Social universities part 2 | The US

18 Jul

Welcome to my second post in the ‘social universities’ series. Last week I touched on the Twitter and Facebook accounts for a few Australian Universities. How social are they compared with the US? The universities below are using Facebook custom tabs to communicate their institution’s strengths and brand to target audiences, not seen widely with Australian universities. Though generally, these US universities don’t stack up against the Aussies when it comes down to Twitter engagement.

Stanford University

The Stanford University Twitter account tweets university media releases and information about programs. It showcases professor achievements and brings attention to podcasts. The stream has a good amount of retweets and original authors are properly attributed, but there is no engagement with followers. This account is playing it safe.

The Stanford Facebook Page acts as a feed for promotional content, rather than using it as a channel for sharing updates and information with current and prospective students and alumni. Some of their posts generate insightful and intelligent discussions between fans. The page has a commenting policy that mentions fans posting on the wall, though it appears fans don’t have the ability to do so, only comment on and like posts. Stanford has also switched off the Discussions tab.

The Stanford ‘What’s Your Stanford Story’ Facebook application is a smart marketing tactic for extracting marketable sound bites – “If you or your son or daughter received financial aid from Stanford, what would you want to tell those who helped make your Stanford experience possible? Post your message and upload a photo or video and tell us how scholarships change lives”. Stanford owns users’ stories and has the right to apply them to promotional content, reproduce them or distribute them with the royalty-free, unending license handed over upon submission. Maybe not so much to ask if you received financial aid for Stanford.

Harvard University

The Harvard University Twitter account not only shares news stories, but faculty updates and useful course and program information. Their feed shows only a couple of retweets and no follower engagement. Harvard tweet recommendations for #FollowFriday, but they’re doing it wrong.

Harvard’s Facebook Page is used primarily to push promotional content, with some posts targeted toward specific groups such as prospective students. The posts receive many likes and comments, though Harvard do not seem to respond to fans. The Harvard Facebook landing tab displays an impressive use of clean design and branding while providing the perfect user experience. The tab gives exposure to other top Harvard Facebook pages and social channels, lists quick links and presents the terms and conditions neatly at the bottom. I don’t have any connection with Harvard and I want to like this page.

Texas A&M University

The Texas A&M Twitter account tweets occasional updates and reminders, though primarily shares promotional content, sports news and shout outs for faculty achievements. They don’t directly engage with accounts outside of the Texas A&M network. Their Twitter wallpaper should have their social channel information on the left-hand side, anyone with a screen larger than 13 inches is going to miss it.

When landing on the Texas A&M University Facebook Page you’re greeted with the wall feed, but there is a Welcome Tab (Howdy!) that would be better put to use as the landing tab. It highlights links for prospective students, though could also list links for current students, alumni and the broader Texas A&M community. I also like the specially designed tab for the ‘House Rules’.

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia Twitter account is an automatically updated feed of media releases and news. Disappointing.

The University of Georgia’s Facebook Page has a snappy, to-the-point landing tab and they include a tab for their comment policy. The wall is used to communicate with fans, unlike the Twitter account. One fan expressed their excitement at starting at UGA in the fall and UGA responded with “We’re excited you’ll be here!”. It’s nice to acknowledge people in this way and it makes me wonder how many people are being ignored in the Twitterverse by UGA.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Twitter account responds to followers, while also posting links to relevant news and stories. They spread tweets across communicating with current and prospective students, and the general U-M community. As with Twitter, the Facebook posts by U-M seem to be focused around campus initiatives and general updates.

The University of Michigan Facebook page does well with this welcome tab by letting fans self-select content and explaining what fans will experience by liking the page. A promotional video is used as well as a link to their mobile app and a short commenting policy is included at the bottom. The tab looks similar to the U-M website.

Missouri State University

While the Missouri State Twitter account doesn’t seem to engage with followers, it does tweet frequently about faculty and student achievements and events. It appears targeted toward the current MSU community, the opposite of how they’re communicating on Facebook …

The landing tab for the Missouri State University Facebook Page is just plain smart. Prospective students are the target here and helping them begin the admissions process in this way may be very effective. By labeling it a ‘community profile’ MSU are projecting a sense of belonging, telling applicants they’ll be able to connect with other members makes people (especially young people) feel welcomed. Remember, once you like a Facebook page, you’re taken directly to the wall when you visit, so this really isn’t an inconvenience for other fans.

The MSU homepage runs a social feed from MSU-affiliated Facebook and Twitter accounts under the heading ‘news and events’ – clever!

These US universities are bringing user experience to Facebook. Some of the examples above could do with a little work in terms of engaging with audiences, though whether these universities are using multimedia or quick links, they’re taking Facebook seriously.

Trying to apply university values and brand voice to worthwhile exchanges on both platforms may appear daunting. This isn’t as noticeable on Facebook due to community engagement, apps and welcome pages, though tends to result in inhuman Twitter streams filled with promotional news and updates.

In the next instalment of ‘social universities’ I’ll look at how UK universities are attracting and retaining their Facebook and Twitter communities.


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