Students Tweeting for The University of Minnesota President #highered

September 20th, 2011 Karine Joly 4 Comments

This week the University of Minnesota is inaugurating its new president: Eric Kaler and has decided to make this inauguration more… social. All week long, 16 social media students ambassadors will run his Twitter offical account, @PrezKaler.

Watch this short video to see what some of these students planned to do with the President’s Twitter Account:

They started to follow President Kaler yesterday and posted updates and photos on Twitter.!/prezKaler

This is a novel approach that does present some risks, so I asked Elizabeth Giorgi, Social & Multimedia coordinator at the University of Minnesota a few questions about it.

1) Why did you decide to hand over the new president Twitter account to your student ambassadors? What are the goals of this social media initiative? How did you convince your president to do it?

When we started planning how we would promote the Inauguration on campus, we realized that one of our top goals would be catching the attention of our students. Social media was obviously going to be a major component of that, but we wanted to take it up a notch, which is when we came up with having them live-tweet the inauguration. Then, we expanded it beyond just inauguration day and now we’ll have 16 students shadowing President Eric Kaler in shifts for the entire week. The President’s wife, Karen, was really instrumental in making this happen. She served on the selection committee and was really engaged in the whole process right down to reading all 101 applications. I think her excitement really helped everyone get on board.

2) Personal accounts are kind of… personal. Why did you choose to have multiple student voices for the presidential account?

One of the President’s top priorities is to connect with the student body and really enhance the entire student experience. I really believe this project is representative of that idea. There’s a certain amount of trust that has to come from both sides, from the students and the president. On top of that, the inauguration itself is something that both the president and the social media ambassadors will be experiencing for the first time and there’s a certain authenticity to sharing it together.

3) On a practical level how will this be handled? Will you have an editor who could veto/filter out “questionable” tweets — just in case?

@PrezKaler Twitter AccountEach day, when the social media ambassador arrives for their shift, they’ll sign onto @PrezKaler with the following: “@____ here for the next couple hours. You can read my bio here: LINK” That way, people will know who is who. Then, myself and one other member of our team will just be there to help out. We aren’t considering ourselves editors, as much as guides. We’ll be there to help with names, places, official titles – those kinds of things. If a post is questionable, we’ll definitely intersect and try to make the right improvements, but for the most part we really want the students to take the initiative and challenge themselves to tell the story of the week in 140 characters or less.

4) What will happen to the Twitter account after the inauguration week? Does your president plan to tweet on his own?

After we finish this project, we really hope to identify what other opportunities there might be for this kind of approach in the future. Obviously a week’s worth of activities lends itself to this because there are so many events, speeches and photo ops. I think the key thing that will help us figure out what to do next is to talk with our team of social media ambassadors and really find out what they thought worked, what translated to the student body and truly engaged them, and see what they want to read in the future. As for the president, when he does tweet, he will sign off with “- Dr. K” so everyone will know it’s him.

So, what do YOU think? Would you let your current students tweet for your president? Should you?

4 Responses

  1. Ted Pedersen says:

    I appreciate the intent, but I think part of the fun of Twitter is the idea that the actual holder of the account is tweeting something. Having ghostwriters for Twitter seems like it takes away some of the authenticity of the medium. Why not have the social media ambassadors tweeting from their own accounts, for example? They could use a hash tag like #kalerinag that would let anyone who is interested easily find those tweets, and it maintains the authenticity of things.

  2. […] Students Tweeting for The University of Minnesota President #highered | Students Tweeting for The University of Minnesota President #highered – Ron Bronson (ronbronson) (tags: highered […]

  3. Jeff Stevens says:

    It makes me nervous. In a time when ‘authentic’ seems to be the watch word, having Student Ambassadors run the president’s account instead of running their own accounts that are leveraged by the university runs the risk of feeling too much like marketing. Having sixteen separate voices in the mix muddies it further. At the very least, I’d recommend slowing down how fast they add to the feed – that example from the dental school visit showed 5 posts in 12 minutes!

  4. Erika Block says:

    As a University of Minnesota student, I greatly appreciate the ambassadors’ time to keep the student body updated on the inauguration. But I do agree with the previous comments that it would have been more effective to have President Kaler tweet himself. I would have gotten much more out of the twitter account had I got to read Kaler’s opinions on the experience rather than reading a third party’s view. I do think that incorporating social media into these type of events is a step in the right direction, but keeping it authentic is important as well.

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