Using Twitter to connect with faculty
February 24, 2021
By Nina Verishagen
The third of a three-part series on social media activities for academic libraries
This article was originally published on August 20, 2019. It is the third of a three-part series on social media activities for academic libraries. The other articles in the series are "Creating social media committees to increase your library’s social presence" and “Instagram: the new way to connect with students."
Every spring, our marketing librarian and our social media committee (SMC) evaluate our social media efforts from the previous academic year. In 2018, expecting that Facebook might be losing ground to channels that are more popular with younger populations (such as Instagram and Snapchat), we decided to analyze each of our platforms. Until this point, the content created and posted on all three of our active platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — was targeted at students enrolled at the institution.
Over the years, through informal feedback channels, we had learned that our students were not connecting with us on Twitter in any substantial way. Conversations with our institution’s communications strategist revealed that this is not uncommon in our geographic location. Our institution utilizes Twitter to connect with the community, as well as to broadcast news and updates to stakeholders in the provincial industry. Ultimately, the target audience is not students.
Because we don’t actively communicate externally in the same way as our parent institution, when we began to review our Twitter analytics, we expected that we might ultimately discontinue activity on that channel completely. However, the data revealed something interesting: Of our 375 followers, while only three were identifiable as students, 49 were identifiable as staff members (faculty, professional services or upper management). We decided that this 13 percent was enough to warrant moving in a new direction. We shifted gears, making faculty our new target audience on Twitter.
Tweeting has become a popular trend among post-secondary educators, who use it for research, professional development, sharing, building networks and career advancement (Atkins, Koroluk & Stranach, 2017). With this in mind, we began a targeted campaign with tweet themes, posts featuring staff content and tweet “takeovers” by faculty. Our content was directly connected to the work our faculty was engaged in, and we slowly began to see an impact. Currently we have 409 followers, and 62 of them are identifiable as staff members and 41 as faculty. Our team is analyzing data for an article highlighting these efforts. But this increase of 13 followers, with no efforts outside of a change in content, exceeded our expectations.
At times, engagement has been unexpected and, in the case of the event described below, fell outside of the scope of our study. This past March, we experienced high levels of engagement at an event hosted by our open access librarian, which confirmed for us that faculty and educators are interested in connecting on this platform, and that we should continue with this work.
Live tweeting at an open access event
The library, in partnership with our institution’s Instructional Leadership and Development Centre (ILDC), invited a guest speaker to discuss open pedagogy. This presentation was our first major event for Open Education Resources Week. Because we are situated in four campuses across a province, it was necessary to offer two back-to-back in-person sessions at one campus, accompanied by a live Zoom stream to the other locations.
To encourage dialogue between the presenter and the audience, we invited questions through the chat feature in Zoom, as well as through the Twitter handle @saskpolytechlib. We used the same handle to live tweet during the presentations and monitored notifications. Participants asked questions via chat, not through Twitter, because Zoom was the more convenient option.
Even though no one asked a question on Twitter, we were surprised to find that we gained four Twitter followers during the session; two were faculty members from the Saskatchewan Polytechnic community.
We live tweeted for two hours, authoring 24 tweets. Throughout the live tweet session, we had a total of 6,683 impressions and 24 engagements (16 likes, three user profile clicks, one URL click, two hashtag clicks, one detail expansion, one media view, and one media engagement). Our library director retweeted a post advertising the session that was then liked by our parent institution.
This was also the first time that the library experimented with a live and simultaneously streamed session. We had 49 people attend, 31 in person and 18 via streaming. In addition to live tweeting the session, we posted content on Twitter throughout OER week. We gained two unique followers, averaged 266 impressions per post, and received 14 likes across the 24 tweets.
We think this was significant as we engaged with our target audience for a specified period about a topic that was most likely new to them. We gained a few new followers, had a retweet from our organization, and booked an in-person OER session at another campus.
Twitter takeover by a faculty member
Spurred on by the success of the first initiative we tried a faculty “takeover.” We invited a member of the nursing faculty to submit eight tweets about National Nursing Week to be posted on our channel. She sent them in advance, and we scheduled them and included her personal Twitter handle in each post. We averaged 432 impressions, nine engagements, 10 retweets, three replies and 16 likes.
Little gains make a big difference
The ease and success of these activities will dictate our Twitter direction for the 2019-2020 academic year. We hope that by connecting faculty with each other through live tweets and takeovers that we will gain more followers, initiate academic Twitter use for those not currently using the platform, and generally increase the impact of this communication channel for the library. Sometimes social media wins are huge and result in viral posts and a multitude of new followers, but in this case, the win is small yet meaningful. Connecting our academic community with concepts like open access and participating in events like National Nursing Week fall completely within our library’s strategic plan and enable us to fulfill our professional goals. We anticipate many more small wins in the coming months!
Atkins, B., Koroluk, J., & Stranach, M. (2017). Canadian teaching and learning centres on Facebook and Twitter: an exploration through social media. TechTrends, 61(3), 253-262.