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Twitter popular with universities

For a social network that’s been around for fewer than four years, an extraordinary amount of college campus groups across the nation have embraced the social networking tool known as Twitter. According to universitiesandcolleges.org, every college or university in the top 100 has at least one Twitter account.
At VSU, several campus groups have their own Twitter account. Among those groups are the Alumni Association and Student Recreation.
The VSU Recreation Center became an official “tweeter” just a few months ago. Shelbi Harris, Marketing & PR Graduate Assistant for the Recreation Center, recognizes the value of the new social networking site with regards to marketing and advertising.
“Students spend most of [their] time on the computer these days and are constantly getting updates through social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This allows us to effectively advertise in a more environmentally friendly way [that] requires fewer supplies,” Harris said.
Harris is also aware of how popular the site is among VSU students.
“The number of Twitter accounts in the student body at VSU is growing at an alarming rate in comparison to previous years, so we are constantly gaining new followers; currently we only have 22 followers,” Harris said.
John Trombetta, director of Alumni Relations, said he started up their Twitter account last summer. He deems it essential to communicate with their young alumni. He says that communication won’t always take place right after students graduate from college. It could be a couple of years for any contact to occur.
“We’ve got to wait until they get settled, and then they will start to reconnect with us. However, since they will always check their Facebook or Twitter, we can now connect with them faster and easier,” Trombetta said.
Trombetta’s strategy was never to acquire the most followers on Twitter. At the moment, they only have 39 followers.
“Our goal was to make it a part of our overall networking strategy—the fact that we were available through every outlet. We want to tie into Facebook—when we update on Facebook, that update will also show up on Twitter,” said Trombetta.
Colleges are using Twitter as more of a broadcasting tool rather than for discussions, however. Through Twitter, they inform followers of recent news, instead of responding to direct messages or “tweets.”
“Social media tools […] are key to communicating with this generation of students,” Joyce Smith, NACAC CEO, said on the National Association for College Admission Counseling website. “While still no substitute for face-to-face interaction, social media have opened lines of communication and inquiry for both students and institutions that were inconceivable only a decade ago.”
“We use Twitter for more broadcasting purposes, instead of a two-way street. I can imagine that it will be a source of response eventually,” Trombetta said.
Harris said that they also use Twitter solely as a broadcasting tool.
“We do not receive many replies, but more followers and commentators may however change this,” Harris said.
Maintaining a social networking site, such as Twitter, takes time. Unlike Facebook, Twitter focuses on constant status updates. In order for people to follow you and stay interested, the Twitter user has to be committed to posting news and special announcements. Therefore, businesses are finding it more and more useful to hire people to manage their site who know and feel comfortable with the network.
“We want to eventually hire a graduate assistant to handle all of our social networks for us. We need to have someone who is really dedicated to updating it and driving our membership. Once we get someone who can help us put it all together, it will really start marking that we are out there,” Trombetta said.
Some advice from Trombetta to those campus groups also looking to start up their own Twitter account:
“Stay on top of it. Make yourself worth following. Keep yourself in front of people. Don’t give up,” said Trombetta.

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