How Higher Ed Uses Twitter

Organizations, people and communities.

June 22, 2016

Has the Microsoft purchase of LinkedIn caused you to give some thought to the future of Twitter?

Everyone seems to be wondering if Twitter will be next:

This seems like a good opportunity to take a step back - and to ask what Twitter means to higher ed.

How does higher ed use Twitter?


Your college is on Twitter. My college is on Twitter.  In 2016 it seems almost unimaginable that a university, college, school, program, institute, or center would choose to stay off Twitter.

A institutional presence on Twitter is simply one part of a more comprehensive social media strategy.  Twitter is one part of a any multi-platform and multi-channel outreach plan.

What I don’t know is how effective Twitter is for institutional communications in comparison with other approaches?  How does Twitter compare to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat for driving engagement at the institutional / school / departmental level?

Is Twitter a zero sum game for schools?  Are colleges and universities on Twitter because other colleges and universities are on Twitter?

And how exactly do schools use Twitter?  Engagement with prospective and admitted students?  Connecting with enrolled students and their parents?  As an alumni outreach tool?  As a mechanism to share information and build community on campus?

Does someone have info that they can share on the ROI of leveraging Twitter as an institutional communications platform?

If Twitter is so valuable to institutions than how come institutions don’t pay for Twitter?

If Twitter went away tomorrow, would the communications and outreach strategies for colleges and universities be damaged?

How would more aggressive advertising and data mining impact how schools leverage Twitter for outreach?


What does Twitter mean for individuals in higher ed?  Your Twitter account and mine?

For some of you, Twitter means a great deal.  You use Twitter well.

If you are a higher ed person that good at Twitter, then you are doing the following things:

  • You think about Twitter as a conversation, not a monologue, and your Tweets are part of a larger discussion.
  • You are (continuously) sharing useful information, links, data and commentary with your professional network.
  • You are developing an authentic voice - one that is opinionated and informed.

I do none of these things on Twitter.

Good higher ed use of Twitter has nothing to do with how many followers that you have.  What matters more than how many followers you have is how connected you are to your followers.

If Twitter is an important way that you find and nurture your network, than Twitter is important to you.

Higher ed people who use Twitter as promotional platform - people like me - deserve to lose Twitter.  We deserve to be advertised against and we deserve our data to be mined and exploited.

Higher ed people who use Twitter for relationship building would have more to lose if (when) Twitter gets commercially corrupted.


Higher ed people go crazy with Twitter at conferences, gatherings, and convenings.

It’s backchannel this.  Hashtag that.

Sometimes it feels as if the real meeting is happening on Twitter.  The sessions are an excuse for a hashtag.

Twitter seems to do a good job of connecting in-person and distributed communities of practice.

Higher ed is a networked profession.  Our productivity is directly proportional to our connectedness.

Twitter connects.  Twitter connects people with people in the context of disciplines, ideas, and shared professional objectives.

Do we have a shared understanding of Twitter as a platform for professional development?

What proportion of higher ed people are absent from the professional networks that are built on Twitter?

Why are higher ed folks so much more enthusiastic tweeters when off campus than on?

Are good Twitter users more likely to convene?  Or does convening cause us to be better at Twitter?

Do you see any alternatives to Twitter for the conference social media backchannel?

Can you imagine a scenario where Twitter ceases to be integral to our postsecondary community networking and professional development?

Would there be a tipping point where Twitter become too ad driven, or too data intrusive, where higher ed communities walk away from the platform?

How do you understand Twitter through a higher ed lens?

How do you use Twitter?



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