Not surprisingly, one of my professional interests is the use of Twitter and other social networks/media in higher education. And not just for educational/classroom purposes but also for outreach.
In other words, people who work at a college or university using Twitter in an official capacity to reach out to other people outside their organization. Of course, this applies to using Twitter to recruit students, to reach out to parents, to connect to similar external departments or organizations.
It also applies to outreach within an organization. For example, we use twitter at my library to connect with students, faculty and other campus units. We answer questions, monitor traffic and respond to issues, retweet interesting stuff, make announcements. It's not so much for looking outside York's walls as building relationships within.
Now university presidents are an interesting case. Presumably they want to do both: enhance their institution's reputation with the external world, attracting attention, funding and students. They also want to forge bonds and build relationships with internal stakeholders and units -- faculty, staff, students, parents of students, etc.
So I decided I would start building a Twitter list of senior academic administrators on Twitter, mostly presidents but also deans and provosts. I just wanted to get a sense of what they're talking about, how they're engaging, how personal and authentic their persona's seem.
And I'll admit to being a bit surprised at what I found.
Sure, I found a couple of lists of twitter handles for presidents, mostly fairly recent. I also found a few just with simple Google searches. There are quite a few that are active tweeters, with various levels of personality in their tweets. Some are quite formal, some almost folksy. I'm really pleased so many are finding Twitter to be a useful tool in reaching out.
But a surprising number of them (maybe 10-15%) seem to have deleted their accounts within the last few months since the lists were made or since Google found them.
I guess many got on the Twitter bandwagon when it was the hot thing to do, gave it a try and then either lost interest, found it too time-consuming or perhaps even found the rough-and-tumble nature of the open web a bit disconcerting.
Is Twitter well-suited to the kinds of messages that modern university presidents want to communicate to the outside world? Were they trying to fit a square promotional/institutional message into a Twitter round hole?
Here's some of the lists I've found. You can check it out yourself.
- 25 College Presidents You Should Follow On Twitter
- University President's Online Persona
- 10 High Fliers on Twitter
- Twitter list
Also, if you know of any senior administrators that are worth following, please let me know. I'd love to see what's they're talking about.