#SocialAU: Meet the Voice Behind the American University Twitter Account (@AmericanU)
As part of the #SocialAU Blog Series the AU Social Media Club interviewed the people behind various American University social media accounts. In this interview we talk to Lisa Leone, the Manager of Web Communications and Barbara Emshwiller, the Director of Web Communications.
1) Tell us a little about yourself. How did you end up working in social media for American University?
American University’s main accounts are managed by two social media and web enthusiasts in the office of University Communications and Marketing: Barbara Emshwiller, Director of Web Communications, and Lisa Leone, Manager of Web Communications. Barbara joined the staff in Summer 2011 and Lisa recently joined in Spring 2012. Barbara comes from a strong web management and strategy background, overseeing the website for a large association and running her own web consulting firm. Lisa worked in a range of communications positions as a writer/editor for print and online publications and then moved into the role of managing web content and social media accounts.
2) Why did you personally decide to join Twitter?
Lisa: I timidly joined to be part of what I saw as an exciting “movement,” but I rarely posted and still use my personal account very minimally. After joining, I was impressed by the power of Twitter as a promotional and engagement tool. It’s much more exciting for me to engage as an organizational representative than as an individual.
Barbara: I found it to be an outlet that was more appropriate than Facebook or LinkedIn for sharing knowledge and congregating around topics and issues of concern to me personally. Twitter’s strength is it’s “real time – right now” nature and as an organizational owner we use it to engage with our audiences in an immediate way around issues of concern to the students, faculty, and staff.
3) What has been the best thing about managing the school’s social media account?
Being part of the larger conversation is the best perk. We have a whole community of accounts — the schools, offices, and student groups. Sharing in the excitement about university events and building each other up is very motivating. We recently had an outsider post a tweet about how well we support one another:
4) Does the school give you any sort of guidelines for how to tweet? Like who to respond to or who to retweet?
American University does have general social media guidelines about posting responsibly, but we do not dictate specific actions, such as what to retweet or whom to retweet. The many social media accounts across the university have a symbiotic relationship. We actively try to publicize the schools’ and departments’ content by retweeting whenever that content has a more general audience appeal. This gives greater exposure to the concerns and issues of the university. We feel that we are “partners” with the schools and departments in their social media strategies.
5) What is the goal for your Twitter account? Is it to promote your school’s events, is it to engage students, or is it something else?
The @AmericanU account is in place to interact with students, prospective students, faculty, staff, and the greater community and to share important university events and news. We also use it to communicate one-on-one with our followers. After all, social media allows us to move from just a projection of news to a conversation with those in our community.
6) What do you think is the most important thing to know when managing a professional twitter account?
Look alive. It’s important to post often and consistently to keep followers engaged. Also, it is a lot easier to keep on top of the ongoing conversation if you are constantly tuned in.
7) What has been the most controversial tweet you’ve sent from the school account? How did your followers and students in particular respond?
We have not had “controversy” but rather some tweets that sparked lots of interaction, such as the surprise marriage proposal during the SPA Commencement ceremony. Commencement is such an exciting time because it marks a new beginning, and the proposal really added to that excitement. That simple tweet went viral and generated television, web, and other digital content.
8) Does each school / twitter account have a specific content strategy? What types of tweets get the most engagement?
Each school is encouraged to tweet in its own voice and talk to its specific audience.The types of tweets that get the most engagement vary by school. For the AmericanU account, followers respond most frequently to top rankings earned by the university and personal stories that hit home. Photos are also a big hit — but we have found Facebook to be a better forum for that.
9) What advantages, or disadvantages, do you believe Twitter has over other social media sites, such as Facebook, in regards to professional account management? (In other words, do you think that Twitter or Facebook does a better job at fulfilling the goals and expectations outlined by your particular school.)
Twitter has an amazing search function, and there are great tools available to monitor the conversation surrounding a topic or event. This increases the opportunity to interact and get involved. For a university, Twitter is a great communication medium because we know we can reach a lot of members of our university community — because this is where they spend their time!