What is the value of having a twitter account for your institution?

April 23, 2009

At the CASE Communications Marketing and Technology conference last week we talked a lot about twitter. Some of the attendees really questioned the value and some had to go back and make presentations on the the value. So I decided to tackle that question here.

What is the value of having a twitter account for your institution?

It’s Free
In today’s economy and the budget impact that will be felt by higher education “free” is the right price. Of course nothing is free it might take some staff time but the “cost” to get in is low impact even on staff time.

You can grow incrementally
There is no rule that states you have to tweet live for your institution or how many tweets you need to make a day. There are best practices but to get started you can start small and grow.  Push you RSS feed to your twitter account. Try to tweet one event live like commencement and see how it goes.

You can engage people
It offers a chance to engage people you might otherwise be missing. Maybe you have some alumni who have gotten hooked on twitter and are following the college account – but don’t want to get the e-newsletter. It offers people one more chance to be engaged and connected to your institution.

It’s not just about twitter
With the chance to pull tweets to your webpage I think maybe the largest opportunities with Twitter will be embedding live up to the minute content onto a webpage. Maybe the news article about commencement wasn’t so interesting but the chance to read about it live via a twitter feed to your site might pull someone in. Maybe that trip a student is taking and “tweeting” about is more interesting when a prospective student can read live what the experience is like?

Are there others to add to the list? Let me know.

Rolling out a new president

February 8, 2009

Over the course of the last week I have been “heads down” as I like to say in a project. I ignored twitter, articles piled up in my Google reader, and some of my on campus constituents heard “we’ll get to that next week”.

Last week I had an opportunity that doesn’t come around every year for a marketing professional in higher education. On Friday Gettysburg College trustees unanimously named Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 our 14th president. It was one of the most interesting and quite frankly fun professional experiences of my career.

Since Dr. Riggs had been presented to campus the week before as a sole finalist we had a about a week to prepare for the announcement roll out but we wanted to think outside the box and incorporate our Web 2.0 and Social Media strategy. We had a detailed plan for the week with assignments so everything was all set to go come Friday morning and all we had to do was push the buttons. (It never quite works out as you plan but Friday was pretty close)

Shortly after the board voted the announcement was made in the following ways:

  • News release posted on website (also pushed to RSS feed and twitter account) Included within the news release was a short video (also posted to YouTube) of  Dr. Riggs which outlined her vision for Gettysburg’s future as well as a flicker photo gallery. Since she graduated from Gettysburg we were able to find historical shots from her yearbooks.
  • Large flash banner on the college homepage changed to reflect the announcement
  • On-campus email
  • Alumni and parent email
  • Text message to those who had signed up
  • Facebook update to fans as well as the fan page photo was updated to reflect the announcement
  • Gettysburg College Linkedin group had the news release posted

We attempted to keep things current throughout the day as well.

  • By around 3:00 pm we had posted a video interview with the chair of the search committee that was done that morning around 7:30 am.
  • We also posted to our flicker photo gallery photos from the different campus events and receptions throughout the day
  • The President’s website was completely updated by the end of the day.

Since we had enabled comments on our news releases in November and sent an update to fans on Facebook we have had quite a response to the announcement. We have received over 30 comments from alumni, parents, and friends on the news story and an additional 5 or 6 posts on the fan page.

As I said at the top of this post this experience the most interesting of my career. How did we do? Could we have taken advantage of Web 2.0 and Social Media tools in different ways? Could we have engaged our audiences better?

Let me know.

Lessons learned about web 2.0 news in higher ed

December 2, 2008

This fall we enhanced the news area of our website with a number of web 2.0 tools. The enhancements included:

  • Post comments on stories and create a community-wide conversation
  • Submit your own images for the Gettysburg College Photo of the Day
  • Share stories easily via Facebook, del.icio.us, and other networks
  • Easily email stories
  • Access related stories via a tag cloud
  • Visit Gettysburg College’s pages on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed of Gettysburg College news as it happens

This week as we were driving back and forth for the holiday weekend I was thinking about what some of the lessons learned would be if a college was beginning to think about these types of enhancements.

I started web 2.0 education on my campus in March of 2007 with the primer that Karine Joly published in a CASE Currents magazine (http://www.case.org/Currents/ViewIssue.cfm?contentItemID=6700). It was really well done and summarized many of the tools in just a few short pages. The education continued with my Admissions and Public Relations colleagues and soon after the Web Task Force, our strategic campus wide web committee. In May 2008 we used our Board of Trustee Committee meeting to focus on marketing and specifically web 2.0 enhancements and included an educational component. It was so successful that many members of the committee asked me for hard copies of course of the power point.

Senior leadership
Senior leadership teams tend to be skeptical of flash new technology. In fact when we brought up the idea of allowing comments on our news stories one member of the team asked why we would even think of that idea?

We used a summer lunch retreat meeting to give a web update and do more education with the Vice Presidents and President which proved to be a great use of time. It set the stage for us to push forward in a number of different areas.

This type of project will require a high level of collaboration between the web area, your PR and Communications Office who eventually will be using the tools, your IT staff and for our project some time with the college lawyer looking at our policies and terms of use to protect us legally.

This was one of the most important keys to success especially as you start to tag and categorize your content. Having a strategic plan for tagging helped us to efficiently tag a whole year in only a few hours while hopefully helping to communicate the brand and  making it easy to find news about a subject you are interested in.

The last lesson learned was that it will always be evolving. Even as I sit here writing this blog post we have over 20 enhancements and tweaks we want to make as we move forward.

Good luck web 2.0 warriors.

Good post on Mark Greenfield’g blog

July 8, 2008

Mark Greenfield writes a blog called Higher Ed Web Consulting. For those of you that don’t read it try it. It’s definitely worth your time. His post on June 30th titled More on Higher Ed Websites becoming Irrelevant. He says

In 2005, 100% of my time was spent working on sites within the buffalo.edu domain. Here in the summer of 2008, I spend about 70% of my time working on sites in the buffalo.edu domain. The remaining time is spent developing our presence on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Ning, etc., time that is well spent.”

If you have time read Charlie Melichar’s comment, “To stay relevant, we’re going to have to make our content available quickly in a variety of formats and then just let go.”

I sent this blog post onto our Web Task Force today and used it as a discussion topic at our weekly web content meeting this morning.


Staying connected

June 27, 2008

So life gets busy

Work gets busy

and what suffers…

of course the BLOG!

So here on the day before I am getting ready to leave for vacation. What is that you need a definition of that word VACATION.

So today in this short and rushed blog post I offer you a chance to keep your alumni connected while they are on vacation. (What a poor transition huh)

Do you have an RSS feed on your news site? If so you can offer news updates via email using a free tool called feedburner. Check out these 3 examples from Gettysburg College:

Gettysburg News –

Gettysburg Athletics-

Eisenhower Institute

HAPPY 4th of July