In the early days of Twitter, I sat in a academic meeting beside the chair of a university’s English department. The topic was a contentious one and the room was filled with a fair amount of disdain between faculty and administrators. I looked to my immediate right to see the chairperson live tweeting the (presumably closed) discussion occurring in the meeting. Presumably, other English faculty were hanging on every 160 characters being shared. While I found the experience a bit odd, it was an early indicator of the impending role (or attempted role) of social media in higher education, and particularly higher education policy.
Fast forward nearly a decade and all sorts of universities’ trials and tribulations have played out on social media. Institutions develop complex strategies to use Twitter and other social platforms for advocacy, marketing and public relations clean-up. More recently, a number of presidents have become larger than life personas largely through their social media presence.
So what how can an institution best use Twitter and other platforms to benefit the university? Conceptually, social media has provided some democratization to information. Not relying on traditional media modalities and networks allows a more direct message to the public via social media. But it requires nimbleness and the ability to respond quickly — and I wouldn’t frequently describe higher education as nimble.
While live-tweeting a meeting may not be the most riveting way to engage more people in higher education policy, surely institutions can improve their hashtag game.