In a verified Twitter account we trust

Recently I posted a look back at five years of @waynestate on Twitter. After that post something important happened, Twitter verified our account. Verified accounts are denoted by a blue checkbox which is displayed after our account name. This is exciting for us because it shows a stamp of approval by the Twitter community.

What is Twitter Verified?

Verification is currently used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter. The verified badge helps users discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s Tweets.
Twitter Verified Accounts

Why is verification important to Wayne State?

Verification is important to us for a few reasons.

  • Numerous imposter accounts have crept up in the past and these accounts threaten the reputation of the university.
  • It shows that the university has a commitment and resources behind our account.
  • If an outsider interacts with our account they can rest assure they are getting an answer that is official.
  • It puts in the ranks with a select few (currently under 37,000 verified accounts out of ~140,000,000 total Twitter users).

We now have “two timelines”

Twitter recognizes that a lot of the accounts reply to a lot of people. We happen to fit in to that category with over 55% of our tweets being replies. Someone coming to our account for the first time is going to see a lot of replies without a lot of context, that isn’t helpful. To fix this we now have a “No replies” timeline that shows only our public tweets that reach all our followers. If a user wants to see all our tweets, they can simply click the “All” link.

But what about all of our other accounts that are not verified?

Since most accounts across Twitter are not verified the status is not a stamp of approval, but instead an extra stamp to ensure authenticity. The 100+ accounts (that we know of around campus) will still continue to grow in followers at the same rate as they do now. Because verification is limited to certain situations, you can be assured non-verified accounts are not looked down upon.

As a department we follow all of the accounts across campus and retweet, reply and promote them as we see positive social activity. Hopefully the verified status on our account will increase the following of the accounts we interact with, especially the university accounts.

If you’re a department who is interested in using social media, Twitter, or beyond, to represent and speak on behalf of the university, please fill out our Social Media Questionnaire. We will follow up with the next steps for training and what is required to successfully represent the university online.

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.

Sentiment

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.

Social media butterfingers

Just call me “butterfingers.”

I move fast, it’s part of my job. I wear a few different hats: Web content admin, project manager, social media person. There is never a part of my day where I am only working on just one thing… and then the phone rings. It’s a constant juggling act.

In fact, I always felt this position was perfect for my personality as I’m a bit hyperactive and usually thinking about 20 things at once anyway.

This multi-tasking thing might have to change. I screwed up. It happens. But this particular screw up was broadcast to the university’s 5,000 or so Twitter followers.

One word: ass. Yeeaaah.

How it happened

This was around 8 in the morning. I had just sat down at my desk and was going through emails and tweets. I launched TweetDeck and then continued typing an email, signed in to another program and typed some notes in another window.

Next thing I know my boss says, “Hey, Jenn, you might want to delete that tweet.”

I look over at TweetDeck and there it was staring at me, moving down the column in what seemed like slow motion: ass. Somehow my cursor unknowingly wound up in TweetDeck and picked up a portion of word but it came out as “ass.” I mean, could it have been another word at least? Geez.

Within seconds people were tweeting us asking if we got hacked or is the Twitter person had been fired. I deleted it immediately and responded with, “Sorry folks! #socialmediafail” and then shook my head the rest of the day. Who knows what people were thinking when they read that.

Lesson learned

I make it a point to not post things from TweetDeck because there is no confirmation before anything goes out. All it takes is one strike of the return key. I use an application that was developed in house and I actually have to click “save” and select a time before it goes out to the world.

This started a conversation among my coworkers about some well-known Twitter screw ups. Someone working for Chrylser mistakenly sent out a tweet from the official account, rather than his own: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive.”

So, at least I didn’t drop an F bomb.

There was a similar incident with a Red Cross employee who tweeted “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” She also thought she was tweeting from her personal account. The Red Cross responded with humor: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

One thing I do not do is combine my personal and work Twitter accounts in any application. I figured one day I would accidentally tweet something from my work account. I just didn’t want to take this chance.

So go figure, I was trying to be careful. Lesson learned here is simply: slow down.

It's a jungle out there, why we interact socially

Sometimes I get caught up in coding something totally inspired by another project. It not only gives me an excuse to continue to program but also be flexible and create tools that add value to the university.

Today, 37 Signals announced they would start publicly displaying their “Smile Ratings”. This got me thinking, we rate all our twitter mentions as “Happy”, “Indifferent” and “Sad” in the same way, why not display that information similarly.

So I took an hour and this is what I came up with:

Continue reading “It's a jungle out there, why we interact socially”

Snow brings followers and trends

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/waynestate/status/32528105927086080″]

After posting the tweet above on February 1st, 2011 we received over 100 retweets and tons of questions looking for details. We replied and pushed everyone to the alert page on wayne.edu. We were blown away by the amount of traffic to our twitter account and mentions outside of the actual closure update after the post.

