8 Lessons from the Best College Twitter Accounts

Sep 07, 2016 - Joe Matar
Do the kids still tweet? You bet they do! With more than 320 million active users worldwide, Twitter is a great place for schools to reach prospective, current, and former students. Two-thirds of prospective students use social media as part of their college search, and alumni and current students use Twitter to access current information, connect with other alumni, and find out about upcoming events. Popular new apps like Snapchat and Kik have been popping up and dominating teens’ and young adults’ lives, but Twitter is an age-old champion that’s here to stay. The brevity, hashtags, and global connection abilities keep young people hooked. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, Twitter still ranks third among social media networks for daily active usage, and the majority of Twitter’s users are 18–29-year-olds. A student is more likely to use Twitter if they are in college or have a college degree. This means that Twitter is still one of the best ways to talk to and engage with your students.

How to Tweet Like the Best College Twitter Accounts

We scoured the Twitterverse to find and learn from the best university Twitter accounts. Follow these lessons learned how to make your university’s Twitter a success.

1. Feature Images Like @MIT

A HubSpot study found that tweets with images get 18% more clickthroughs, 89% more favorites, and (drumroll please) 150% more retweets. If you want more Twitter engagement, the answer is simple — use images!     MIT knows this well. Almost all of their tweets containing inspiring photos or interesting gifs. Whether it’s a breathtaking student photo of the Boston skyline or a surprisingly beautiful image of brain synapses, MIT’s images represent who they are as a school while standing out in the timeline’s flood of tweets.  

2. Include Hashtags Like @BostonCollege

Tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement as those without, according to Buddy Media. (Just don’t go overboard — research also shows that when you use more than two hashtags, your engagement drops by an average of 17%.) So who has great hashtag game? Boston College, for one. They understand how to use hashtags for a little tongue-in-cheek humor, like this Twitter image of a professor facing an alligator with the hashtag #ProfsOnVacation.     Boston College also knows how to use hashtags to capitalize on the latest trends. Check out this thoughtful warning to students to watch out for on-campus Pokemon:  

3. Use Emojis Like @UWMadison

Interestingly enough, research shows that tweets with emojis do 25.4% better than tweets without emojis. This is a no-brainer for accounts trying to reach students and young alumni — after all, emojis have been called the world’s fastest growing language. UW-Madison’s Twitter account is great at incorporating just the right emoji to match the tone and the image. We love the sunglass emoji accompanying this sunglass-bedecked badger.     Or the use of the open hands sign emoji to make a “W” for Wisconsin.  

4. Have Fun with GIFs like @UofGlasgow

With the introduction of GIF search back in February 2016, Twitter has made it easier than ever to find hilarious GIFs to accompany your tweets. GIFs are a great way to show off your school’s culture, explain a process, tell a story, illustrate data, or inject a little personality into your tweets and replies. GIFs also have the same effect on your Twitter engagement as static images, so they’re a great way to mix it up. The University of Glasgow is the master of Twitter GIF usage. Here’s an example where the GIF is used to display an emotion:     And another where the GIF drives home the why behind the vlogging advice “Be succinct.”  

5. Engage in Two-Way Conversations Like @KUAlumni

Along with transparency, your audience loves people who know how to engage and communicate. So be encouraging, reply and retweet to others in your community, and thank people who have complimented your institution. If someone has a problem, be patient and listen. The University of Kansas’s alumni association always has their radars looking for fellow Jayhawks. A simple reply to a Jayhawk sighting augments this alumni tweeter’s celebration of his KU community:     They even hold monthly online networking events so that their members can engage in two-way conversations too. Talk about community-building!  

6. Share the Love Like @GeorgeMasonU

What’s unique about George Mason University’s Twitter account is that every week, they have a different student or alumna take over the Twitter account. During that week, their followers get to hear from that individual about their life at the university, after (if they are an alum), opinions they have various events on and off campus, and ideas for the future that have been influence. Giving your students access to the account let’s them feel included on campus and communicate with their community. Similarly for alumni, giving them control lets them reconnect with their school and reminisce about good times.   Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 4.03.22 PM   But alumni aren’t completely estranged from campus and you won’t have to worry about them being so far away that they’re disconnected. Have them post about their own experiences and the campus’s experiences.   Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 4.10.30 PM   It’s okay for them be silly and fun! Your followers will love it and be more engaged than ever.

7. Cross-Promote Like @MiamiUniversity

Twitter isn’t the only marketing channel in your toolbox. Cross-promotion across your social accounts is always a good idea, especially with a newer, highly engaging channel like Snapchat. In fact, 77% of college students use Snapchat at least once per day, according to a study by Sumpto. Miami University promotes its Snapchat presence through tweets like this:     This way they are engaging students fully on all available social medias. Instead of leaving each account (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter) separate, they intermingle the shoutouts and accounts so students can hear from their school no matter what social media they’re using.

8. Use Polls  Like @ButlerU

Twitter introduced polls in October 2015 as a new way to further engage your audience. Butler University was one of the first schools to experiment with the new toll. In the below tweet, they celebrate the return of basketball season with a bit of a rhetorical poll:     Polls can also be a great way to gather feedback or data. This is one of the ways Twitter is moving even more toward that two-way communication that students and alumni crave.

Are Your Twitter Skills Up to Par?

How’s your university’s Twitter account doing? Trying spicing it up with an emoji or shout out to a trending hashtag. Give them fun polls like Butler, or talk about Pokemon Go like Boston College. Most of all, remember the most important Twitter rule — be authentic. Being authentic with your students is more important than being marketable, according to University Business. Students don’t want to feel like you’re selling anything — they want to connect and know that your Twitter account is a core foundation in their important campus community. Transparency is the new black, and Millennials and Generation Z alike love to see it in authority figures such as businesses and universities.

How are you maintaining that connection with your students and alumni through social media? Tell us in the comments!