Many University divisions are already using Twitter and others may be interested using it in the future. Whether you have already started using Twitter for your division or are thinking about using it, keep these guidelines and best practices in mind.
Who is your audience?
Is it prospective students? Is it current students? Is it a general interest community (e.g. people interested in entrepreneurship/business, etc.)?
Identify your audience and cater your content towards them. Keep in mind that your audience may change over time.
Be aware that since you are affiliated with the University, you may be contacted by people in the University community who are not your intended audience (e.g. prospective students contacting the library, etc.). Do your best to answer these people and if you can't help them, direct them to someone who can.
Who should run your Twitter account?
While it is possible to have a team of people maintain a Twitter account, make sure you have one person who is ultimately in charge of it and takes responsibility for it. This administrator should be a staff or faculty member and not a student.
Who should you follow?
Follow all FDU twitter feeds (a list is available here: http://twitter.com/#!/FDUWhatsNew/fdu-tweeters/members).
Follow anyone who mentions you (except spammers and pornographers). It is also nice to follow those who follow you, both as a courtesy to them for following and because it allows them to Direct Message you.
If you find your feed is too cluttered from following many people, make lists of people you want to read (see https://support.twitter.com/articles/76460-how-to-use-twitter-lists).
What will your Twitter identity be?
All official University Twitter accounts should link back to the University by having "FDU" in the name (e.g. @FDUKnights and @FDUPublicMind). Also, use the link area in the profile to put your FDU.edu department website.
Visually, your Twitter feed should reflect your department and the University as a whole. Department logos, University logos, campus images, or portraits of the profile administrators are all acceptable for use as avatars (the photo next to your tweets). Do not use the University Seal or old University logos under any circumstances. Lastly, make sure your logo choice fits in and fills the allotted square without leaving white bars on the top/bottom or left/right of the logo or stretching the logo to make it fit. Only displaying a portion of the logo is also unacceptable.
The image you use for your avatar should be square. If it is not square, then crop it.
All questions regarding brand compliance should be directed to the Office of Communication.
If your Twitter handle is an acronym for your department or group, be sure to put your whole name in either the bio or name fields of your profile.
In the bio section of the page note that your feed is the official Twitter of your department. You may also choose to humanize your Twitter feed by identifying the account administrator in the bio section. Social media is about relationships and people have relationships with people, not institutions. Humanize your Twitter account with a few words about the administrator as a way of putting a human face on the University. Two examples of this:
What should you tweet?
This depends on who your audience is. In general, notes about upcoming events, department news, articles about you in the media, interesting news in your respective field, etc. are appropriate. Don't be afraid to show school spirit and generally allow emotion when appropriate. This shows that tweets are created by a real person and encourages readers to respond in kind (and may make them more likely to respond).
Keep in mind that social media is supposed to be social — that is interactive. Twitter is not a one-way information channel; it is supposed to be a two-way conversation. Engage your audience by asking questions and collecting feedback as well as by answering their own questions. Twitter is supposed to be fun and it doesn't have to be as buttoned up as other forms of University communications. Feel free to post pictures, short videos, interesting articles, etc. Try to engage your followers as much as possible.
Since Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet, it is a good idea to tweet links to longer posts (e.g. a post on your website). Use a link shortening service like Bit.ly. Bit.ly is nice because it is free and it provides analytics on how many people are clicking on your links.
When you post a link, be sure to write a tantalizing (or at the very least, a descriptive) comment in the tweet about the link so people will click on it.
Example: "Interesting article - http://bit.ly/rAGy4Q or "I posted photos to such-and-such photo album" are not interesting tweets. Instead, say something like:
- "FDU Alumna and restaurateur Amy Russo serves up a #recipe for tasty french toast (via @MontclairPatch) http://bit.ly/rAGy4Q" or
- "Our students have been busy decorating their rooms! Which one is your favorite? #myfdu (Photos by: Jana White, Alice Schmidt, Olivia Cafone and Connor McDowell) https://bit.ly/2O1X8Uk."
Look at @FDUWhatsNew for more ideas and examples.
Lastly, remember that everything you tweet is public record. Although there is an option to delete tweets, they can never be fully scrubbed from the Internet.
What to do about negative Tweeters?
Don't be afraid to engage negative tweeters. Reach out publicly to the negative tweeters and then ask them to direct message you (remember to follow them or else they won't be able to DM you!) or take it off Twitter and go through email to try and resolve the issue. Try to fix their problem if possible, and if not, at least do them courtesy of listening to them.
