Social Media for Schools and Students: Twitter

Twitter is an important tool for interacting with your students—learn how to use it to build your brand


One hundred and forty characters or fewer. Hashtags. DMs. Follows. Retweets.

Sound a little silly? It’s easy to mistake Twitter for a superficial social network—one that’s a distraction for students, but little more. After all, this is higher education—the realm of knowledge transfer, of complex ideas and future planning. How can a college or university possibly say anything of substance in sub-140 characters peppered with hashtags?

But since its inception in 2006, the network has become much more than social media. On the day of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it was the No. 1 source for breaking news. And the nation has had its eye on the platform ever since,as the newly inaugurated U.S. president has quite a penchant for early-morning tweets.

Sure, an average Twitter dashboard will still see its fair share of scrolling memes, shameless product promotion and complaints about the weather. But increasingly, Twitter has been home to breaking news, poignant thoughts from influencers, disaster alerts, brand reputation and more.

No matter how they use it, your students are on Twitter: As of late 2016, there were 317 million active users on the site, and millions more are visiting without logging in. And they care if you’re there, too. Over the last two years, customer service interactions on Twitter have increased 2.5 times. The platform is now the premier place for customer service inquiries and opinions—if someone is happy with your school, he or she may tweet about it. If people are unhappy with your school, they are definitely going to tweet about it. These instances provide an opportunity for you to enhance or diminish your school’s reputation by the way you respond … or choose not to.

Research shows 77 percent of Twitter users will feel more positive about your school’s brand if someone replies when they tweet you, and a Twitter survey found 54 percent of users had taken action (like visiting their website, searching for the brand or retweeting content) after seeing a brand mentioned in tweets.

Twitter truly has become an important tool for interacting with your students and building a reputation as a tech-savvy school that cares about its students as individuals. You have things to say—here’s how to be heard on Twitter.

Getting started: Twitter basics

Tweet: Find a way to express yourself in fewer than 140 characters and click “tweet.” Congratulations, you’re now live on Twitter. A tweet will be visible to anyone who views your (public) profile.

Like: If you see someone else’s tweet and find it helpful, inspiring, important or funny, click the little heart symbol to show it some love.

Retweet: If you see someone else’s tweet and find it really helpful, inspiring, important or funny, retweet it. You can retweet with or without commentary. The retweet will show up on your own feed, putting the original content and your annotation, should you choose to add one, in front of all your followers.

Follow: Following an account is the best way to ensure you’ll see what they have to say—and the best way to get them to follow you back.

Hashtag: A hashtag is the pound symbol followed by a word or phrase, and it brings together everyone who’s talking about a particular topic. Click a hashtag to see all the tweets featuring that topic.

Converse: If you want to interact directly with someone else via Twitter, mention them by name using the @ symbol. This message will be public, so everyone else can see it too.

DM: When you want to interact with someone privately, you can send them a direct message (or DM) that won’t show up in anyone else’s Twitter feed.

Life of a tweet: Tweets live forever, so be careful what you say. They’ll likely disappear from your followers’ feeds pretty quickly. It used to be that the more people someone followed, the more tweets they saw in their dashboard, and the quicker yours got pushed below the fold. Now that Twitter has introduced filtered feeds, your most loyal and involved followers are more likely to see your content.

Mastering the platform: Making Twitter work for your college or university

Add an image or a GIF: Tweets with images receive 18 percent more click-thrus, 89 percent more likes and 150 percent more retweets, according to social media analysis firm Buffer. So, enhance your tweets with snapshots of campus, classrooms, events and more to garner interest and engagement.

Show some personality: There’s no need to pretend you’re one of the kids—students will see right through you if you’re trying too hard. But you also don’t need to be buttoned-up on Twitter. Abbreviations, casual phrasing and comfortable interactions are just fine on social media.

Have multiple Twitter accounts: Create—and maintain—different accounts for news, athletics, admissions, alumni, student life, etc., and then one account for your college or university that serves as a central hub for your Twitter presence.

Be consistent: Because tweets move (and become obsolete) so quickly, it’s important to be consistent if you want to have a presence on the network. Buffer says the first three tweets of the day tend to receive the most engagement, but most other experts recommend that brands tweet five or six times per day.

Use a management service: Don’t be intimidated by the idea of needing to send three or more tweets every day from multiple accounts. Using a social media management service like Hootsuite or TweetDeck will help you keep track of your accounts and do more in less time. You’ll be able to access all your accounts (without logging in and out), preschedule tweets, and track messages and mentions all from a single dashboard.

Encourage employee advocacy: Your faculty members can be some of your greatest assets on Twitter. Studies show people are more likely to trust a real person than an entity, so encourage them to use the tool to communicate with students, retweet school content and utilize your relevant hashtags.

Craft a Twitter presence worth following

Brands often fall into the trap of using Twitter and other social media platforms for nothing but self-promotion. Eventually, your followers will become immune to your 140-character advertisements and tune out your tweets or unfollow altogether. To avoid this curse, make sure you’re providing value to your followers with the simple 4-1-1 rule:

Share four pieces of new, valuable, original content for every one retweet and one self-promotional tweet.

The breakdown could look something like this:

Four pieces of valuable, original content: Like a stat on career field growth from the BLS, a link to an article on technology in the classroom, a profile on a successful graduate, and a notification that classes are cancelled due to inclement weather.

One retweet: Of something your followers may find interesting or informative. One caveat: If you’re reacting to tweets from your students or faculty, I personally think it’s appropriate to retweet beyond this ratio.

One piece of self-promotion: Encourage a visit to your website, remind students to enroll in next semester’s classes, or let applicants know about a scholarship open for applications for content that’s both promotional and valuable.

Beyond the basics

In the Twitterverse, nothing stays the same for long. By the time this edition of Career College Central goes to print, the way Twitter handles things like advertisements and feed filtering will likely have changed. If you’re looking to become a Twitter master, it makes sense to go straight to the source (Twitter has an excellent blog that will keep you up to date on the platform’s latest features and functionality) or enlist an education marketing agency like Keypath Education to maximize your web presence.

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