Most of our students are not on Twitter. In fact, most people are not on Twitter. Do these statements dissuade me from promoting the use of Twitter when I speak at conferences? Not at all. Twitter is an amazing communication and engagement tool. I am frequently on Twitter asking questions, sharing information, and networking with other higher education professionals. Web-based microblogging is an exceptionally powerful medium.
A fairly recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on how prospective students are not using Twitter to research their potential college choice championed the idea that Twitter held little value for admissions officials. What was largely ignored in the article was the fact that Twitter is not just about how many people are following your account. In fact, when it comes to prospective students, I would posit that followers, while an interesting metric, are not all that important. Twitter is like a tuning fork for student opinions, feedback, and observation. Using targeted Twitter search queries, an admissions officer can find out quite a bit of information.
In addition to mining strategic bits of information from Twitter, another way of using the service has recently been announced. It's called "Fast Follow." Anyone with a cellphone can start receiving tweets from a specific Twitter account via SMS by texting: "follow [account]" to 40404. Imagine the possibilities...you could place your school's admissions Twitter account name and the Twitter SMS number on your marketing collateral. A school could even have multiple Twitter accounts that could then be included on strategic mailings or promotional microsites. Campaign tracking would be a snap! Prospective students do not have to be on Twitter to use Fast Follow. It is important to note that standard text message rates do apply and that an admissions office would not want to oversaturate their prospects.
While it may be true that students are not using Twitter as much as we might like them to, it still can be an extremely viable platform for delivering content through a variety of formats including: SMS, RSS, and even email. Twitter is a versatile communications tool.
How would you use Fast Follow on your campus?
Do you tweet? Let's connect on Twitter.