I have written numerous posts about twitter (at MSUCatalyst, here, and for Campus Archaeology). With Campus Archaeology, we have developed a wonderful use of Twitter (mixed with Facebook) that has really provided a great outlet for public outreach, and has garnered us a little publicity. People have been following our excavations, and occasionally comment on photos. It has been helpful for me as the principal investigator on these projects because it allows my supervisor to follow are work and provide commentary from afar, but also provides a backlog: it is a second set of field notes.
I have had some trouble, however, trying to figure out how Twitter might be useful in other ways, particularly when considering my other job at the Department of Student Life. A couple weekends ago, the answer hit me: feedback and advertising.
This use, however, is not relegated to just Student Life, but any program that holds events that they want people to attend. It came to me a couple weekends ago when I was sitting at home, perusing my Twitter feed, and I discovered that everyone I followed in the Lansing area were at the Jazz Festival downtown. I had completely forgotten about it. But Twitter reminded me.
This got me thinking: why not make sure that every event or program that you are running has an associated hash tag?. We’ll use the MSU Housing Fair as an example, since it is one of our department’s big events. So, as the event approaches, we would start putting up tweets that say, “Don’t forget about the #MSUHousefair on Feb 18!” And then, on February 18, pass out business cards that simply say “#MSUHousefair” on them. Anyone who uses Twitter will know exactly what that means. They will be reminded and encouraged to put up a tweet about the fact that they are at the Fair. Other students will see it. They might attend. Twitter is used to bring people to the fair, for the measly cost ($10?) of a box of business cards. If you Student Life Department is on Facebook and has a Fan page, you have another opportunity: pass your tweets on to be a Facebook status.
The second part of this is both during and post event. Often, if someone thinks something is wonderful and they’re having a great time, they will Tweet about it. Also, if they’re having a terrible time, or something specific (long lines, no AC) they will tweet about it. For those who put on the program, this is the perfect way to gain feedback without asking for it with surveys or questionnaires. You can fix problems that need immediate, during-the-program fixing (clogged toilet, some supply has run out) and you can look at it after the event to fix bigger, more planning-related issues (venue was too small, add new apartment complexes to the program, “that panel seemed awfully white-hetero-male”)
I am beginning to think that this may be the best way to use Twitter: provide a space through the hash tag that will allow the students to use Twitter at that moment. They don’t have to look up and follow a new person, they just have to type in a tag that you have provided. They provide you with feedback and advertising. It costs next to nothing to do, and you can easily monitor what is going on from your phone, and your boss could monitor from their office…and maybe respond (in person) to that tweet you put up that says, “we need more hands on deck…#MSUHousefair is far more crowded than anticpiated! Help!!”
What do you think? How can Twitter be used to enhance engagement with students?