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Social universities part 1 | Australia

14 Jul

This is the first installment of my series on how universities around the world are using Facebook and Twitter, a brief overview for those of you who’re curious, looking for inspiration or want a snapshot comparison.

The university accounts listed below are the official accounts for each university (to be assumed when the links are found on their homepage), though some only concern themselves with news and updates and not with building a community. Regardless, it is refreshing to see universities actively using Twitter and Facebook as a way of keeping followers informed and sharing relevant information.

The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne’s Twitter account is an example of how universities can maintain professionalism on social media, while using a conversational tone. It speaks to a wider audience than simply other university affiliated accounts and when followers ask questions that cannot be answered, they tell the user their question has been passed on to those who can.

The account spreads itself across communicating with current students, prospective students and alumni, and shares relevant news about the university and industry. Questions are asked and responded to and the account follows up with others and tries to make amends with frustrated users.

The University of Melbourne Facebook Page asks and responds to questions, posts news and updates and seems active in building a community. Many posts link back to pages on their website and most posts seem to produce several comments and a fair amount of likes.

Their questions app generates more than 300 votes per question on average and they have a separate tab for alumni, directing that group to a portal. It’s a shame the page’s wall is the landing page. They’ve done a terrific job with this alumni portal and having a similarly designed general landing page would help convert first-time visitors and shape their experience.

The only thing I’d keep an eye on is fans posting spam, though their terms and conditions cover that concern, “The University of Melbourne does not necessarily review every post on its Page”.

Monash University

The Monash University Twitter account has a balanced combination of communicating university news and connecting with the community. The account responds to prospective student questions, but doesn’t go looking for opportunities to connect. It’s open to feedback and uses links and hashtags well and like the University of Melbourne, Monash is professional and conversational.

The wall is the landing page for the Monash University Facebook Page. The info tab lists who is monitoring the page, though doesn’t tell fans how they will benefit from liking the page. It doesn’t appear a moderation policy exists.

The main types of content posted by Monash are faculty stories, event information and photos. Their content receives a lot of likes and a good amount of comments. There’s an obvious difference in content strategies for the Twitter and Facebook accounts and they seem to be doing well at encouraging distinctive communities.

Macquarie University

The Macquarie University Twitter account operates mainly under a push strategy and university news is preceded with “MQ News:” which makes it feel a little dry. The account isn’t updated each day, with some lags in tweeting. When there is a conversation happening with individual followers, a sign-off is often used, “^Paul”.

The Facebook page for Macquarie University uses the wall as the landing page. Some updates are either straight URLs entered into the ‘update status’ field or feeds from Hootsuite.

My advice for the overload of students’ wall posts between each other for things like text books (comes across quite spammy and takes away from the pages intention) is to encourage students to use the discussions area of the page and not the wall for buying and selling purposes.

The page doesn’t appear to have a moderation policy other than ‘Please note, offensive comments will be removed.’ The info tab explains what fans can expect by liking the page and there are a few helpful links including transit info and a link for student enquiries.

I was surprised to find a Twitter account run by a University President who communicates useful and regular content. If you were to search Twitter for other university president-run accounts, you’d find tweets like “Going to such and such event today, should be fun!”, “I’m in in an overseas country talking with important people about important stuff” and “yay for the rain”.

Steven Schwartz may not engage with his followers, but the tweets he shares are valuable for professionals involved in higher education and it is obvious he has his finger on the pulse.

September 2012 update: Prof Schwartz has retired and is now tweeting as @wisereveryday

University of Queensland

The University of Queensland Twitter account responds to followers and posts UQ-related news, though doesn’t ask questions to generate community response. Their Twitter feed is filled with many invaluable tweets that don’t share information, only one-liners in response to something followers have said. It reads out of context and fills the stream with extraneous content.

@uqnewsonline tweet “Thanks for the RT” far too often and I would never suggest this when using Twitter. A retweet shows your follower read your content, thought it valuable and shared it with their followers. My response to retweets is to ‘pay it forward’ when someone retweets me. This article says it all: 7 Ways to Thank Someone For a Retweet. UQ has a presence on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, but don’t have a Facebook Page, which I find interesting.

The Australian National University

The Australian National University Twitter account does not have conversations with followers, which is almost expected for a news-specific account. What they don’t do that I believe is important is retweet and share stories from other university affiliated accounts, such as faculties and initiatives.

The ANU Facebook page doesn’t try to generate discussion. The news and updates posted on the wall are informative and are ‘liked’, but not commented on. It also appears fans cannot post to the wall, only comment on existing ANU updates, which makes the page a running news feed, not a community.

The description of the page explains how fantastic ANU is, like copy taken straight out of a glossy prospective student brochure. It would be nice to instead read what I will get out of liking the page.

These are some of the ways a few Australian universities are using Facebook and Twitter, how about the rest of the world? I’ll be taking a look at how a couple of smaller US schools are stacking up against the Ivy Leaguers in my next post.

Is your university impressing you with their social media channels? What are they doing that sets them apart?

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