V-cs’ social media silence ‘misses huge opportunity’

Just one leader of a top 10 UK university has a Twitter account, report reveals

August 31, 2017
Twitter icon on smartphone screen
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University leaders are missing a huge opportunity to act as “brand ambassadors” and promote their institutions on social media, according to a report.

The analysis of the online activity of the UK’s top 10 universities finds that only one leader – Alice Gast, the president of Imperial College London – has a Twitter account.

The report, published by the media intelligence company Meltwater, looks at the impact on news and social media of the UK’s top 10 universities, as defined by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-17.

Industry Report: Higher Education finds that only one vice-chancellor and just one chancellor – Lemn Sissay of the University of Manchester – had Twitter accounts as of April this year.

Perri Robinson, head of marketing for the UK and Ireland at Meltwater, said that university leaders were “missing a huge opportunity to position themselves as brand ambassadors and thought leaders”.

She added that vice-chancellors and chancellors could be using social media to promote their institutions’ research, facilities, awards, graduates and credibility. The platforms could also provide a way to engage with alumni (who are potential benefactors), Ms Robinson continued.

“Many of the younger universities do have active chancellors and vice-chancellors on social media. We expect other universities to follow suit,” she said.

The number of posts on social media mentioning the vice-chancellors of the top 10 universities during the period analysed varied hugely. Stuart Croft, head of the University of Warwick, got only six mentions on social media between October 2016 and April 2017, compared with 384 for Michael Arthur, president and provost of University College London.

Despite having a Twitter account, Imperial’s Professor Gast garnered just 12 mentions, the report adds.

The report also finds that universities have fallen victim to “brandjacking” on social media. This is when an individual, organisation or algorithm uses a popular brand on social media to push their own messages or adverts.

Brandjackers might use a university’s name in a tweet or Instagram post that also contains links to YouTube videos about Kim Kardashian gossip and hotel adverts or to websites selling car insurance, for example.

Of the institutions featured in the report, the University of Oxford fell victim to the most brandjacking. Ms Robinson said: “We estimate over 50,000 mentions of Oxford University were unrelated to the school.”


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