East Tennessee State University Department of Housing & Residence Life is a featured program.
In spring 2012, the Department of Housing and Residence Life launched an initiative to expand our online presence. With a generation of students coming in that have always known a time with computers and the internet, social media was a perfect outlet to reach these students. However we soon realized that it was not enough to simply be present, we had to engage.
At the time we already had a Facebook page and an inactive Twitter account, so our foot was at least in the door of social media. We delegated the responsibilities to a single person with the mission to engage our current and prospective students with our department and with each other.
The implementation of this initiative improved our Facebook page and Twitter accounts, created a Pinterest account, and laid the ground to start recording videos to launch a Youtube account.
Our Facebook page is the backbone of our social media presence. We primarily use it for posting relevant housing and university information (closing notices, dates for spring break, etc.), but also will post event pictures, ask questions, and share posts from other departments. Typically we post 5-10 times a week and have seen an increase in page views based upon the number of likes we have seen.
With twitter we can find out what residents are saying about the department (good and bad) and address it. We post important housing information, but the primary use is to have one-on-one conversations with students and prospective students. Retweeting about a resident moving in for the first time is a great way to informally introduce the student to our department, and lets them see that we are excited for them to be here as well.
Our Pinterest account has allowed us to make great strides in creating a relationship with our students, other universities, as well as other campus departments, through non-verbal picture/article sharing. We have boards that cover topics like decorating, cooking, on-campus living, motivation and humor. We also have boards to help our student staff with door decoration, bulletin board, and program ideas. Typically this is the social media outlet that our new students get the most excited about as evidenced by the large number of followers.
Once these accounts were set up we wrote a policy to cover all of our social media outlets and created a Facebook group for each of our halls. With these new groups, RAs can post not only department information, but also hall event information, encourage interactions between residents, answer questions and post pictures from their hall events. These groups are monitored by designated housing staff (Resident Directors, Area Coordinators, or in some cases Resident Advisors).
The policy also addressed the personal pages of student and professional staff as well, giving guidelines to posts if the staff member linked their profile to the department or the university.
In an age where students are all but glued to their technology, we felt that we had to meet them where they were. We still use emails and posters to reach residents, but with social media we reach them in a new way that they are already comfortable with.
Submitted by Bethanie S. Hyatt, Marketing Outreach Coordinator