Using Twitter's Power for Good in Student Affairs

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If recent social media backlash aimed at big-name companies- from a certain beverage producer to a handful of airline companies- has taught us anything, it’s that Twitter has made the collective voice powerful. And with great power, comes great responsibility. So, how can post-secondary institutions, and their digitally active community members, go about using social media platforms to harness that power in a positive and significant way? Meet Students Where They Are & Stay There While social media has proven itself as an effective marketing tool, it’s role as a catalyst for social change- on campus and beyond- shouldn’t be ignored. Twitter, and the like, might spread the word about campus events and initiatives more effectively than traditional approaches. But, meeting students where they are entails more than entering their virtual space with the intention of simply marketing to them. Taking the time to answer student questions, address concerns, and ask for input via virtual channels allows colleges and universities to be just as high-touch as they are high-tech. Whereas hardcopy advertisements and email blasts position students as recipients of information, social media allows everyone to participate in meaningful and ongoing dialogue about all things student life. Make Digital Citizenship a Priority It’s amazing what can be accomplished today with the mere knowledge of an individual’s name and place of education or employment. A quick Google search provides access to personal profiles across various networking sites, and the long history of shares, likes, and comments they each contain. The beauty of social media is that it provides a platform for free expression of thoughts and opinions. So, while colleges and universities shouldn’t strive to silence or censor their community members and leaders, emphasis should be placed on responsible digital citizenship. Obviously, hateful and discriminatory remarks shouldn’t ever be tolerated from any campus community member, ever. But digital citizenship extends beyond blatant human decency to include discernment of credible from misguided information and sources online. Because we all know how detrimental fake news can be. Hold Yourself Accountable The thing about Twitter is that it never forgets- not even that off-handed comment you made a long time ago. While it can be argued that the past is the past, users familiar with the screenshot tool beg to differ. It is important for students, staff, faculty, and campus leaders to consider how their actions over social media- past and present- are going to be perceived by those looking to them for leadership and support. In fact, we can all benefit from carefully considering just how constructive our social media contributions truly are to the overall narrative. We’re quickly learning that the Twitterverse is quick to call out prominent figures and institutions in higher education for any discriminatory and exclusive practices, and they’re bringing receipts. This trend has raised a great deal of debate surrounding free speech, but that is an entirely different post for another day.

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