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Twitter…kind of like cable TV? PR musings, Social media

Last time, I discussed how RIT University News and others on campus use Twitter to share information and engage with followers, and I offered tips for efficient use of Twitter via lists and hashtags. (Plus, I explained why RIT isn’t @RIT. Answer: Someone else already has the username.)

With nearly 4,900 followers, @RITNEWS is the largest and, thus, the de facto “official” RIT Twitter user (@RIT_Alumni is second with almost 3,500 followers). But there are also more than 80 other official (or at least semiofficial) RIT-related Twitter accounts in the RIT social-media directory and on the RIT Tweeps list.

It raises the question: Should there be one official RIT Twitter account to go along with all the others? It’s an issue the RIT Social Media Task Force has grappled with.

Here are some potential options:

1. Multiple distinct official and semiofficial RIT Twitter users (our original model)

2. Main RIT account tweeting (and re-tweeting) about a variety of RIT news, events and myriad other RIT-related topics (similar to the RIT Facebook model, which relies on multiple “admins” across campus posting on many subjects)

3. Primary account that’s highly interactive (Syracuse University is among the schools that tried this approach for a time. Individual “tweeps” — “tweeple,” if you prefer — would introduce themselves under the SU Twitter banner and attempt to engage SU’s followers. As far as we can tell, they didn’t see great success in generating much interactivity.)

Having many distinct users (option one) is better, in my opinion, than one official RIT Twitter account sharing a hodgepodge of unrelated tweets, resulting in little more than noise (or, borrowing an adage and putting it another way, “when you try to be all things to all people you risk becoming nothing to everyone”). Besides, anyone truly wanting it can have it all by subscribing to the RIT Tweeps list. As for interactivity, as explained last time, although @RITNEWS — as an entity — primarily shares, the people of RIT University News engage with followers.

Now, here’s my radio (or cable TV) analogy:

On the producer side, some Twitter users (organizations, more so than individuals) are kind of like radio stations and cable TV channels, offering highly targeted niche content catered to audience tastes (“narrowcasting,” in essence, rather than broadcasting). In other words, @RITNEWS is your go-to channel for news about RIT; @RITsports, the key source for RIT sports news, and so on.

On the consumer side, listeners, viewers and, yes, Twitter users “tune in” to what interests them the most: a particular radio format, a type of TV show or specific Twitter users, for instance. By following @RITNEWS, those tweets appear in users’ news feeds by choice, plain and simple.

Today, “middle of the road”-formatted radio stations are largely extinct — for the same reason a single main RIT Twitter account would be too unfocused for most users’ tastes, I believe. (Incidentally, a few months ago Syracuse University effectively shuttered @SyracuseUNews in favor of a behemoth university account. Wrong move, I think.)

On the flip side, experimenting with a single primary RIT account that might become more interactive, the Social Media Task Force has established @RITtigers — tinkering with options two and three, described above (though some say the username makes them think of sports). And although I favor option one, at least followers now have a new place to send gripes about early-morning construction noise or the heat in the library (complaints that @RITNEWS — which, by the way, is not shutting down — has fielded in the past). Still, those are possibly better directed to @RITConstruction or RIT Libraries (on Facebook).

But what do you think?

Have a great weekend,

  1. Randy
    Apr 27

    Personally, I like it the way it is. If there was 1 single official RIT Twitter there would be way too many subjects to tackle, and people would be flooding it with problems and questions. It would be the on-line equivalent of having 1 office for financial aid, security, ITS, housing, etc.

    Also, the RIT Tweeps list has to be better advertised. Until I read this, I had no idea that it existed. It may be helpful if all of the other "official" RIT accounts followed RIT Tweeps, or subscribed to the list, or did something to highlight the existence of that list.

    I also don't think the list should be hosted by an account that doesn't tweet. I think it would be more visible if the list was hosted by @RITTigers or @RITNews.

    And I agree with your comment that @RITTigers makes me think of sports. But since @RIT is already taken, I don't really have any suggestions for a new username that would not have that effect.

  2. Mike Saffran
    Apr 27

    Good suggestion about better promoting the RIT Tweeps list, Randy — particularly by the other users who are part of the list (@RITNEWS has promoted it some).

    As for why the list is hosted by @RITTweeps (and not @RITNEWS): Believe it or not, Twitter won’t let a user put itself on a list it created (at least, that was the case when the tweeps list was established). How could there be an RIT list without @RITNEWS, was the dilemma. So, RIT Tweeps was created with the sole purpose of hosting the list (which, actually, is curated by @RITNEWS).

  3. Carson
    Apr 27

    I think the current system is a good one. Narrowcasting, as you called it, allows followers to choose what they would like to hear about. It's easy to subscribe to multiple accounts, but difficult to screen out announcements you have no interest in from a single account.

  4. Amir Figueroa
    Apr 30

    I would have to agree with what Carson said. Followers can pick and choose what RIT account they want to follow and receive information.

  5. Kate Brodock
    May 01

    Hi Mike -

    I appreciate your thoughts on this, these are discussions we've regularly had at Syracuse University.

    I wanted to clarify a few things, as it seems the information you're using for our process here is outdated.

    Syracuse hasn't used the overt action of "tweeps" for almost a year ago, with the previous team that was in place. We made a major shift in where social media was housed early last summer, when it came out of one of our schools (what it seems you're referencing in your comments) and into the central marketing and communications department.

    Additionally, @SyracuseUNews was shuttered almost two years ago (not a few months ago), on the advise of the team in place at that time and the consultant who was managing that team. However, it has never actually been shut down. Since our new team was put into place, we've had many a conversation about that account, and in the meantime, our News Services is going through a large overhaul and we think there may be opportunities to "bring it back."

    Again, our main SU account, @SyracuseU has been running for almost two years now.

    I'm very happy to explain to more about what we're doing, and you're welcome to contact me about some of the details as well, as we have a pretty defined Twitter structure in place at the University level (one other thing we have to deal with at a University our size is decentralization at the school level, but that's for another blog topic!).


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