An illustration of a hashtag with college students sitting in it on laptops & devices

Does your college president have a strong enough social-media presence?

Higher-ed presidents can greatly benefit from a few key social media practices

If you’re the president of a minority-serving institutions (MSI) and not using Twitter, you may be missing out on a big opportunity, according to the research. Only 36 percent of MSI presidents use Twitter, compared to 55 percent of all college and university presidents.

Of that MSI group, most don’t post or tweet regularly, meaning they miss chances to connect with current and prospective students, as well as stakeholders and supporters, according to Presidential Engagement of Students at Minority Serving Institutions, a report from the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, which gauges how MSI leaders can use social media to connect with and engage students.

“As the student demographics shifts to a more a technologically savvy (and dependent) student population, presidents must also shift in their engagement of social media,” the authors write. “As presidents aim to prioritize authentic relationships with students and cultivate communities on their campuses, many presidents have used social media to better engage with their students.”

Steps to establish a strong social-media presence

The report includes six recommendations for MSI presidents to establish and sustain a social media presence:

1. Create a social media account. This might be obvious, but it’s important for presidents to create their own account and not send messages via their institution’s official school-wide account. It gives presidents a way to share updates, spread school spirit, and highlight achievement while humanizing the president among the student population.

2. Prioritize your social media presence. Presidents must be consistent in their social media engagement and should make it a priority to post or tweet multiple days each week.

3. Diversify content. Institution presidents will benefit from posting a variety of content to connect with students, the university community, and the larger surrounding community. Examples include student activities, community service, scholarship and job opportunities, and responding to or commenting on student posts.

Related: How to use social media to engage Gen Z in class and beyond

4. Use a social media team. Ideally, a president will use his or her social media accounts as much as possible. But sometimes, busy schedules get in the way. Social media personnel should be available to step in and keep the accounts active.

5. Follow students back. Following students back after they follow their institution’s president is a great and simple way to acknowledge their presence and can show that presidents care about students’ success.

6. Get personal. True, keeping work and personal lives separate is a good idea. But presidents shouldn’t be afraid to share moments of life outside their “presidential” roles.

5 ways to engage students in real time

The report also features recommendations for presidents wanting to further engage students on campuses:

1. Consider creating a regularly-monitored space on the institution website to allow students to make sugestions to the president.

2. Presidents can further engage students by listening–either through one-on-ones with students or by attending student events–to their passions and those causes that are important to them.

3. Few presidents are offering public support to students as these students champion social justice-related activities. Although presidents need to make individual choices about what to support, presidential engagement around issues such as DACA, voting rights, and racial discrimination are essential.

Related: How to use social media to engage your students

4. Engagement of students around tragedy is vital to creating a family-like community–one in which students trust the president and the administration to a greater extent.

5. Presidents should consider being more transparent with students around the role presidents play within the institution, inviting students to shadow them and communicate the experiences to other students.

Laura Ascione