Companies and individuals make great use of Twitter as part of a social media strategy, but Twitter is also a top-notch tool for colleges and universities. Since universities usually have students who spend a small part of their lives there before going off in thousands of separate directions, the ability to connect with alumni is crucial. Alumni support colleges financially, and they also give schools a sense of spirit and community. Here are the top 5 ways universities can use Twitter to foster lifelong bonds with graduates.
1. Updates about the school. Unsurprisingly, the most simple use of Twitter is one of the most effective: frequent updates related to the institution. University of California at Berkeley does a great job of giving followers constant news items. Recent news items included Berkeley’s library digitization project and information about lectures on campus. Alumni will be more likely to give back to a school that still feels familiar to them — and tweeting is such an easy way to broadcast information.
2. Getting Alums Involved in Conversations. One-way information is great when universities tweet information to their followers — but Twitter gets even more interactive when universities start conversations that involve replies and topic hashtags. Harvard Health, which is associated with the physicians at Harvard Medical School, effectively posts provocative posts that get people thinking about cutting edge research and universal health topics. A recent tweet proclaimed that 1 in 10 adults are depressed. Interesting and relevant pieces of information like this remind alums why universities are so important — as the think tanks that answer intellectual and useful questions. And indeed, that tidbit about depression has been retweeted 21 times so far.
3. Proving the University’s ability to collaborate. Universities are not islands. Or at least, they shouldn’t be. It’s important for universities to show alumni that they are collaborating with other universities and institutions to really produce the best teaching and research possible. George Washington University has done this well recently, using Twitter to advertise its collaboration with Politico for the 2010 election, and frequently citing Washington news sources in its tweets. University of London tweeted about the Global Fund for Women at #ProtectWomen, demonstrating the university’s global consciousness and inspiring alumni support.
4. Specialized accounts for a target audience. Universities should make sure that they have a centralized Twitter account that broadly covers the institutions, but particularly for larger schools, breaking up news feeds into smaller accounts for say, the business school and the law school, promotes allegiance. Alumni might feel stronger ties to the part of the college they actually belonged to, rather than just the university in general, which is less personal. University of California-Los Angeles, for example, has not only a general UCLA Twitter but also UCLAVolunteer, UCLAEngineering, and UCLABand accounts among many others.
5. Promoting alumni networks. Twitter connects people across fields and businesses, making networking easier for everyone involved. So for alumni who might want to connect with others from their university for career or personal purposes, Twitter acts as a great connector. New York University created a special NYUAlumni account that does a great job of fostering those connections. A recent tweet? “Any other @NYUAlumni in Los Angeles going to the happy hour event thingy on Nov. 11? #TischAlum.”
Whether you’re trying to relive the glory days of college or just tap into what your university is up to these days, Twitter is a simple way to get involved with education again. And for universities, Twitter is now key for maintaining a good reputation and a global network to keep alumni (and their donations!) interested.