Tanya Joosten, interim associate director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Learning Technology Center, said colleges have embraced popular social media sites largely because eMail has fallen out of favor with students.

“Students simply don’t use it,” Joosten said. And research suggests she’s right: Only 11 percent of teenagers use eMail daily, according to a study released in April by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Trial and error, the EDUCAUSE panelists agreed, was the most reliable way to form a social media approach that could be maintained by a small educational technology staff.

AJ Kelton, director of Emerging Instructional Technology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said campus technology staff would quickly find out that a robust social media presence is rarely measured in dollars spent on online undertakings.

“The biggest cost is the time it takes to do it properly,” Kelton said, adding that it could take weeks or months to learn student patterns of posting and commenting to Twitter and Facebook. “You have to learn the culture … and that’s hard to teach.”

Cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter simultaneously—using sites that allow posting to both platforms without jumping back and forth—could damage colleges’ social media reputation among students who can spot inauthentic posts, the panelists said.

For instance, a cross-post might be addressed to “our Twitter friends,” with the same text showing up on Facebook.

“Cross posting could be a problem and … not genuine, because you can alienate people,” Ritter said.

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