Four months after the University hired Social Media Director Jordan Miller, she’s launched what is thought to be a one-of-a-kind social media platform among American universities.
Miller recently launched @UmichStudents, a Twitter account that will be hosted by a new University student every week.
With @UmichStudents, Miller wanted to ensure not only that the administration’s message was injected into the Twitterverse, but also that of the University’s students.
“We exist for our students and because of our students, and we need to give our students a voice the same way that we do (administrators),” Miller said. “You shouldn’t hear only from the administration — you should hear right from the students.”
Miller said the idea for the account was hatched from a meeting between Lisa Rudgers, the University’s vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives; several Twitter executives including Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who is a University alum, and herself.
Though administrators expressed no problems with the idea, Miller said some Twitter users were concerned that giving students an open microphone could lead to image problems for the University, similar to issues the Swedish government had with its similar @sweden account.
Miller emphasized that the account is intended for students to have the freedom to tweet about their experiences at Michigan but acknowledged that it will be monitored for inappropriate or profane tweets.
“I don’t know why we have this assumption that we’re going to put them on a pulpit and they’re going to do foolish things,” Miller said. “I think (with) our students, you put them on a pulpit and they really say great things.”
Miller’s inaugural Tweeter on @UmichStudents was her summer intern, LSA senior Taylor Davis.
Davis said that it was exciting to be the first user on the account. She added that it was empowering to be able to engage with followers about the University and echoed Miller’s idea that University students won’t want to tarnish the University’s reputation.
“For the most part, especially at Michigan, students are really proud to attend here … and want to represent the University in the best light,” Davis said.
Davis added that she and Miller agreed students should feel free to tweet about their concerns and how to improve campus life.
LSA senior Mark Chou tweeted for the account last week. Like Davis, he said what he enjoyed most was the power of the account to engage with individuals about the University.
“I just loved talking about Michigan and hearing (others’) own experiences and offering my perspective on Michigan and the life of a student,” Chou said.
Chou tweeted often about the Development Summer Internship Program, which he is a participant of. Tweeting about D-SIP even got the attention of Athletic Director David Brandon.
So far, the account has reached more than 580 followers in just one week of existence. Miller said she attributes the success to the talent behind the account.
“Taylor and Mark have both been incredible,” Miller said. “Honestly, I couldn’t have asked — or prayed — for better people. But it kind of proves this point I have — we talk about being (the) leaders and best, and our students really are the leaders and best.”
Miller said student demand to tweet on the account is high. She currently encourages anyone who’s interested in tweeting on the account to direct message or tweet @UmichStudents.
Business junior Maggie Chang will be taking the reins of the account this week. Chang, a blogger on The Podium — The Michigan Daily’s opinion blog — is currently a social media intern for the sports apparel company Under Armour.
Miller noted that there has been a “visible surge” in the social media presence in many of the University’s specific units and departments as well.
Though she declined taking full credit for this so-called surge in the University’s social media existence, she did acknowledge that her new post may have sent a message to the University’s many subunits.
“I think that my hire and my presence on campus definitely helps because it sends a message to the whole community that Michigan really cares about social media,” Miller said.
Miller added that with the help of people like Davis working toward the same goal, she intends to make the University a leader in social media for higher education institutions.
“We want to be the leader on these social media sites,” Davis said. “We want everyone to (see) what (higher education) is doing in social media based on what Michigan is doing.”
It seems the University’s climb to the top has already began, as she said she received a call from an administrator at the University of Texas last week asking for social media strategy advice.
Miller has also been hosting Spreecasts, or online seminars, about social media in higher education to discuss strategies with other higher education professionals.
Miller said her office is currently in the process of overhauling the University’s YouTube channel and is working on several other major projects that should come to fruition in the near future.
“There is so much that you’ll see coming out of the UMSocial office,” Miller said.