Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Twitter... 9 professional and graduate school examples

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After a recent interview with Campus Technology magazine, "Recruitment Marketing Calls for Smarter Spending," a person commenting, "mktgdirector," asked for examples of professional and graduate schools using social media effectively in social networking and recruitment activities. I promised to post more information on the blog. This first installment reviews the way that graduate and professional schools are using Twitter.

The 9 schools included here were taken from the ones I'm following now on Twitter. Excluded were sites for entire colleges or universities or those specialized for admissions (several) or alumni (a few). Individual schools are presented in the order of their most recent tweet earlier today. All, or nearly all in the case of the McCombs School, were scanned quickly for a qualitative estimate of the frequency of links and retweets. Other more specific information is included with each school below.

One school stands out from the rest: the McCombs School at the University of Texas. With one exception, it is also the oldest by several months and so has had more time to develop.

Overall conclusions that emerged from the review:

  • Tone: Maintaining a balance between formal news items and informal personality and conversational tone in the postings is a challenge. It isn't surprising that most of these posts are more formal or "business like" than not.
  • Content: In most cases, tweets focus on activities taking place within the schools, including recruitment activities, speakers, faculty awards and honors, alumni recognitions and similar events. The McCombs School has reported the results of a survey that pretty much says this is exactly what followers want to find as Twitter posts. Information rather than entertainment is the reason people follow. That would also tend to validate the more formal tone used here.
  • Linking: The great majority of posts on all the sites either link to more information about the topic covered or are retweets.
  • Bio: The "bio" spot on Twitter is used in very different ways and I've included the exact words for each school. As you'll see, some could do a better equivalent of an "elavator speech" brand message in this space. The McCombs School adds a nice personal element by naming the person who maintains the site.
  • Followers: None of these have yet reached 1,000 followers and some that are more recently started have far fewer than that. Tracking the increase in followers is one way to measure the reach and effectiveness of Twitter as a marketing tool. The schools included here are very different in size so that direct comparisons based on followers between one school and another can't be made.
  • Competitive Intelligence: Twitter offers a competitive intelligence opportunity by following the posts of rival schools. All of our examples appear to follow similar institutions based on a quick visual scan. 

Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business 

The newest of the group started 24 February. Five tweets were made since then. So far, 22 people are following while Baruch follows 34 people or places.

Bio: None.

http://twitter.com/Baruch_Zicklin 

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Started 28 August with 666 updates since then, this is definitely the most robust of the ones I'm following with 753 followers and 485 others being followed..

McCombs reported today the results of a survey reporting that people wanted tweets on "student news, campus events/speakers, alumni events, faculty accomplishments & major McCombs news."

Bio: "News from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, tweeted by Tracy in the McCombs Communications office."

http://twitter.com/UTexasMcCombs

Texas A&M University Mays School of Business

Started 3 November with 61 updates since then. Mays has 289 followers and is following 96 others.

Bio: "Texas A&M University's Mays Business School educates 4,800 undergraduate, master's and doctoral students."

http://twitter.com/maysbusiness 

Thunderbird School of Global Management

Thunderbird started 16 December and has posted 194 updates since then. Thunderbird has 422 followers and is following 463 others. That number of followers seems especially strong given the relatively recent start.

Virtually all posts have links to web pages.

Bio: "Thunderbird School of Global Management is dedicated to educating global leaders who create sustainable prosperity worldwide."

http://twitter.com/ThunderbirdNews 

University of Chicago Law School

The Law School started 25 November and has made 259 updates since then. Followers are at 263 and 174 are being followed. 

A conspicuous topic stood out... links to faculty blogs are frequenty made.

Bio: "Life of the mind? I'll show you the life of the mind."

http://twitter.com/uchicagolaw

Webster University School of Business and Technology

Webster started 20 February and has made 34 updates since then. Followers number 46 and the school is following 112 others.

Bio: "Communications director for Webster University's School of Business & Technology"

http://twitter.com/WebsterU_Biz

College of Charleston Graduate School

This site started 3 December, with 51 updates since then. Since then it has gained 85 followers and is following 116 others.

Bio: "We're the graduate school of the College of Charleston!" 

http://twitter.com/GradSchool

Penn State University World Campus

The World Campus was the oldest site reviewed, starting over a year ago on January 8, 2008, with 112 updates since then. 138 are followers and the World Campus is following 133 others. Since the site has been up for more than 13 months, the number of followers seems low. 

Conspicuous posts: Recent links to/about Second Life activities after a 28 January 2009 launch. 

Bio: "Penn State Online and Distance Education" 

http://twitter.com/PSUWorldCampus

University of Illinois College of Business

The College of Business started 27 January 2009 and has made 61 updates since then. 135 followers are listed and the College is following 82 others.

Bio: "The College of Business at the University of Illinois has outstanding programs in accountancy, business administration, and finance." 

http://twitter.com/uiucbusiness

That's it for now.

