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Social media changing how university, students communicate

August 08, 2013 12:00AM

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Even Gus is into social media. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @realgusgorilla.

Thousands students are on their way to Pittsburg State University for the fall semester, and they could not be more anxious to step foot on campus.

How do we know?

“Just get on Twitter and search for ‘Pitt State,’” said Chris Kelly, associate vice president of for marketing and communication. “We do that every day and love reading all of the posts from students who are excited to be back on campus. More than observe the conversation, however, we engage. We’ll reply, retweet and favorite their posts. That’s the beauty of social media. It provides that direct, instant connection with our core audiences that wasn’t really available before. And that’s why social media is more important than ever at Pittsburg State.”

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, once only a way for college students to connect with their peers, has evolved to become one of the premier avenues of communication between institutions such as Pitt State and the people they serve.

“Social media is no longer just about connecting people to people,” Kelly said. “Students are now using sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect directly to their school. They are using social media to ask questions, find information and share their own excitement about the university.”

At Pittsburg State, social media has quickly become one of the most popular tools for students to correspond with the university. With more than 17,100 Likes on the PSU Facebook page and as one of only three MIAA schools with more than 5,000 Twitter followers, social media engagement at Pitt State continues to be an increasingly essential and effective form of communication between the university, its students, prospective students and alumni.

“Whether it’s asking us a question through a direct message on Facebook or tweeting us a question or comment, students are more and more using social media to contact the university,” Kelly said. “We hear all the time that students are going away from e-mail and phone calls and turning to social media. That’s where they spend a lot of their time, and that’s how they prefer to communicate. We take great pride in acknowledging that trend and being there to answer them in whatever format they use.”

Nearly two years ago, monitoring and managing the university’s social media accounts became an official function of the marketing and communication office.

“When we saw that social media was quickly becoming more than just peer-to-peer networking, we changed the way our office operates in order to give our social media accounts the full-time attention they deserve,” Kelly said. “Social media is no longer a fad. Social media has revolutionized how the world communicates, and we definitely saw the need for a full-time social media manager.”

Between the social media manager, Kelly and other members of the marketing and communication staff, Pitt State’s social media accounts are monitored 16-18 hours a day.

“Our constituents, whether it’s alumni, students or prospective students, are on social media all day and night,” he said. “They don’t post or tweet just between 8 and 4:30. We get messages and tweets at all times of day, and it’s very important that we respond as quickly as possible. If a student has a question about a dorm room they’re about to move into the next day, we need to make sure we get it answered right away.”

Social media has also become an important recruitment tool for universities nationwide, in part because a university’s Facebook page is likely to be one of the first sites a potential student views when gathering information about a university.

“The role social media plays when it comes to recruitment cannot be overstated,” Melinda Roelfs, PSU director of admissions, said. “We know that potential students are checking out our Facebook page and our YouTube channel. We know they’re following us on Twitter to see what goes on at Pitt State. These days, an active, attractive social media site is just as important as an appealing, informative website. Social media is ever-changing, and it’s important that we are on the cutting edge of the movement. If students feel good about what they see on Pitt State’s Facebook page, chances are they’ll be motivated to visit campus and learn more about the opportunities offered at PSU.”

Social media at Pittsburg State also plays an important role in the areas of news, announcements and entertainment. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become three of the most popular and effective ways to share Pitt State’s story.

“We have more than 630 subscribers to our YouTube channel, the most in the MIAA, and a big reason for that number is the quality of the content we produce,” Kelly said. “The videos we put out on YouTube help tell our story in ways that few other avenues can. They’re informative, entertaining, engaging and fun. They give our audience a look at Pittsburg State that they cannot get anywhere else.”

Pittsburg State has also launched an Instagram account, which already has nearly 200 followers.

“And I’m sure before too long there will be other social media platforms we use,” Kelly said. “This is the way of the world now. This is where people are and where people are talking. We want to be part of that conversation, both for the university and for the people we serve.

“Plus,” Kelly added, “it’s a lot of fun. We get a real thrill out of engaging with our proud Gorillas on social media and seeing how they engage with us. Social media has truly changed how we communicate with our core audiences, and I think it’s an extremely positive change.”

©2013 Pittsburg State University