Do not under any circumstances engage in a full-fledged argument on Twitter.
What are hashtags?
Hashtags are keywords denoted with the # sign. Including relevant hashtags in tweets helps categorize tweets (and thus be found more easily in Twitter Search). Appropriate hashtag usage can increase your readership. However, try not to fill your tweets with hashtags as that becomes annoying to read. If you can't fit the hashtag in a sentence, then put it at the end of the tweet. Keep in mind that hashtags do not have spaces or punctuation in them. More info: https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-what-are-hashtags-symbols.
Note: Do not under any circumstances use the hashtag #FDU. On Twitter, "FDU" stands for "Fresher Den U." Instead you can use #Fairleigh for University-related tweets if you would like.
What are @replies and @mentions and how do I use them?
@Replies is a tweet that is created by clicking on the "reply" option on someone else's tweet. Your comment will begin with "@username" linked to the original tweet. An @mention is any tweet that contains @username anywhere in the body of the tweet. Thus, all @replies are also @mentions, but not all @mentions are @replies.
@Replies and @mentions are very important parts of Twitter and should not be neglected, as they are the primary ways of developing a relational presence on Twitter.
When you post your own content, try to use @mentions whenever possible. Here are some good examples on when to use an @mention:
- When you want to cross-promote other FDU Twitter pages. (Examples: http://bit.ly/uuq9SE andhttp://bit.ly/tnDA3J).
- To give credit to the person you got the content from. This is very important in social media — always give an acknowledgement to the people who give you your content. You can do a simple "via @username" at the end of the tweet or work it into the body of the tweet. (Examples:http://bit.ly/vrMT14 and http://bit.ly/upEbHT).
- When you are mentioning a person/organization with a Twitter account, always @mention them. This way, they will see your tweet and as a bonus, they may retweet it for you. (Examples: http://bit.ly/uhhsrY and http://bit.ly/vr2SS7).
- As a way to tell your readers where you are directing them when you post links. (Example: http://bit.ly/ujCJrx).
When giving an @mention, do not begin the tweet with it. This would make the tweet look like an @reply and most people will never see it. Since most social media dashboards and web site plugins filter out @replies, (and most Twitter users use dashboards instead of Twitter.com), your tweet will never be seen by most of your audience.
Also, when someone asks you a question, or mentions you, or just happens to say something nice about the University in general, it is a good idea to @reply to them with an appropriate reply (answer their question, thank them, etc.).
When should you tweet?
You can tweet at any time. Keep in mind though, that people use social media outside of 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday to Friday. Therefore, while it is fine to tweet during those hours, it would be good to also schedule some tweets to be posted at night and on weekends.
If you use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, you can easily write tweets during working hours and schedule them to be posted automatically at later times. See "How do I find the time for Twitter?" and "How should you manage your Twitter account?" for more information on scheduling tweets and dashboards.
Why should you Tweet?
Because of Twitter's design, it has the unique ability to be both a social network and a news service. People use Twitter to talk to friends but they also use it get news (even Barak Obama announced his running mate on Twitter). As a result of this, you can use your Twitter feed as a broadcast service for your department's news.
Of course if you do decide to tweet departmental news, make sure that you are not only sending out information (one-way communication) but are also engaging and responding to your followers (two-way communication).
How will you find the time for Twitter?
Checking Twitter doesn't have to be time-consuming. Using a social media dashboard like HootSuite makes it easy to check your Twitter and quickly skim over all the new content. It should only take a few minutes to check Twitter. Also, this dashboard allows for scheduled tweets, so you could write a few tweets all at once and schedule them to be published automatically at different times.
How should you manage your Twitter account?
Never ever ever link your Twitter and Facebook accounts together such that an update from one is automatically published to the other. You can manage both accounts from the same dashboard if you like (see discussion on dashboards below), but do not link the two accounts. If you have both a Facebook and a Twitter account for your department, you must write unique posts for both platforms. The writing required for each platform is different (e.g. hashtags on Facebook just look silly) and if you link the two together, you will demonstrate to your followers that you are clueless about social media.
You can post links to the same content on both platforms, but take the extra minute to write a different sentence for each platform. If you write the exact same copy for an update on both platforms, you are negating the usefulness of using multiple platforms since people will quickly see that you post the exact same thing on both accounts and only follow you on one of them.