Here are some statistics about the traffic to that status page:

The traffic wasn’t just coming from Twitter but everyone was interested in the snow closure. The announcement was placed in the center “alert” area of wayne.edu so it stood out above everything else. We removed the notice at midnight on the 2nd since we were open again on the 3rd as you can see by the graph.

Trending on Twitter

All the retweets and mentions got the attention of  Twitter and they pushed “WSU” to a trending topic in Detroit and we stayed there throughout the evening. Above is a few screen shots of our status through the evening and how our position moved. Trending is really important to us because it is free advertising. Everyone who logs in to Twitter.com from the Detroit area sees our name and it doesn’t cost us a thing.

Context around the increase in mentions

Above is a graph of our mentions from Jan 25th to Feb 8th 2011, the big spike in the middle is the snow day. I haven’t posted about this yet but we keep track of all Wayne State mentions on Twitter and rate them as Happy, Indifferent or Sad based on the mood of the tweet. The above graph shows the Happy (green), Indifferent (yellow), and Sad (red). As you can see the closure helped push the happy tweets above the sad and helped us spread our twitter account and name to their followers.

Increase in long lasting followers

As a result of all the mentions and exposure we had a healthy increase in followers during the snow day. As you can see above, before February 1st we have a steady increase of followers each day but our exposure really pushed the people following us up to a new high. These followers will now get all future tweets and have the ability to spread our message even further.

Although it wasn’t the best publicity in the world it did show the impact of Twitter on the impression of the university. The discussion within our community is important to us and we will continue to monitor and react to it closely. Just as a side note this is not a push to have every department on campus on twitter. We thought you could learn from this small snapshot of our web strategy . If you are thinking of using social media for your department we continue to ask us first, we will work with your to come up with a solid and long lasting strategy.

2010 President's Universitywide Address Wrap Up

Today’s Presidential Universitywide Address went off far better than expected. The format this year was completely different than previous years. This year Interim President Allan Gilmour solicited questions on his website from the entire campus community. The community was not required to log in and he received 208 comments in total. President Gilmour read every single one. Dr. James Hartway, distinguished professor in the Music department, was the moderator for the address. 20 questions were selected for President Gilmour to answer. This format was engaging and brought out personality and laughter in the president and crowd.

We knew not everyone could make it to campus so like previous years we streamed the address live via Ustream.tv. We also, as with all streamed events, opened the stream to live chat. We set the chat up so it didn’t require login to comment. We had a banner on wayne.edu before and during the address to drive traffic to the stream. In addition we pushed it out on Twitter and Facebook. We just wanted to give you guys a little insight into the interaction with the stream.

Here are some stats about the stream:

  • 1 Hour in length
  • 260 Average concurrent viewers
  • 275 Total unique viewers
  • 218 Click throughs from wayne.edu
  • 133 Click throughs from Twitter / 35 from Facebook
  • 345 Total chat comments
  • 202 Total comments (open for 1 week)
  • 20 Questions asked

Watch the recorded address at: http://president.wayne.edu/video/2010-universitywide-address.php

Do 1,000 Twitter followers matter? No.

Yesterday we reached 1,000 Twitter followers, that might seem like a lot but it isn’t. Just because we have a four figure follower count doesn’t mean we can do anything special. It actually means we have to work harder to provide clear, concise and relevant content.

twitter-slow-growth-2

Slow and steady growth

Our approach with Twitter from the beginning has always been quality. We are not in it for the numbers and we only follow back accounts with a legitimate connection to the university. So far we are at 70% return follow rate which is very good, only 30% of the people we follow do not have a connection to the university.

We block spam accounts who follow us and our goal has always been to increase the stature of the university, not jump on the bandwagon. We are not looking for exponential growth but a good steady supply of advocates.

As we see an almost full saturation of social media by our prospective students it is impossible to ignore that these networks are a necessity to connect and help students make the decision to come to Wayne State University.

April Fools: Degree in "Reflective Science"

wayneeduapril1

This year we decided to have a little fun for April Fools Day. We decided that a degree in “Reflective Science” would be appropriate for a University. Of course we don’t have and don’t plan on offering a degree in reflective science but it did catch some attention. The link we gave out went to wayne.edu but all the content was flipped horizontally.

We initially sent it out through Twitter then Facebook. From there it got re-tweeted a few times and even picked up by our (soon to be announced) wayne state bloggers.

The click through rate on the link was 385 at last count. Considering it took us just 15 minutes to get the page setup it provided a great discussion between students, faculty and staff.

Along with the hundreds of other Web pranks that went on this year, ours was included in the list of all 2009 April Fools Jokes. Feel free to find it a vote it up if you enjoyed it.

Our Twitter Initiative

Listening to the good, the bad and the ugly.

