The increasing influence of social media in higher education policy

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes, I agree there’s a certain inherent conflict between the thoughtful intentionality behind policy development and the implied agility of the Tweetstream, but there’s also a suggestion of transparency provided by agile, rapid response to developing issues. And the hashtag is such a great tool to aggregate ideas and content–provided we can agree on a hashtag! And to support the research-informed side of policy development, we can tap the twitter-cloud to gain insights on what the community is thinking about our practices and policies.
    And on a personal note, I loved being part of the back-chat that was so popular during conferences 10 years ago! Thanks for the memories 😉

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