The Twitter website is clunky and cumbersome to monitor from. A better option is a social media dashboard like HootSuite. Hootsuite uses an interface based on columns and can manage multiple social media accounts across different platforms (e.g. manage your Twitter and Facebook from the same place). It has a mobile app and also allows for scheduled tweets.
Note: Do not use the same program to manage personal social media and FDU social media. It is too easy to post something to the wrong account if both personal and FDU accounts are managed from the same dashboard (See this article about the damage a personal tweet on Chrysler's official Twitter account did: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/7502.aspx ).
Key columns to include in your dashboard: Direct Messages, Mentions, New Followers, as well as columns for follower lists, scheduled tweets, and various keywords related to your field.
Example: @FDUWhatsNew is the main University Twitter account and some of the keywords I monitor with that account are fduproblems, fduprobz, fdualumproblems, fairleigh, farleigh dickinson, wroxton, and wfdu.
How often should you tweet?
There is no magic number of how many tweets you should send in a given time. In general, tweet when you have something to say and don't when you don't. That being said, try to tweet new content a few times a week as a minimum. And try not to tweet more than five-to-six times a day or else it may annoy your followers. (Play this by ear and incorporate feedback about your tweeting frequency from your followers).
Exceptions to the tweeting frequency "rule" listed above would include emergencies and live tweeting events. In an emergency, tweet as often as necessary to get the message out. If you are live-tweeting an event, tweet as often as you would like (e.g. play-by-play for a sports game).
How should you promote your events?
It is perfectly acceptable to tweet about your events on your Twitter account, just don't tweet incessantly about them. Don't send out several tweets in a row all at once. Put yourself in the shoes of your followers and ask yourself, "Would I be annoyed if I had to read another tweet about such-and-such event?" and then act accordingly. Reposting your information or links is perfectly acceptable, provided you leave enough space between the posts and don't tweet the exact same text. If you tweet about an event in the morning, you can tweet about it that evening or the next day, (just make sure you rewrite the tweet so it is not the same tweet as before).
How often should you check Twitter?
With all social media, immediacy is key. This is especially true when it comes to tweets directed at you. If someone mentions you or direct messages you, do your best to respond as soon as possible. Many people expect answers within minutes. While this is not necessarily a reasonable expectation, the expectation does exist. You should always respond within 24 hours. For this reason, it is a good idea to check your Twitter account at least a few times a day.
How should you market your account?
An easy way to become known among the FDU community is to follow all other official FDU twitter feeds (a list is available here: http://twitter.com/#!/FDUWhatsNew/fdu-tweeters). Retweet and mention other University Twitter feeds to cross-promote each other.
Link your Twitter to all your other communications (put a link on your department website, in your email signature, brochures, etc.).
You can also send an announcement email out about your Twitter feed.
How can you track the ROI on your Twitter account?
One of the most difficult things to do with Twitter is track return on the invested resources. Having many followers is nice, but alone, it is not an effective means of measuring success. What is more important is the engagement of your followers. How many conversations are you having? How many questions are you answering? How often do your tweets get retweeted?
Good things to keep track of to gauge your ROI would be
- how many retweets you get
- how many @mentions you get
- how many problems you solve
- your follower count, and
- how many clicks your links get.
More on each of these below.
- Retweets: When people retweet your tweets, they are sharing your content with all their followers. Retweets amplify your message. Twitter provides notifications of retweets and for more detailed analytics, dashboards like Hootsuite can provide reports.
- @Mentions: You can either keep track of your @mentions in a column in a social media dashboard, or in the @username tab of Twitter's homepage (when you are signed in).
- Problems Solved: If someone asks you a question and you answer it — or direct them to someone who can answer it — you just solved a problem. If someone complains about you or your department and you reach out to them and try to help them — you solved a problem.
- Follower Count: Some dashboards have columns that will keep track of your new followers. Otherwise you can use the @username tab on the homepage of Twitter.com (when you are signed in) which will list your followers.
- Your Links:The social media dashboard Hootsuite provides a built-in link-shortening service (Ow.ly) and comes with free weekly reports on the number of clicks your links receive, as well as a few other things. Other metric reports from Hootsuite are available on a paid basis. If you do not use Hootsuite, you can use the link-shortening service, Bit.ly with Twitter or any other dashboard and Bit.ly also provides free metrics on the number of clicks each link gets.