This is the theme (or should be) of any social media initiative by any company or university. The idea of social media to many administrators is just a place where students are listening and will read anything thrown at them. The truth is completely opposite, students have a great BS meter, they will tune you out in a second if they know your trying to sell them something or take advantage of their time.

Truth is if the administration is not vested in truly changing what is broken its best to stay out of this realm. When students are in control of their own space the truth comes out, the truth being as blunt as possible. This scares people, it scares anyone to think people are trash talking their company or school. Although it is uncontrollable, it can be managed.

Just the thought of having a student post about the horrible experience with the admissions department at your university on their Facebook page where hundreds of their peers check every day can send chills down the anyone at the university’s spine. The thousands of dollars spent on marketing and building the reputation of a university can be smashed down by a few bad comments.

Unfortunately this is not a nightmare you can wake up from, it is happening every day. It doesn’t mean people are fleeing universities because of a few students bad reviews but it does deteriorate the overall impression of a university. With the many options and high prices of education now a days those perspective students are going to try to get all they can out of their hard earned dollar. If it means avoiding the hassle they will.

So what can you do?

Fix the problems. Realize that education is a business. And offer a high quality education with the customer service to go with it. A lot of universities do this and I am not saying they are slacking but there are some cracks. Some universities just have more cracks then others, the job of these social customer service representatives is to figure out where these cracks exist and how they can be filled.

Most universities don’t have these positions currently, not because they aren’t important but because they are new and have not proven their value yet. That is the way it is here at Wayne State, we do not have a dedicated customer service department but, we do have a marketing department which, has a web communications department inside of it. We have taken it upon ourselves to put together the experiment to become part of these spaces and really listen to students and respond to help them out and let them know we care.

Experience is something you cannot pay for, it just happens and undoing a bad experience can take ten times the effort it took to ruin it.

Twitter

We choose twitter as our main contact point, not because all of our students are on it but because its viability to listen globally outside of our network and to respond to students without feeling invasive into their network.

We created the account “waynestate” then started to track any mentions of the words “wayne state”, “waynestate” or “wsu”. Anyone that mentions any of those terms we follow them. The conversation was quite for the first 2 months. We use the account start adding value to the students, we posted deadlines and events going on campus.

After those two months students started talking more about Wayne State both positive and negative. We made it a point to respond to everyone, figure out what they are having issues with and offer our help. Although we don’t have direct contact with all the departments on campus since we have interacted with all of them when working with the homepage (wayne.edu) we have contacts all over. We can at the very least get the student to the person they really need to talk to to solve their problems.

We now have over 120 followers and follow over 85 people who are affiliated with the university. We are hoping this will grow exponentially in the next few months after school starts. We also have done absolutely no promotion of our twitter account besides in this article and recently just adding our updates to the current students page.

What’s Next?

We are here to help. Ask us a question and we will get you an answer, no matter what the question. We will not sweep your request under the rug, we will work with departments on campus to get you an answer.

We are truthful and transparent, we know we cannot change the university ourselves but we can do our part and share our knowledge with those who can make a different.

Follow us on Twitter.

Using JavaScript to find links within plain text

Today I was working on adding the Wayne State University Twitter feed to our website. It’s not a terribly difficult task since Twitter has some auto-generated code (javascript and HTML) for adding your public time line to a website. We, however, wanted more. Twitter’s auto-generated code offers a pretty basic setup, no frills at all. Our issue with the Twitter code is that the links within tweets lack markup and are non-functioning within a web browser.

The Solution

The solution is pretty simple, but not easily found online so I wrote my own. Twitter provides you with links to two JavaScript files within their auto-generated code. The first included javascript file provides you with two functions. One is the callback function that is used to display the json feed using HTML. The second function is used to convert the time stamp to relative time to keep with Twitter look. Rather than continuing to use the include from twitter.com I localized the two functions so I could edit the callback function and get some markup around those links.

My changes are fairly simplistic and make use of regular expressions to replace obvious plain text links with a marked up version of the links so the end users will be able to click the links.

The code to replace plain text URLs with their marked up version:

var tweet = "Some tweek with a link to a site: http://wcs.wayne.edu/";
var pattern = /(HTTP:\/\/|HTTPS:\/\/)([a-zA-Z0-9.\/&?_=!*,\(\)+-]+)/i;
var replace = "<a href=\"$1$2\">$1$2</a>";
tweet = tweet.replace(pattern , replace);

Now my regular expression skills are far from great, so it’s likely this can be optimized. It’s also possible I forgot some URL safe characters within the pattern. This code basically searches the tweet for anything that looks like http://i-am-a.link/cool/link.ext?okay=yes&fine or whatever the link might look like. I think it could be expanded to search for links that do not include the http:// as well, but I didn’t have a need to do that at this time. Here is the full modified twitter JavaScript code incase you want it.

The result is tweets with working links on http://wayne.edu/current/.