, and posts some interesting stats on his [...]

[...] that Brad J. Ward’s reference to me as “the Nostradamus of Higher Ed Twitter” in this post is what sealed the deal. [...]

microblogging is really useful when you want to broadcast short updates. i am still leaning towards traditional blogging.-**

[...] on Twitter As usual, Brad J. Ward offers some interesting insight today on his blog about Twitter trends in higher ed. He finds that more than 400 institutions of higher education now [...]

Interesting website, i read it but i still have a few questions. shoot me an email and we will talk more becasue i may have an interesting idea for you.

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