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With a large pool of alumni, thousands of students, many faculty and fans of the school, Boston University commands a large social media presence. Although each of the nine colleges within Boston University is in charge of their own social media accounts, a few people maintain the primary BU channels, which include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.
This week, we caught up with Emily Truax, one of BU’s public relations associates in charge of this hefty task, to learn more about how Boston University connects with its ever-growing network of followers.
How do you manage BU’s various social media accounts?
[Our office] manages the university’s main social accounts—BU Tweets, Instagram, etc. We also recently launched three Chinese accounts as well. My colleague Mary O’Connor oversees strategy so when folks throughout the University are sending out events or stories, we use discretion. I post on the non-Chinese accounts on a daily basis; our colleague Carol posts for the Chinese ones—Weibo, like the Chinese version of Twitter, RenRen, and WeChat.
We work very closely with admissions, especially around decision day and app deadlines to coordinate content that we think prospective students would be interested in. It has become so fragmented now that students are going directly to admissions.
What are the goals for BU on social media?
I would say—as everyone knows BU is a big school, we don’t have a traditional campus—part of the goal of social media is to create a community for all of those audiences online that enhances the experience on campus, the community feel, finding like-minded peers on campus, and also engaging with our community in our city of Boston.
A personal goal is being a human voice and being a resource that people can go to when they’re not sure where to turn. Especially on Twitter, few [other accounts] serve a customer service function, and I think that’s part of what makes us unique. And we’re very transparent and willing to admit if there’s been a mistake made, and to direct people with questions if they come to us.
In three words, describe the voice and tone of social media at BU.
Personable, enthusiastic, and relevance. We try to do a lot of listening to our audiences to make sure that we are tuned in to what’s going on at a certain time.
Which social media account is the strongest channel for BU? If you had to pick, which one is the “must-follow”?
I would say, on Facebook we have the largest audience, but I think Twitter. As I mentioned, it does serve that customer service function—you can get a lot of that back-and-forth engagement—but we’re also putting everything relevant that is going on on campus on Twitter.
How do you interact with followers?
I don’t think it’s a set way that we go about interacting with people. For the most part people will tweet us with questions or concerns and the number one rule we use when we respond is “Give it the human touch.” Don’t sound like a robot, give it empathy, and be as helpful as you possibly can.
The negative tweets are a case-by-case basis. If someone is ranting and there’s nothing we can say, we ignore it. Or if we could placate them, or if there’s a shred of hope that we can come to some mutual respect, then we do engage them. We don’t always get what we want, but we try.
For example, we had a student I saw complaining about some water damage they had in their room from a recent storm, and they were so frustrated with what they had, and hadn’t gotten it fixed. I actually ended up calling facilities myself and got them to go there, and even got a “Thank you.” That was a good interaction, I guess.
What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve gotten via social media?
We get a lot of crazy things—some good crazy. This is just coming to mind because it’s recent. We just had a student that went on and on on Twitter about how much they hated our handle, and we replied, “We’ve had it for five years.” She said we didn’t know what we were doing. But I like our “@BU_Tweets.” It’s kind of witty and I like it.
— Boston University (@BU_Tweets) September 16, 2014
Also, people get really creative and angry during inclement weather. People want there to be snow days… This is a good one: On Facebook, someone gave us a 1 star rating out of 5 stars and said they would refuse to remove their 1 star rating unless we gave them a snow day the next day. We just alert you if there is a snow day—I really have no say on if there is or isn’t.
Since you’ve been with BU, what has been your personal favorite story to share on social media?
I loved working commencement this year, I just think it’s such a joyous time of year. Our students and their parents were posting so much content, which then we could retweet or repurpose. It was a lot of happy people, which was really gratifying for me to see.
The other is when the Ellen Show came. My colleague got himself on the show. He was referred to as “the old man in the photo.” It was something totally frivolous and really fun that people got excited about.
Did you tweet at Ellen?
They contacted us because they wanted [to shoot on location at] Marsh Plaza. We coordinated with them to let our students know via our social accounts.
A lot of what we do is content that comes from BU Today, so I would say for the most part, if we have really compelling stories coming from individual schools and colleges, we will put that out.
Any interesting tweets coming up?
We launched a campaign last Wednesday, trying to get some of our alums and faculty [to share] what BU means to them. It’s a photo contest—there will be prizes and we have our judges lined up. It will be really fun and a good look at what the BU community is really about. I think it will be a good exercise to get more followers.
Olivia Culpo is on board. All of the submissions will be live on the Tumblr page. We are taking submissions through all of the social media accounts and they are aggregating on the Tumblr site we created.
Responses have been edited and condensed.