Reflections on Readings – Part II

So this week for my Social Media Theory & Practice class, the focus of the readings was Twitter. I think Twitter is a great tool, and will admit that I should use it way more often than I do, especially in a professional capacity. The Communications & Marketing office in which I work also maintains the university’s official Twitter account, which is mainly tied to our News division.

The first article up for reading was Steve Buttry’s suggestions for live tweeting. I thought the author here was spot-on when he said that same standards of good reporting should apply on Twitter, including accurate, fair, interesting and engaging content. He also referenced the reliable who, what, when, where, why and how questions every journalist uses. One example that comes to mind here is the JC Penney tweets during last week’s Super Bowl with many typos and misspellings – JCP blamed it on tweeting with mittens, but it was embarrassing to the company nonetheless.

I think Buttry could have spent more time explaining the importance of hashtags on Twitter – it is the way your tweet is catalogued/can be found. I also thought it was interesting that he emphasized using a narrative technique in tweeting to tell the story — it’s not just the facts, ma’am. When live tweeting you should be able to describe the atmosphere/setting, plot and characters to make the story easier for readers to follow. A success story that my office had in live tweeting was when we covered the public job interviews for a new CIO for the university. Live tweeting the interviews caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal, and they wrote about it ( Big props here to Lori Shull, our News Director who did the live tweeting. Our office also regularly live tweets Chats with the President, so that readers can follow along even if they can’t attend in person.

The second article for this week focused on Storyful. I found this very intriguing in the way this service vets online content (photos/videos). I watch a lot of crime dramas (Criminal Minds, Law & Order, CSI) and it was almost as if Stroryful use an investigative/forensic approach to find the original source of content, using image technology, embedded data and keywords.

I thought the article from the Nieman Journalism Lab by Michael Roston that summarized how the NYTimes uses Twitter was really good. It was helpful to see that their social media team works hand in hand with print reporters/editors to promote stories on Twitter and increase reader engagement. Much like we do in our office, they measure Twitter success looking at the number of click-throughs and retweets. The author didn’t mention it here, but I am curious if more readers are pushed to Twitter because of the paywall on the NYTimes main website? Also, in reporting their most successful Twitter stories (Boston bombing, crash of Asiana Flight 214, the Syrian conflict), for a former news person like myself, even in this new social/digital age, the old adage “if it bleeds, it leads” still holds true. I also like that they acknowledge the skill of headline writing is even more important in the Twitterverse and that “clarity works better than being clever or obscure.”

Moving from journalism to the world of literature, another article for this week was “Only Literary Elite Can Afford Not to Tweet.” I like how the author, Anne Trubek, said, “Twitter has offered me an intellectual community I otherwise lack.” I agree with that since I try to follow successful marketers and brands on Twitter to see how they are using this tool. I also have a personal interest in authors on Twitter. My favorite author, Stephen King, just recently joined Twitter in December and has racked up 300K+ followers. King also has been making headlines using Twitter to delve into the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen controversy ( — showing me that even celebrity authors need to realize the power of this platform and the nuance of every word (especially since you only have 140 characters).

The last article for this week gave a good overview of Twitter analytics. I logged in to see for myself what my personal analytics were, but unfortunately the system is not set up the same as when the article came out last summer. It is more about promoted tweets and ads. Currently, for my profile, I only have 99 tweets in my history (I know, it should be way more). I also have 58 followers, and I follow 158 people. At the university where I work, I just set up a partnership with another office (Campus Compass) to use data that office is collecting on students’ most frequently asked questions and using that in shaping the site map for the new university website that will roll out in May. And since our contact there is into data, he also agreed to help us regularly review analytics (Google analytics for web traffic and social media analytics for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). This will be very beneficial, especially on the marketing/recruitment side. Tennessee Tech University has a strong Facebook presence with 36,780 fans. We use Facebook to help promote news stories and keep campus informed. It is also the most engaging tool (students post questions and we help answer them). Twitter is more for our News Department to promote events and do live tweeting. We have 4,576 followers on Twitter. And the same is true for our YouTube channel being a primary hosting site for news videos that accompany press releases. We only have 213 subscribers. 

Lastly, for class this week, we were asked to find and review an academic article on Twitter. I chose “Fish Where the Fish Are: Higher-Ed Embraces New Communications Tools to Recruit the Wired Generation.” This article was published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice in 2012. One of the challenges we face as the Communications & Marketing office for a university is that we have professionals in our office who know how to use these social media tools and to speak with a consistent voice across platforms. However, many offices/departments across campus also want to be on social media – that is good, but oftentimes, the tool is not the right fit and accounts get created and quickly abandoned. We have even started holding periodic training sessions for faculty/staff on how to properly maintain a presence on Twitter/Facebook. We’ve also developed some Social Media Guidelines we hope to get codified into our existing Web Policy. Besides our office, I will say the only other major effort in social media at the university is from our Athletics Department. They have done an excellent job on Twitter, incorporating it into their Sports Information unit. They also have Twitter promotions on campus to gain followers — offering free t-shirts as giveaways to anyone who signs up.

This academic article focused on how admissions offices use not just Twitter, but also blogs, Facebook, podcasts and wikis. It reported on a survey of 478 college admissions officers and/or those in charge of the university’s social media programs. Of the 478, 59% have a university Twitter account. I know our Admissions Office uses Twitter when the recruiters are traveling to give a shout-out to what high school/college fair they will be at. Another interesting statistic is more than half of the institutions monitoring social media do so manually. This speaks for a need to emphasize analytics and tools available to make reporting easier so that the upper administration understand the significance/impact/reach of social media. That is what we are trying to do in our office – quantify our time/resources spent on cultivating a sizable social media following and what that translates into in terms of student recruitment and stakeholder engagement.


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