Universities Seem To Be Promoting An 'Inaccurate' Depiction On Twitter, A Major Study Finds


A new study revealed that universities are failing to use Twitter effectively. Moreover, higer education institutions may actually be promoting "inaccurate" depictions of themselves through the microblogging site.

Times Higher Education reported that an analysis of the Twitter profiles of 2,411 higher education institutions in the United States showed that colleges and universities were largely using the social networking platform to highlight positive aspects of their institution. Schools using Twitter to engage in dialogue or debate and reach out to the community were lesser in number.

Royce Kimmons and Scott Woodward, of Brigham Young University, and Royal Roads University's George Veletsianos authored the study. They noted that colleges and universities should use Twitter to break down barriers with the wider community, not just as a marketing tool.

In their analysis, detailed in the journal "Innovative Higher Education," the authors revealed that 78.8 percent of 5.7 million tweets served to broadcast information. This includes posts that notify followers that a new issue of a university magazine has already been published.

Only 12.2 percent of tweets called readers to action, asking them to respond in a particular way. Examples are to "read," "retweet," "follow" or "join us." 10.1 percent directly engaged with another tweet or user.

It was also found that about four in 10 posts expressed positive sentiments such as "Welcome to campus new students! We're enjoying the day with these soon to be [team mascots]!" In tweets that contained images, 85.4 percent featured a positive image of the institution. About half of these tweets (47.8 percent) showed events like student activities, 24.9 percent showed campus scenes while 12.8 percent showed graduation ceremonies and the like.

According to Dr. Kimmons, assistant professor in instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young, a university's Twitter accounts were "used almost entirely for branding and events management." "Rather than removing barriers, it seems that social media may actually be used to further polish the ivory tower image of the university by conveying inaccurate or incomplete messages about who attends and what goes on there," he said.

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