Friday, 9 October 2009

Trying hard to connect

I thought I should write something about how I'm using Twitter and Facebook in Student Development at the University of Leicester. Two important things to say first:
  1. I'm not saying we're doing it perfectly - I just want to let people know what we're doing and invite comment. Some things are going well and some things could definitely do with improving - I'd be interested to know your thoughts
  2. I've had a lot of advice, some of it inferred from how I see people using Twitter and Facebook and some of it direct advice (thanks especially to @caffeinebomb, @ajcann, @fawcettbj and @thisisdavid)

What are we doing?

We're trying to connect with students in order to make them aware of the services we offer to help them in their studies and their career planning. I've recently revamped the Student Development website to make it more dynamic by adding lots of RSS feeds to get news articles out. The other thing I'm trying to do is to connect up to people's social spaces using Twitter and Facebook.

Broadcasting (the easy bit)

The easy bit (although it took a bit of thought to connect it all up) is broadcasting. I didn't want to have to do this manually so I've automated it using a combination of RSS, Twitter, Twitterfeed, Facebook and a Facebook application called selective Twitter status (see 'How are we doing it?', below).

Conversation (the more difficult bit)

The more difficult bit is actually having conversations with people, and this is the bit we need to work on more. Having conversations takes time and resources but is the bit that makes the biggest difference. I'm using Hootsuite to allow multiple users to tweet to our uolsd account. Hootsuite took a bit of figuring out but is great now we've got the hang of it. The people who tweet to the account are me plus our Helpdesk staff - these are PhD students who work for us on a casual basis in our Student Development Zone. We need to work on this more because the PhD students haven't used Twitter before, and we also need to get a consistent voice. Generally speaking we are being reactive, responding to requests, rather than proactive. As we follow more people though we should begin to see more people who we can help. I am trying to follow only University of Leicester students who first follow us - that way we are a) responding to the needs of our students and b) hopefully it doesn't feel like we're stalking them(!).

How are we doing it?

The diagram above shows how it works.

And that's it! We're slowly building up a bit of a following - currently 201 followers on Twitter and 147 fans of our Facebook page. We have a link to our Twitter and Facebook information on every page of our website, along with a bit of an explanation, which you can see here.

That's a bit rushed but I'd be interested in your comments and suggestions.


  1. For rushed blog post, this is great Stu and definitely the start of a submission for LFF. Go for it!

  2. [...] set up news items to push out to Twitter and Facebook using the RSS and Twitterfeed (see this post for the Twitterfeed set up). What would be nice though would be if Plone could take a thumbnail of [...]