People are always asking me about which schools/department do social media "the best" in higher education. My usual response is that the professionals who are actively engaging via social media are spending less time talking about what they are doing and more time focusing on the needs of their campus. However, when it comes to social media and campus dining, there's one operation that is consistently using social media at a level that I can easily say is "the best."
Boston University Dining Services utilizes several social media channels as a way of connecting with students, staff, faculty, and guests of the institution. Like a lot of higher education auxiliary operations, BU Dining Services can be found on Facebook, foursquare, and YouTube (check out the "Lobster Night" and "Visiting Chef Series" clips). They even have have Tumblr and Instagram accounts. Now, it should be noted that some of the channels, notably Tumblr and YouTube, have been on sort of a summer hiatus.
However, where BU Dining shines in the social media scene is on Twitter. Anyone who wants to use Twitter for communications and engagement should check out this account. And, here's the thing, the BU Dining Twitter account is run by a single individual. Actually, all of BU Dining's social media activities are handled by this person. Now, I've heard from several people that the BU Dining SM Czar enjoys their anonymity. Having met them in-person, and interviewed them for this post, I've decided to call them "RTF."
On Twitter, RTF is a virtuoso. With a mix of customer service, culinary comedy, and information, RTF capitalizes on the versatility of the 140. According to RTF, "engagement" guides their social media strategy. In essence, RTF is trying to "make dining cool."
So if that means we tweet about how Ronnie from Jersey Shore would make a great grill cook at Rhett’s we do it. But we’re accomplishing two things here, we’re being topical, which means students can relate, and we’re engaging the students. Even if it’s a retweet or a “Hahaha” about Dining, the student will have it in the back of their mind that “Ok, my Dining Services is out there and maybe I can send them questions when I have any,” this starts the engagement that we want.
The time commitment that RTF has made to keeping BU Dining's tweets flowing is astounding. When RTF informed me that they "took on this role knowing that Social Media is a 7 day a week job and almost 24 hours a day," I was intrigued. Most of the time, social media and auxiliary services is handled between the usual 9-to-5 on Monday through Friday. RTF is always tweeting. There is a strategy that guides RTF though. On Twitter, RTF tries to "keep our quota of at least 2-3 original content tweets, plus 1 or 2 sustainable content tweets and 1 promotional tweet a day plus the 20-30 response tweets to students a day." BU Dining on Twitter is a brand-within-the-brand at BU. And that brand, like a spinning circus plate, is always moving.
Interestingly, RTF isn't just concentrating on Twitter:
This year we want to push Foursquare, giving discounts, having designated tables “reserved for the Mayor” in certain locations on campus, plus it’s a great tool for tips and lists, I believe Foursquare can only get better.
When it comes to social media and success, RTF shared the following:
We measure success by our survey results we take each year and how this past year we had one of our best number of responses by students or how all our special meals in the dining halls this past year were the most attended by the students more than any other year and that’s without an increase in meal plans. Or when we send a student a care package who’s studying in Europe or Australia or elsewhere that tweeted us saying they miss our chocolate chip cookies, and when they get the package they are floored beyond belief, we’re succeeding.
Give it time, they will be there.MT @revadiva715 Why aren't there any honey nut cheerios in warren's dining hall? My breakfast staple.— BU Dining Services (@BUDiningService) September 3, 2012
One thing to think about when it comes to awesome social media communicators like RTF: if they ever leave BU, will the next person utilize the tools as well as RTF? Great social media channels often result from great social media users. RTF serves up tasty tweets with high-level strategy and thoughtfulness.
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