 

 

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9 Comments

Hi Bob, I'm wondering why you excluded schools accounts that are focused just on admissions or alumni relations. Do you have thoughts as to why the strategy should be one or the other?

Thanks!

Hi Abby... Left out admissions and alumni only because the original question after the Campus Technology interview was about graduate and professional schools.

Right now I'm following several Twitter sites using the "admissions" word right in the title and those would be next to review. Not sure about alumni... only one comes to mind right now.

Plan to follow more in these categories as well but likely will never quite catch up to everyone.

Abby... back again. Realized I missed the second question in your comment. In a nutshell, creating separate accounts for alumni and admissions and other special groups of reasonable size makes sense to me from a marketing strategy.

With specialization, people following are likely to see a higher percent of tweets that match their interests. One site to cover everyone could get overly large with too many tweets to review. Of course, I have a direct marketing background and tend to favor a special focus as much as possible.

Another possible benefit... more people committed to maintaining the sites.

Thanks for your responses, Bob, I appreciate your feedback!

Interesting that this is largely the product of business/tech institute schools. How long will it take research scientists/humanities Ph.D. programs to catch on? It's not like they're completely immune to new media; where do they think they're sources come from? Also, how can any media studies department be taken seriously if they can't offer analysis on new technologies as they emerge, as opposed to years later? I'm surprised we're not seeing more media studies grad students on twitter; at the very least, it's a time-waster that could be confused with research.

Ethan... My review was weighted to business/tech schools and that may well be an indicator of who is using Twitter but I do fee the need to note that I haven't yet done a comprehensive review of all users. This sample was limited to school that were my followers when I did this.

That said, your note is well taken and I'll pay special attention to make sure I don't miss any communication and media schools.

Bob,

I manage the @WSUSpokane account. We're an upper-division/graduate/professional campus of the multi-campus Washington State University system, headquarters for our health sciences research and teaching, and home to our Interdisciplinary Design Institute and selected professional programs such as educational leadership.

We started tweeting in early November 2008, have 431 followers, are following 398, and have provided 612 updates.

Bio: Health sci, educ, & design programs @ beautiful new downtown campus on river. Acct managed by @BarbChamberlain.

Our tweets are a mix of links to news releases, event announcements, campus happenings (such as our record snowfalls in December/January), retweets of resources relevant to our followers in health sciences, health care, and design disciplines, recognition of students and alumni who have done something great, live tweeting from selected campus events, and occasional links to the blog maintained by one of the campus librarians and others as they get established.

My goal is to be "professional with a personality" in managing the account. I use search results to identify people tweeting about us so I can respond and follow.

WSU systemwide is taking to Twitter in a big way. See our full account list at http://twurl.cc/nr8.

For a longer list of Twitter accounts, you might look at this wiki: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Universities. I use this as one of our measurement resources, although it's not comprehensive.

Twitter outcome measures certainly are nowhere a science. I use the wiki list to measure us against comparable schools for # of followers (which isn't at all a measure of engagement). I also look at retweets, twittergrader rankings, and twinfluence, just to have some sense of whether we're improving in our reach and value.

I also track clickthroughs for all links I tweet, so I know how many eyeballs I've drawn and which content is the most popular.

@BarbChamberlain

Barb... thanks for the detailed information... will pay special attention to how you are tracking outcomes. You certainly have much in place and I may pull that out in a later post to highlight it even more than here.

I have a client in Texas that is also an upper division undergrad university with graduate programs and will pass this along to them as incentive to move in a similar direction.

From your description, this seems a full-time effort for you. Is it that, or close to it?

Bob,

It's not a full-time effort. At this point, I couldn't justify doing that for social media given everything else we need to produce in a small shop, although we're shifting priorities.

It took more time in the beginning to get going, which is true of any social space. For Twitter, that's time to find accounts to follow, and effort to build good value in our tweets so they would see why they might want to follow back.

A more sophisticated result-tracking package might make it easier. It is a bit time-consuming to do my low-end copy/paste/spreadsheet analysis, and I only do that about once a month now. I did it more often in the beginning to get a sense of trend lines.

I use tweetlater to make it easier to have something going out every day whether I have much time to check or not. I tee up tweets on future events and basic items (like a periodic reminder to faculty/staff/students to update their emergency contact info).

That way, on a daily basis I pop in, check the last couple of pages of tweets of people I'm following, maybe RT a couple of items, check our @s & DMs (still very light on the latter), and set up tweets on the day's news items.

The other piece I continue to work on is building a following among local people (as community relations work), students (on-campus communications), media (both traditional/mainstream and online), and alumni (although Facebook is the bigger priority there). It's not enough to have the account--to make it worth using as a communications tool, someone has to be listening.

Very useful to think about it for this comment, as I'm presenting on this topic tomorrow to colleagues.

@BarbChamberlain
@WSUSpokane

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