University gaining vast social media presence

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Although only about 6,000 people follow UT on Twitter, a website recently ranked UT one of the top-10 most influential college Twitter accounts in the U.S. along with universities like Stanford, Syracuse and Harvard.

Klout.com rated UT 10th out of the top 10 most influential university Twitter feeds earlier this week. The website rates the influence of Twitter feeds on a scale of one to 100 based on 35 factors including number of tweets, retweets and how often tweets are used in Twitter conversations.

UT’s Twitter account opened about two and a half years ago, and website administrators have posted about 600 tweets to date, said Nyleva Corley, manager of web and new media in the Office of Public Affairs.

“We were interested in taking advantage of what was a new channel at the time to reach out to students,” she said. “We thought they would gravitate to a social media platform like Twitter, and we were interested in experimenting with it.”

The account currently has 6,627 followers, and that number is steadily growing, Corley said. The account posts at least one and no more than seven tweets a day.

“It really captures the pulse of what’s happening on campus,” she said.

The Stanford Twitter page, which topped the Klout.com list, has more than 23,000 followers.

Major news days on campus are the busiest days for UT’s Twitter feed, said Samantha Stiles, public affairs specialist and a primary author on UT’s account. On Jan. 19, the Twitter account was bustling with activity because UT announced a $300-million contract with ESPN to create a Longhorn TV network, Stiles said.

Twitter administrators posted three tweets with details about the new network between noon and 1:30 p.m.

“We’re able to align traditional outlets with social media outlets,” she said. “The Twitter account is a great outlet for patting ourselves on the back.”

The Twitter account is not linked to UT’s Facebook account, but the two work together to keep UT students informed through their social media outlets, she said. Tweets are released at intervals throughout the day to inform followers without spamming them, she said.

“A lot of our tweets are from prospective students that are excited about coming to UT,” she said. “I like to tweet a message back to them and say ‘Congrats, welcome to the Longhorn family.’ A pretty popular hash tag is ‘hook’em.’”

The Student Government Twitter account and the UT account are not officially affiliated, but the SG account makes an effort to channel the UT account through its Twitter, said SG administrative director Nathan Bunch.

UT’s account and student accounts can become primary sources of information in times of crisis, like the Sept. 28 incident when Colton Tooley shot off several rounds with his AK-47 in the Perry-Castaneda Library before taking his own life. Campus and student Twitter accounts helped students inform each other of the situation’s status and where to take shelter, said Bunch, who runs SG’s Twitter account.

“We’re a generation that is often criticized for our use of social media, but that’s what helped us keep each other safe,” he said. “We’re not used to getting information in traditional ways, and social media is a method that the University can take advantage of to get information out there faster.”