How US Colleges & Universities Use Twitter?
Twitter is one of the most commonly adopted social media platforms. Higher education institutions in the United States use it extensively. Colleges and universities use Twitter to share information, connect to alumni, broadcast campus events, shows school spirit, and more. Often it’s used to market and promote. This study fills a gap in the literature. Most research focuses on one institution, a select few institutions, or a small sample of tweets to understand how universities are using Twitter. In this study, we use web crawling and data mining techniques to gather the larger sample of Twitter accounts and tweets. To date we examined about 6 million tweets posted by 2,400 university and college Twitter accounts. Here’s what we learned: First, we looked at the type of tweets higher education institutions posted. Almost 90% of tweets pushed out information in a unidirectional manner and use Twitter as a broadcast tool. Only 10% of the tweets offered a response to a specific Twitter user or were replies to another account. The majority of the tweets were informational, that is, a tweet will include news or updates. Only 12% of the tweets encouraged their followers to engage in some type of action. Second, we examined what resources institutions shared. Over one third of tweets posted contain a link to website. These links directed users to institutional resources, other social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on, and news sources such as the Huffington Post or the New York Times. Third, we examine the sentiments expressed an institutional Twitter account. We found that 55% of Twitter neutral. In other words, posts were phrased in a way to share information without emotion or judgement. 41% of the tweets are positive. In other words, these posts expressed gratitude congratulations excitement self praise or encouragement. And, only 4% of the tweets were negative, expressing emotions such as mild complaints or criticism. Finally, we explored how institutional twitter accounts represented U.S. college life through images. By examining sample of images, we found that institutions described college life positively, mostly by highlighting student and faculty achievements, positive experiences, and campus attractiveness. Social media platforms can serve as a vehicle for institutions to extend their reach and further demonstrate their value to society. However, in our study we found that the tool was generally used in poor ways. We suggest that institutions reconsider how they are using Twitter and explore ways that the medium can be used to effect positive and meaningful change, locally and within society at large. Thanks a lot for tuning in! You can find more detailed analysis of this topic in the published paper. If you like this, please share with your friends, colleagues, and students.