Verified status: There are a lot of universities with verified Twitter accounts. In fact, there are almost 229,000 verified accounts on the network. However, there are quite a few universities and colleges that are not currently sporting the blue badge.
Why does the blue badge matter? According to Twitter, "the blue verified badge lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic." Verification shows your current/future followers that this is the official account for the university. Sure, you may have thousands of followers and links from the homepage of the institution, but the badge adds a bit more validity to the account.
For example, the University of Auckland has nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter and in their profile they state that this is the "official account for the university." Verification would make the account "official" by default. The university's account definitely qualifies as "an account of public interest."
Here's the thing, every primary Twitter account for a university should qualify for verified status. It's fairly easy to get these top-level university accounts verified on Twitter. Submitting a request doesn't take very much time and you should get a "yes" or "no" from Twitter in short order.
In terms of additional "perks" that come with being verified, Twitter allows verified users to opt out of group Direct Messages. This will come in handy for the next item in this post.
Open up your Direct Messages: Twitter's Direct Message functionality has been useful for big brands for quite some time. Whether or not your university utilizes DMs for communications is oftentimes a matter of organizational structure/culture and "flow." If you haven't already implemented Direct Messages into your engagement mix, get ready, because DMs are a great way to differentiate your account and provide personalized responses. You can tell if a university's Twitter account has open Direct Messages when the "message" button appears on their account, even if they aren't following you back.
If you run your institution's Twitter account, I recommend that you check out dashboard.twitter.com as it provides several useful features for comms pros.
One of the sections within "Dashboard" is specifically focused on "Customer Support." If you're uncomfortable with "customers," simply replace the word with "students," "staff," "etc." in your head whilst accessing this suite of features.
The first option on this support page is the ability to turn on the ability to receive Direct Messages from anyone, "even if you don't follow them." This can also be done within the Twitter settings option on mobile or web. And then things get interesting because Twitter opens up the ability to add new services/options to your account profile.
Sharing your availability and providing support: After you check the box to receive any/all DMs (excluding group messages as long as your account is verified), you then have the option of showing that your university account "provides support."
For example, take a look at Sheffield Hallam University, University of Derby, and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Twitter accounts. Each account now showcases that they provide Twitter-based Direct Message support.
Additionally, you can add the hours of availability for when your university's account will be most responsive to Direct Messages. This is a terrific way of letting your audience know when you'll be around and ready to engage with them.
Humanize your messages with quick replies and automatic welcomes: This last option is a bit controversial as auto-DMs have a less than stellar reputation. However, Twitter seems to be getting on the bot train with its new welcome messages and quick replies functionality.
At the moment, you can add a custom welcome message via the previously mentioned customer support section in Dashboard. To use this feature, your account needs to be set to receive Direct Messages from anyone. I followed an account earlier this week that "automagically" sent me a welcome message. I wasn't really impressed with it if I'm honest. The message was far too long and it was less of a welcome and more of a marketing/sales statement. In short, a welcome message should add value to the person who followed your university account.
According to Twitter, "quick replies let businesses prompt people with the best ways to reply to a Direct Message, whether by choosing from a list of options or guiding users to enter specific text values." The new quick reply Direct Message option isn't available yet to any/all accounts (Send a DM to Evernote Helps to see an example).
Time will tell whether or not this bot-like functionality will have wider availability. At the moment, Twitter suggests contacting Assist, Audiense, Conversable, Conversocial, Dexter, Hobbynote, Lithium, Massively, Proxima, RozieAI, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and/or Sprout Social for more information on creating this type of automated Twitter interaction.
One of the best aspects of Twitter is that they continue to come up with ways to improve engagement. Top-level university Twitter accounts are conduits for all sorts of institutional communication and these new additions/tools add opportunities for stronger connections.
Do you tweet? Let's connect. Follow me on Twitter.
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