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Posted at 6:37 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Boston University quickly revamps its online presence

By Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson

This is the second in a new, occasional series about the college and university employees behind Twitter handles, Facebook feeds and social media campaigns.

This afternoon I hosted an online chat about college social media and learned a lot from my three guest chatters. If you work in higher ed social media, I encourage you to read the transcript.

BU-logo.gifYesterday, we learned about social media at Harper College. Today: Boston University, which has more than 32,000 students and is quickly revamping its presence online.

I had coffee with BU President Robert A. Brown in October, and he told me about beefing up the university's coverage of itself on BU Today and moving the annual report online.

The university also redid its admissions Web site more than a year ago to better appeal to applicants, who do more and more of their college browsing and comparing online. The university just announced that it received a record 41,509 applications for 4,000 spots in next year's freshman class, an increase of 7.5 percent from last year.

Jenny1.jpgTo learn more about BU's social media efforts, I e-mailed questions to Jenny Mackintosh in the university's public relations office, who manages the main Twitter and Facebook accounts.

What's one of your coolest ideas that other colleges should copy?

BUniverse, a Web video library of BU-related content, was launched in April 2010. Anyone connected to the university -- students, faculty, alumni and staff -- can upload videos to the site, and can share those videos elsewhere on the web. BUniverse is a clean, beautiful interface to watch lectures, performances, news content and fun clips related to BU, and it gives a glimpse into the many aspects of our vibrant campus life in one place.

How did you become the social media person at Boston University?

I'm one of many people at BU who monitor social media. Although I do manage and monitor conversation on the university's main Twitter account (@BU_Tweets) and official Facebook page (facebook.com/BostonUniversity), we have many "Social Media Communicators" campus-wide.

Boston University has more than 32,000 students and more than 9,500 faculty and staff members with varying needs and interests -- that's a lot for one person to monitor. And that doesn't even count our alumni network! We meet once a month with BU's Social Media Communicators, who represent staffs from admissions to athletics, to work on cross-promotion and overall strategy. It's helpful to talk about the social media successes and challenges we're seeing daily across the university.

What is the most important lesson you have learned on Twitter?

Listen, listen, listen. This goes hand-in-hand with talking about yourself less and talking with your followers more. Our followers don't necessarily want to hear about how great BU is all the time -- they want to hear about what's going on both on campus and in Boston, and they want to know that we're listening as well.

How do BU students do most of their communicating?

Text messaging is a big part of communication on campus between students. For this reason, we've included SMS as a key part of our BU Alert system for distributing emergency campus information. As a side note, although I'm a proficient texter, BU students still leave me in the dust.

Additionally, any tool that lets us communicate with students on their smartphones (Twitter, Facebook, SMS, location-based services) is of interest to us.

What advice do you have for someone who was just put in charge of social media at a
university?

Don't go at it alone. Surround yourself with other co-workers who are genuinely interested in social media, even if they aren't in your department. Communicate openly with them about what you're working on. Your industry peers -- people who manage social media at other schools -- can also be some of your best resources.

Hoarding information won't benefit you; share and learn from others as much as you can.

Note to readers: This Q&A was conducted over e-mail, then edited for length and clarity. The photo of Jenny was taken by Todd H. Page. The BU logo is courtesy of the university.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | January 20, 2011; 6:37 PM ET
Categories:  Networking  | Tags:  Boston University  
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