By now, you’ve probably heard of Twitter. The fast-paced social media platform is based around Tweets, consisting of 140 characters or less. Users have the ability to share photos, links, and videos inside Tweets, as well as Favorite and/or Retweet items. Twitter is an ideal platform for event promotion, quick announcements, and hashtag campaigns.
In Creative Web Services, we’ve seen success using Twitter as a customer service tool for prospective students through our #ChatWKU Twitter Chat Series. In fact, the series was recently given an Award of Excellence in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District III’s Online Innovation/Experimentation category. Naturally, we’re excited about this recognition, but we’re also excited that it proves a point we’ve been making for awhile: working together makes us better.
First, a little background: The #ChatWKU Twitter Chat series began in Fall 2015 as a recruitment tool for prospective and admitted WKU students. Each month, the chat revolves around a topic relevant to the recruitment cycle (campus services, housing, financial aid, orientation, etc.). Creative Web Services hosts the chats using the current “Class of…” Twitter account, following a prewritten script, by Tweeting questions with Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. The chat’s guest (tweeting from his/her department’s account) tweets the replies with A1, A2, A3. WKU Admissions counselors are an integral part of the process as well, as they field questions that come in from students in real-time.
It may seem like a lot of work, but there are a few things that make the process simple.
- Planning a script in advance ensures that there is a constant stream of communication. It also helps us guarantee that each question and answer will contain the two hashtags we use: #ChatWKU & #WKU2020/#WKU19 (depending on the class we are recruiting). Hashtagging is paramount in a Twitter Chat—users read and participate in the chat by following the hashtag.
- Tracking hashtag activity is also how the Admissions Counselors are able to see and answer questions from students who Tweet during the chat.
- To streamline this process on the back end, we utilize third-party social media management platforms like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck that allow a user to see multiple columns at once. During a typical Twitter Chat, we have columns for each account and hashtag involved, plus columns dedicated to replies/mentions…in case students forget to include the hashtag in their Tweet.
Since its inception, we’ve hosted 13 different #ChatWKU Twitter Chats, with questions received from over 100 students. We’ve also received positive feedback from additional students who have followed along with the chats but did not submit any questions. Each chat nets anywhere from 50 to 150 new followers for the “Class of…” account hosting the chat, with additional followers gained for the guest accounts and Admissions Counselors involved as well.
But why do Twitter Chats work for communicating with students? Well, there are a few strong reasons:
- Twitter is where students are. The 2015 Chegg-Uversity Social Admissions Report indicates that 55% of teens use Twitter, with that number rising on average since Twitter’s inception.
- Students can have their questions answered…fast. The Social Admissions Report also concludes that 61% of students expect a response within a day of contacting a college representative. Twitter Chats allow students to answer their questions and receive an answer within minutes.
- Twitter Chats bring departments together. Rather than sending students to multiple departments and having them navigate the recruitment process on their own, the #ChatWKU Twitter Chat series brings representatives from relevant departments to them in a unique, informal, personal way. Here’s an excerpt from one of our recent chats:
As the #ChatWKU Twitter Chat series continues, Creative Web Services plans to branch out and include groups like Study Abroad & Global Learning, Dining and Nutrition, and academic departments. We’re working to a comprehensive look at life at WKU and showcase the services and support available to our students. If you’d like to get involved in the series, host a Twitter Chat of your own, or have other ideas on creatively utilizing social media, let us know! Follow @wkucws on Twitter, and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
View transcripts of previous #ChatWKU Twitter Chats on the WKU Storify.