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I manage the main Twitter account for UT Austin's business school. It's been going for a year and a half, shares content from our news blog and magazine, and we have a good community there. Other units at the b-school, like Alumni Relations and the undergrad and MBA programs have also started their own Twitter feeds.

 

Our office (Communications) also runs 2 other blogs - one each about news and research on Energy and Innovation/Entrepreneurship. They have each started related Twitter accounts, but now are skeptical about the ability to grow them, so we're trying to decide if they should just tweet through the main school account that's well established.

 

Pros to this approach? We don't splinter our audience, brand unification, takes advantage of the already established followers.

 

Cons? Could lead to over-tweeting if we're essentially filtering 3 blogs to 1 outlet. I mainly follow/interact with students and alumni, but I'd imagine those subject-matter focused accounts would want to follow/interact with folks in those sectors. So they're sort of serving 2 different purposes. Also, someone interested in energy research probably doesn't care about our events or student/faculty accomplishments, 2 things I tweet about often.

 

We're brainstorming about this as a team and looking at our goals/audiences more closely, but I'm curious what anyone here might have to say. Have you had experience with this conundrum? Any user research to support either direction?

 

PS - Sorry for the lengthy post. Didn't know how to explain this more succinctly!

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This is a great topic. Here are two excellent posts that will provide some food for thought:

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/07/15/three-ways-companies-...

http://bhc3.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/early-companies-deputizing-the...

We will need a major paradigm shift moving forward. Instead of thinking about offices participating, we need to think about people participating. It's not about having the Alumni Office or the Admissions Office involved, it's about having all their employees involved.

I have a lot more to say on this topic. I will be making a presentation at several higher ed conferences this year called "The Cluetrain Stops at Higher Ed - Will Anyone Take Delivery?". The basic premise of the "Cluetrain Manifesto" is that people don't want to talk to organizations, they want to talk to people, in a human voice. I think the 95 thesis contained in the book are applicable to higher ed. Here is a great graphic from the book: http://blog.timetrade.com/Portals/11232/images//cluetrain-rap.png.

While most organizations are not ready for this approach, IMHO this is where we are heading.
Just wanted to piggyback on Mark's great insight. We have several (around 30 that I know of) accounts on Twitter used with varying degrees of success. Every time a new one sprouts up I try and call the creator in person (I know, very 20th century). I try and stress the importance of attaching a real name to the account, even if it's just in the bio, because when it comes down to it, all social media is a conversation between PEOPLE, not between the accounts they hold.
I have multiple accounts for my institution. For me it wasn't departmental, it is more promotional for the degree programs offered.
Here is an article on how IBM's approach to social media and offers great insight into the value of having everyone in an organization participating with social media. The summary of their approach is: “We don’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID because we want the ‘IBMers’ in aggregate to be the corporate blog and the corporate Twitter ID.”

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-ibm-uses-social-media-to-spu...
Thanks for your replies, Mark and Stephanie.

Mark - I will check out these links. We definitely want individuals involved in social media, and have quite a few doing so, including a few professors. (Although it's extremely difficult to convince them they have time!) And we absolutely strive to make our accounts human and personal, even if they have a brand name. But I do have to say, a lot of people seem to think it's pretty cool that the business school is on Twitter - like they're proud of the fact that we're in that space. And then of course the question becomes that if all your company's accounts are just personal accounts what happens when those people leave?
Great question - this is something that I struggle with regularly.
Barring the fact that it would take some management, do you think having multiple offices on campus use one Twitter account is risking being labeled as a spammer? I think CoTweet would be a good tool for this but I'm not too convinced it is the best path. On the other hand, I'd hate to see our social network efforts get too fragmented. What do you think?
I think you've definitely got it right that you need to look at what your potential followers would want from following a specific twitter account. That should drive your strategy first and foremost.

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