Twitter success story

August 30, 2009

Last week I wrote about a new school year equaling new opportunities. In the post one of the things I encouraged web professionals to do was tweet convocation. Susan Evans from William & Mary commented on the post,

“Guess what? We tweeted our convocation today. It was fun and successful. You can read our stream for this afternoon at”

At Gettysburg we did as well and saw some good results. Move-in day and convocation were Wednesday with Field day and our traditional first-year walk on Thursday.

We used the twitter search widget to pull the hashcode #gbc2013 onto our site and as of Sunday evening 88 posts used the hashtag. 31 of those were not using the college account but rather, students, alumni, parents, and staff who were excited about the events and used the hashcode. The live pull to our site also gave our orientation coverage an up to the minute feel. I got numerous comments during the end of last week about how great it was to see everything up to date so quickly.

Reflecting on the experience there are a couple of thoughts I had:

  • collaboration was important (we had numerous people from web communications, public relations, and the admissions office helping with the effort
  • information needed to be relevant to mater to our audience
  • despite many people not having a twitter account we made the best use of the technology by using the pull to our site
  • it was fun and I would do it again!

News school year = new opportunities

August 27, 2009

Like many institutions we are gearing up this week to welcome the Class of 2013. The new school year brings with it lots of new opportunities. Many schools are trying to figure out how to use social media and new technology to enhance their communications efforts. I encourage you to use the new school year as a way to try something new in your coverage of opening activities. Dive-in and give it a shot.

Are you wondering what to do with that institutional twitter account that just has your RSS feed? Tweet move in day. Use a hashtag and pull the search results to your site. Maybe some of your followers will be engaged and contribute to the hashtag with their own memories and recollections.

Are you wondering how in the world you can provide videos on your site? Go out and buy a flip video camera (they start at about $150). Go out and ask the incoming student and their parents why they chose your school? With Microsoft movie maker (which comes on our machines at my institution) you can quickly edit the video and load it right to YouTube.

Move-in day and convocation along with other opening day traditions schools have is a great opportunity to engage visitors to your website. You have a captive audience who will love to see photos, videos, and anything else you have to offer. This year make sure that you are not having a conversation with your boss after the fact about how “we’ll have to try those things next year.”

5 things to tweet about this year

August 10, 2009

As our social media strategy at Gettysburg has unfolded over the last year twitter has taken on a larger and larger role. The institutional twitter account @gettysburg has over 900 followers ranging from alumni, to staff, to news agencies. I have found twitter as an excellent free way to engage people about Gettysburg College. If your institution is struggling with how to use twitter here are 5 fairly simple ideas for twitter projects over the next year that stretch across various higher ed audiences.

Follow all of your alumni, employees, and friends of the college with accounts or at the very least who are following you. As the social media voice of your institution you can now listen to the conversation about your school in this space and maybe even pick up some good retweet opportunities.

Ask you admissions director to answer questions on the main institutional account for 2 hours one night close to the deadline to submit an application.

Campus Events
Pick a campus event, lecture, or speaker and have 2 or 3 students “live tweet” the event. Make sure they all use a hashtag so in your post event coverage you can pull a twitter search on that hashtag.

Ask your followers to vote for their favorite campus tradition. Make sure to publish the results not only on twitter but on the web, other social media sites, and your alumni magazine.

Annual Fund
Work with your development office to use twitter for a solicitation once during the year. Maybe your Senior Class gift campaign is the best place to try this approach. Make sure that you can track how many gifts and how much total money was raised from the twitter solicitation.

Portal Conference 2009

June 1, 2009

Next week over 160 web/IT professionals will attend the 4th Annual portal conference – portal2009 at Gettysburg College.

The featured keynote speaker at Portal2009 is Richard N. Katz, Vice President of EDUCAUSE, and author, co-author, or editor of dozens of books, monographs and articles on a variety of higher education, management, and technology topics. His book, Web Portals and Higher Education: Technologies to Make IT Personal, published in 2002 is still considered one of the definitive sources on portals in higher education. We expect portal 2009 to be the best conference to date, so get your presentation proposals in to share your portal stories with your colleagues from higher education institutions from around the globe.

The theme for the conference, portal2009: users uses usability, is meant to reflect the idea that portals have many definitions, and the different portals have different audiences (users), tools (uses) and interfaces (usability). The more everyone knows about the differences, the more people can continue to evolve their institution’s portal into a more useful commodity.

I will try to live blog and tweet any of the sessions I am attending. You can follow live on twitter @portal2009.

Stretching your campus by using twitter

May 21, 2009

Yesterday was our divisional retreat. At Gettysburg Web Communications reports alongside Admissions, Financial Aid, Communications and Public Relations, Athletics, and Institutional Analysis within the Enrollment and Educational Services (EES) division. We have been having lots of discussions surrounding social media and wanted to take the opportunity to have a conversation with everyone in the division.

We also tried something a little out of the box for a college retreat. Instead of brining flip charts to report out we used a twitter hashtag. Each group that was brainstorming on how to use social media in a variety of settings had a tweeter who sent the groups reports up on the screen. Todd Bennett (@jtoddb) from decimal 152 who we work with on web projects chimed in a few times as well which gave the audience a chance to see the true collaboration capability of twitter.

I think we saw it work with limited sucess. It was tough to follow the all of the tweets since they were out of order by group so if we did it again we might give each group a hashtag as well. It did give everyone in the audience a chance to see twitter work live and hopefully allow them to continue their brainstorming past the one day retreat.

I got some mixed reaction afterwards but my first rule for using social media is you are going to fail at some things you can’t be afraid.

Commencement tweeting wrap up

May 18, 2009

This morning on the blog InsideTimsHead Tim Nekritz who is the associate director of public affairs at SUNY Oswego wrote about his experience tweeting commencement and it inspired me to write a post as well.

Tim made a couple of really good points:

It is easy and it is made easier if you use an iphone (no there is not an app for this)

Dedicate a person on your staff – Tim had other responsibilities as do many of us on commencement. At Gettysburg we dedicated Paul Fairbanks our Associate Director of Web Communications. This made it easy to update and find the authentic content without worrying about taking tickets or passing out programs.

Promote – like Suny Oswego we did not do a lot of promotion but we will next year. We did pick up a number of followers (some first time).

Some other thoughts I had were around good ways to engage your audience and use the content afterward.

I have taken a look at a number of commencement sites and I think Vanderbilt has done a really nice job of using a hashtag to engage their followers and then take advantage of the content on the web. I had trouble finding this page from their commencement coverage so I don’t know if they took it down after the fact or it was really just that hard to find.

We tried to do something similar at Gettysburg after the fact. We didn’t have nearly as many people using the hashtag but used a pretty simple free tool called blastcasta that allowed us within minutes to post the hashtag stream on our website. Interestingly enough this is the third most popular page this morning on the commencement site.

Did you tweet commencement? how did it go? What are the lessons learned for next year?

Twitter commencement?

May 16, 2009

A quick Google search on “twitter commencement” yielded a little less than 800,000 results today. It’s commencement weekend @gettysburg and we will be tweeting our commencement ceremony on Sunday at 11:00 am.

Today it got me thinking about other institutions who may be taking the opportunity to jump into the “twitterverse” (did I really just use that word) with commencement. What is the downside? With an iphone and some creativity you might be able to create a little buzz without much effort.

Here are a few of the results from the first 2 pages of Google results. If you tweeted or are planning to tweet commencement add your name to this list.

Arizona State

Boston University

Concordia (MN)

SUNY Oswego


University of Southern Maine