MSI presidents

11 ways presidents can engage students with social media

MSI presidents--and higher-ed presidents in general--can greatly benefit from a few key social media practices

Only slightly more than two-thirds (36 percent) of presidents at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) use Twitter, compared to 55 percent of all college and university presidents–and they’re missing out on a big opportunity, according to new research.

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, which gauges how MSI leaders can use social media to connect with and engage students.

The report comes from the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, and its leader profiles and social media suggestions aren’t necessarily limited to MSI presidents.

“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.”

The report offers a look at MSI presidents with large Twitter followings and profiles those with social media savvy. The 10 MSI presidents with the biggest Twitter followings are:
1. Renu Khator, University of Houston
2. Wallace D. Loh, University of Maryland, College Park
3. Walter Kimbrough, Dillard University
4. Joseph Castro, California State University, Fresno
5. Michael Sorrell, Paul Quinn College
6. George T. French, Jr., Miles College
7. Eduardo J. Padrón, Miami Dade College
8. Wayne Frederick, Howard University
9. David Thomas, Morehouse College
10. Elwood Robinson, Winston-Salem State University

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.

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.

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.
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.

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Laura Ascione
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