Social Media Strategy,

Best Twitter Practices From Top Universities

Lorenzo Estebanez

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How Universities Are Using Twitter to Engage Students
How Universities Are Using Twitter to Engage Students

Being active on social media is a necessity for any group, especially one as big as a university. Universities spend tens of thousands of dollars on branding campaigns not only because identity is so central to the university experience, but because it has such an impact on attracting students and maintaining positive alumni relationships. A university’s identity is created both online and by word-of-mouth, so today, colleges absolutely must have a robust social media presence.

Twitter offers features that make it perfect for appealing to prospective applicants, students, and alumni. A twitter feed is an ideal place to curate a picture of campus life, keep people informed of university events, and maintain a sense of online community. Here are the elements that create the most compelling social media presence for an educational institution:


Give a Good Idea of Campus Life

Purdue University obviously understands that there’s a lot to campus life. The fact that Purdue frequently ranks in the top 10 of university twitter accounts shows that they grasp the importance of online life, too.

A member of the Big 10 Conference, they’re a sports-crazy school that boasts individual feeds for each of its sports, allowing Boilermaker fans to keep up with their specific interests. If those interests are more academic, like publishing or the ag society, there are individual feeds for those, too.

Image Source: Purdue Sports Twitter
Image Source: Purdue Athletics Twitter

With all these specific feeds, it’s up to the university’s main twitter handle, @LifeAtPurdue, to curate these and create a picture of life at the university. @LifeAtPurdue retweets Purdue news, publicizes upcoming events, and engages with students. Though the feed paints a picture of a school with a lot to offer in the way of activity and campus camaraderie, it’s the engagement with students that makes Purdue’s social media a dialogue with its student body.

An applicant visiting the school’s twitter page will see that Purdue students proudly rep their school when on Spring Break or back in their hometowns. For a prospective student, a university that offers a unifying sense of school spirit is a big draw. Even though the majority of twitter users are over 18, the percentage of users under 18 has shown consistent growth over the last few years, meaning that more and more prospective applicants will be using a university’s online presence to factor into their decision-making.


Now, Show Alumni They Made the Right Choice

The University of California, Berkeley boasts 70,000 people following a handle that’s also the school’s short, punchy nickname: @Cal. The first campus in the now-sprawling University of California system, Cal has produced a lot of alumni and scholarly work, in addition to possessing a lot of unique draws. Advertising itself as “your free alumni network,” @Cal is an engaging chronicle of the work being done worldwide by UCB graduates. @Cal tweets compelling articles by alumni, giving the impression of a school whose former students are making a difference worldwide.

Harvard Alumni feedback twitter
Image Source : Harvard Alumni Twitter

The school is also adept at capitalizing on current events, linking to interesting news and analysis from Cal graduates and professors. This is all the more impressive when considering that the people behind Cal’s twitter feed are on top of Cal alumni’s names appearing in bylines.

A twitter feed in which alumni are making the news and explaining the world tells others that the hype is real—this is a school that creates decision-makers. For a school like Berkeley, this is what provides the sort of prestige that enables a public university to compete with private ones.


Once You’ve Done All of the Above, Add Something More

Image Source : Harvard Instagram
Image Source : Harvard Instagram

Harvard University hasn’t earned its unparalleled reputation on social media solely by being one of the most prestigious universities in the world. @Harvard, with almost 350,000 followers and a Klout score of 99, leaves other universities in the dust on social media. First of all, the account’s background image includes URLs for Harvard’s official website, Facebook page, YouTube page, and other university-run webpages. If anyone wants to find Harvard lectures to download on iTunes, they’re pointed in the right direction immediately.

Harvard’s twitter feed reports on the news, and keeps its followers up-to-date on Crimson sports. However, Harvard goes a step above—the school live-tweets games during March Madness, making the most out of twitter’s immediacy to give followers something they couldn’t get elsewhere. It’s usually a good rule of thumb to not overload your followers with tweets, but March Madness is as good an exception as any.

On top of all that, Harvard tweets pictures of the campus, bringing something beautiful to a follower’s feed. Prestige or not, there’s no substitute for giving people something nice to look at.

Applicants and students want to see that campus life is diverse and engaging. Alumni and donors want to know that they and their cohort are making a difference in the world. If you can provide these things and, something enticing, you’ll have all the elements for a great social media presence.


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