The President on Twitter

March 21, 2012 by jbjerke

Last week, four events occurred that lead me to write a follow up to my earlier post Social Media: Essential or a Distraction?:

  1. U.S. News and World Report added a questionnaire about technology to their rating process, including a question about whether “administrators personally post news and information” on the World Wide Web.
  2. Our Public Relations Office won two awards for its social media programs, including an award for its program encouraging people to follow the new president on Twitter.
  3. A faculty member asked me why in the world President Lieberman spends time on Twitter.
  4. President Lieberman, tweeting from the American Council on Education annual meeting, was “re-tweeted” and mentioned on Twitter by ACE – allowing about 5,500 followers of ACE to see her name and mention of La Verne.

U.S. News and World Report now polls universities about several aspects of their use of technology, including asking if the university has any “administrators who personally post news and information” on the World Wide Web. This is different than asking if there are offices that maintain social media programs – of which there are many at La Verne. It is specifically asking about administrators personally posting news and information.

“If you want to build a presence in the social media platform, then you need to be present.”
Scott Stratten
President, UnMarketing.

At La Verne, the President, V.P. for Advancement, PR Director, Asst. PR Director for Media Relations, a Librarian, and a coach all tweet regularly from their personal accounts – “personally posting news and information.” Another question by U.S. News and World Report asks about whether the university has anyone who manages an “online forum” for exchange of ideas. Advancement maintains two blogs which qualify. These activities will reflect positively in the ratings on which our ranking is based.

Regarding the social media awards, the PR Office received a Gold and a Bronze in the CASE District VII Awards of Excellence program, for two social media initiatives – “PEEPS: The New President on Twitter” and Amanda Hanson’s blog, “It’s Amandatory,” which informed donors, alumni and the campus community of progress during the renovation of Morgan Auditorium and served as an avenue for donor recognition and stewardship.

Our president’s personal activity on Twitter demonstrates she is tech-savvy and is adept at using this simple avenue for expressing her desire for affiliation and connection with students, prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni and others. More and more college presidents are on Twitter.

As the author, Patrick Powers, says, “The most effective Twitter streams in higher education are those that engage the audience, serve a purpose and provide a voice in the conversation. It’s an incredible bonus when that voice carries with it the weight of an institution.” He goes on to say, “It’s not easy balancing institutional control with transparency.  But when that balance can be struck, the result is interesting, insightful and incredibly powerful. A president who embraces Twitter can personalize an institution in few other services can.”

140 characters, it does not take a lot of time, just thinking about it a couple times a day. Others mention her on Twitter, and many tweet short messages to her, to which she often replies. Devoting a few moments a day to this social media activity allows her to make a connection that often feels personal with 500 “followers” and leads to her occasionally being mentioned by national organizations that have more than 5,000 followers – as she has been several times in tweets from the American Council on Education, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and Association of American Colleges and Universities. This seems an excellent return on her relatively small investment of time.

It is to her credit, and consistent with the advice of social media experts regarding how to have the most impact and be most effective in the use of social media, that President Lieberman posts her own tweets – as do most of the presidents cited in the article above. For example, no one else could have composed the tweets President Lieberman recently sent while attending the annual ACE meeting. She commented on the speakers and what they said in real time. President Lieberman tweets about her daily activities, offers philosophical advice and inspirational thoughts, responds to questions, extends congratulations, and shares points of pride about the university, always with a distinctive personal touch.

“Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation, and it’s happening with or without you.”
Charlene Li
New York Times Best Selling Author
Founder, Altimeter Group

President Lieberman has nearly 500 followers including students, staff, faculty, administrators, trustees, Alumni Governing Board members, other university presidents, a couple of national education organizations and their presidents. La Verne has Twitter communication with a senior editor of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and columnist David Allen. PR Director Charles Bentley and Assistant PR Director for Media Relations Alisha Rosas have actually placed local articles and two mentions on national Web pages via contacts through Twitter – all of which is enhanced because of the president’s presence on Twitter.

U.S. President Barack Obama, California Governor Jerry Brown, and even Pope Benedict XVI are on Twitter. One of my favorites is still Governor Brown’s dog, Sutter Brown, who is really funny and always stays in character. Twitter can be light and fun, but also has a serious purpose. In the case of President Lieberman, Twitter allows her followers to connect and enhance their affiliation with the university president as a person as well as with the university as a whole. In the social media world, people feel a sense of being appreciated and noticed when they can exchange tweets with the notable and the famous.

Whether you consider Twitter to be just a passing fad or a revolutionary form of communication, it is important that we, as an institution, take advantage of something that increases our visibility. If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, Twitter is the ideal format to convey information, ideas and ideals. Less can be more to those who truly appreciate the value of a well-turned phrase.

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