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The social university

By Jen Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 13, 2013

LSA sophomore Jeremy Jones updates his Twitter daily. Within his 22,763 tweets, he comments on everything from his new economics class to the first birthday of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s baby, Blue Ivy.

Over winter break, Jeremy received a tweet from @umich, the University’s main account. In response to his tweet asking to return to the University already, @umich responded: “We’re ready for you! Hope you’re enjoying your break.”

“Being that that’s our school, it shows that they are really connected and unified their students through social media,” Jones said. “I’m really happy that my school actually views my tweets and actually knows what’s going on.”

Jones received responses from the University’s Twitter account two additional times as well.

With different Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and LinkedIn accounts, Jeremy said he established his social media presence “to have a voice.”

As one of hundreds of millions of people flocking to these social media platforms, Jeremy recognizes his new place in the global conversation through social media.

Creating an off-campus, online campus community

Social media, more specifically Twitter, creates a quasi-Greek agora, or gathering space, for the modern world, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, a University alum who spoke at Rackham Auditorium in November.

“We once again start to see multiple perspectives on a particular news story or event that’s happening,” Costolo said in his presentation. “We once again start to have a shared experience across the globe about what’s happening and what we’re viewing now. We once again get an unfiltered perspective of what’s happening. But, at the same time, it complements all these traditional forms of broadcast media.”

With easily accessible forums, like Twitter and other social media platforms, people can witness and express reactions, personal thoughts and beliefs with a click of the mouse or a tap of the finger. With Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and several Twitter accounts, among other social media platforms, the University attempts to keep up with this technological trend.

To manage this new, social media venture, the University hired Jordan Miller to fulfill the new director of social media position last February. But Miller — working under Lisa Rudgers, the vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives — resigned in December under allegations that parts of her resume had been falsified.

Prior to her resignation, Miller said in a March interview that she hoped to establish the University as a national leader in the use of social media.

“In the same way that the University is a top school in so many other ways, we can and should be a ground-breaker and a thought-leader in social media,” she said. “We should be a school that other schools can look to and say ‘That’s how the University of Michigan’s doing it. They’re doing it right and that’s how we should be doing it too.’”

Between February and December, Miller curated the “University of Michigan Social Media” platforms and social profiles.

In addition, she launched the @umichstudents Twitter account in July, which is hosted by a different University student every week. The idea was generated from a conversation among Miller, Rudgers and several Twitter executives, including Costolo.

Miller said in July the student Twitter handle aimed to give a voice to students in the same way social media gives a voice to the University’s administration.

“You shouldn’t hear only from the administration — you should hear right from the students,” she said.

According to the Facebook, Twitter and the Philanthropy 400 Quarterly Results from July to Sept. 2012, the University holds the fifth most Facebook likes for colleges and universities with 457,000 likes in 2012 with a 4.6-percent growth rate.

Currently, the @umich Twitter handle has more than 31,000 followers and the University has more than 470,000 Facebook likes.

In March, Mashable.com, a website devoted to discussing digital innovation, named the University the fourth most social media-savvy university, showing how Michigan has established a prominent presence in higher education social media.

Josh Pasek, an assistant professor who teaches a Communication Studies class this semester titled “Social Media and Politics,” said the University needs someone to facilitate the social media across campus.

“A University as large as Michigan needs to coordinate its message across a variety of sources, and I think that there’s no question that today social media are important,” he said.