A look back at 5 years of @waynestate on Twitter

This last week @waynestate celebrated its fifth anniversary on Twitter. Although we initially signed up in September 2007, we didn’t start using the account till January 2008. Twitter was the first social media existence for the university and it has treated us well. It doesn’t seem like five years is a long period of time but in those years Twitter has grown tremendously.

Six degrees of separation

The http://twbirthday.com/ website allows anyone to enter a Twitter username and see when they signed up. It also shows who that account’s “godfather” is. Above is the chain of godfathers for the @waynestate account starting from the bottom right and going backward to the founders. It is interesting to see that the university is only six degrees separated from the founders of Twitter.

Some interesting stats since then

We are a huge fan of numbers and we try to track everything possible. For Twitter we wish we had more but we are at the mercy of external websites to track everything. The above graph is from TwitterCounter.com. This site tracks followers, friends, retweets, clicks, and much more. It exposes some of that data for free but you have to pay for a deeper analysis. We decided that the value being derived from the data isn’t worth the monthly fee.

As you can see, we’ve consistently gained followers over the last six months.  This is great because it shows we are continuously adding value to the community and are not just “one trick pony’s” to gain a massive amount of followers that unfollow us as soon as a campaign is over. It also gives us the ability to add resources to social media over a projected path, being stuck with a massive amount of followers overnight can put us at a disadvantage as we try to provide customer service with existing staff. Social trust is very important to us.

Click through rates

Naturally we publish a lot of information to a lot of sources, that information typically comes from an internal application we created called the “Social Dashboard”. I haven’t posted much about it publicly but if you have had the opportunity to see me speak, I’ve talked about it as our central hub for social insight and disbursement. One of the ways we track our engagement is by simple link click-throughs. We know this is just as accurate as gauging “hits” to a website, so we don’t use it for much other than trends.

Below is a graph of the number of URLs shortened since August 2008 (when the system was created) and click-throughs on those URLs. What you’ll notice is the number of click-throughs greatly outnumber the amount of clicks. To show the impact of each URL a little more clearly I added a second graph, this one being the (number of clicks/number of URLs) per month. It shows which months had the greatest impacting links vs. which months didn’t have much activity per URL.


One of my favorite people, Susan Evans, wrote a great blog post about “Brand. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” We’re huge believers of this therefore we record every mention of Wayne State University by a few dozen variables and rate each one on sentiment. Our dashboard allows us to flag, note and gain insights in to what the “university brand” really is by the people who are talking about and spreading it.

Below is a glimpse in to just two ends of the sentiment spectrum, positive and negative. In total we have recorded and rated almost 300,000 tweets for sentiment. A few insights in to the data behind the graph, it may look bad that there is a lot more negative comments about us than positive. How we look at it is a little different. Data shows us that the vast majority of people use social media to complain. We see every complaint as an opportunity to change a perception.

It’s about the individual

Below is an example of conversations we have every day. It shows an initial negative tweet by someone we were not initially following that went out to her 700+ followers. This obviously isn’t the impression and recommendation we want those 700+ people to hear from someone they trust. So naturally we got involved. As you can see from the conversation that although we were not able to magically change how the student thinks about the university we were able to show that we are here and care. In the grand scheme of things it’s just one conversation but for this individual it may have steered the future course of how they think about us.

Breakdown of tweet content

To give some context, below is a graph of what type of content is generated from our account. For us this is important because we have to find a balance to keep our community happy and coming back. We have found the mix below offers the best results.

Adoption across campus

Five years has brought more than a change in how central marketing communicates with the community via social media. Since early 2008 over 100 departments on campus have signed up for a Twitter account and are using it in some capacity. We have compiled a growing list of Twitter accounts from across campus.

If your department is interested in using social media on behalf of the university, we want to know. We have some resources and do one-on-one consulting to ensure your presence is successful for yourself and the university. Just let us know.