As student affairs professionals, we need to leverage the power of technology, especially social media. It’s always at our fingertips and yet, we often ignore its existence. We are missing out on a huge asset that can be used in so many different capacities.
Take, for instance, Twitter. I used to hate Twitter. I didn’t understand why it was such a popular social media platform. Did people really care that I just enjoyed a tasty sandwich for lunch? Or could I really express myself appropriately in 140 characters? What was up with that character limit anyway?
But then, I got introduced to Twitter as an undergrad. I registered for an Electronic Literature course and participated in weekly Twitter chats during class time. I engaged with other professors of Electronic Literature and authors, posted questions and shared my ideas.
At first, I was overwhelmed. There were so many ideas floating about that I could barely keep up, let alone focus on what I wanted to say or the questions I wanted to ask. As the semester went on, I became accustomed to the Twitter chat etiquette, the fast-paced environment and I learned how to compose my thoughts into 140 characters.
Once that happened, I was hooked. Twitter became my favorite social media platform.
Perhaps, it was the fast-paced environment that was so addicting. It got my adrenaline pumping. Or perhaps it was the challenge of composing my idea in 140 characters or less. But honestly, the best part about participating in Twitter chats was the interaction.
This is when I discovered that Twitter is more than just a place to share what you did that day or what you’re interested in. It’s a useful tool for higher education. Ranging from professional development to recruitment to marketing—the uses are almost endless.
The most important way higher education institutions can use Twitter is to communicate with prospective students, new students, parents, current students, and alumni. This means of open communication helps to foster and maintain relationships. A simple timely response to a question directed at the university Twitter account can help bring a potential student to campus.
As for facilitating faculty and staff, Twitter acts as a means for professional development. Participating in Twitter chats on a variety of issues in higher education can prove especially useful. There are several hashtags and chats for Academic Advisers (#AcAdv), student affairs professionals that work in student conduct offices (#ascachat) and more. You can search for a hashtag by keyword or institution.
The use of hashtags creates communities with similar interests, where members are encouraged to share different resources, experiences, and opinions with one another. This becomes an opportunity for student learning, similar to my experience in my Electronic Literature class.
Twitter can also be used as a component of a strategic marketing plan. A university’s Twitter account can be used to push recruitment, scholarship opportunities, community outreach and public affairs information to students, faculty, staff and community members.
With its variety of uses, social media is like a toolkit on a handyman’s belt; it’s easily accessible and filled with specific and useful items to make the job easier. If we take advantage of the benefits Twitter and other social platforms have to offer, the success of our students, faculty and staff will never be out of reach.