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It's been almost 2 years since I wrote a post on Using Social Media to Listen and Learn about UK Higher Education.

In that post, I shared how I was able to quickly increase my knowledge of UK higher education and expand my network within the sector. Fast forward to 2017 and the use of social media for listening and learning is just as useful as ever.

At the end of last year, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, asked for feedback (feature requests, site/app issues, etc.) from users of the social media platform.

While Twitter is still one of the most-used social media sites/apps, it doesn't have the size/clout/dominance of Facebook (FB includes Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.) or the fiery growth of Snapchat. Twitter has had severe problems with hate speech, aggressive trolling, and an abysmally slow pace for new feature introduction.

Following in the footsteps of Brian Chesky: what's the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017? #Twitter2017

— jack (@jack) December 29, 2016

So how does this relate to higher education? The easy answer is that by asking questions of students on social media, institutions can gain access to realtime responses, threads, issues, suggestions, and ideas that may or may not be found within more formal survey and assessment initiatives.

Asking questions via social media that are intentionally designed to elicit responses can provide a plethora of useful responses.

Why wait until an end-of-year survey to find out about an issue when you can poll/question students throughout the year via social media?

Dorsey's single tweet query resulted in 1,700 retweets and a massive set of response tweets. While some of the responses were probably not that useful for Twitter, the odds of there being valuable suggestions are quite high.

Students who are more engaged w/ their university are more successful + more likely to be retained. Digital engagement matters. #SocMedHE16

— Eric Stoller (@EricStoller) December 16, 2016

Will there be hyperbolic responses on social media? Possibly...okay, most likely.

However, there are almost always legitimate threads running through exaggerated social media posts that can be used to respond to tangible issues. Plus, these question/answer moments on social media can provide teachable moments and/or opportunities for further dialogue with students about their digital identity/presence.

And, a side benefit from using social media channels (e.g. Twitter) to listen and learn from students is that universities are introducing the very same channels that can later be used for community building efforts, student support, and digital engagement.

Students are almost always saying that they "didn't know" about a particular service, event, feature, office, etc. It's vital that institutions provide ways to not only connect with campus departments/individuals on social media, but that opportunities for engagement are consistently created.

Student feedback via social media should always be appreciated and welcomed.


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