PSU connects with students through social media

Nhan Ly Tran is a senior at EF International Academy in Tarrytown, N.Y. When he was accepted to Portland State this winter, he posted the news on PSU’s Facebook page.

Nhan Ly Tran is a senior at EF International Academy in Tarrytown, N.Y. When he was accepted to Portland State this winter, he posted the news on PSU’s Facebook page.

Tran is one of nearly 6,000 fans of PSU on Facebook. As social media becomes the ultimate human network, the university’s communication staff is committed to attracting prospective students like Tran and keeping current students interested on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites.

Tran applied to five universities this fall, including Stanford University and Harvard University. He said that PSU was his first choice. He became a fan of the university on Facebook when he received his acceptance letter.

“We have an opportunity to reach out to our audience,” said PSU Social Media Specialist Christian Aniciete. The university created his part-time position in August.

“The use of social media…is not optional anymore,” he said. “It has become a necessary communication platform to reach students, staff and alumni.” 

Since Aniciete took the position, which he describes as time split between generating content and monitoring PSU’s web pages and metrics, the PSU Facebook fan total increased from 3,683 fans to 5,901 as of press time. On Twitter, the university now claims 1,901 followers, up from 1,190.

The university also leverages its presence on Flickr, Vimeo and YouTube, where PSU video views went from 10,000 in August to 27,000 currently.

Marketing Director Julie Smith hopes to bridge the gap between PSU’s online following and the approximately 29,000 students attending PSU and the 5,500 faculty and staff working at the university.

“Our primary intent is to build community online,” she said.

Aniciete is currently working on a social media index at PSU that will outline social media standards and best practices and list all the web pages of official PSU-affiliated groups.

The index and its set of social media standards would be modeled after directories provided by other major universities, including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

OSU launched one of the first comprehensive social media campaigns in the country over the 2008–09 school year. The campaign, called Power by Orange, won regional and national awards.

“We have a launch-and-learn mindset here,” said David Baker, web communications director at OSU. “We’ve always looked at social media as a way to integrate students.”

PSU’s Office of Communications looks to OSU and other major social media players in higher education for best practices. Leading university Facebook pages—the Stanford University page and Indiana University’s page rank among the top five— boast hundreds of thousands of fans.

“A lot of what we do isn’t exclusive to a larger university,” said Justin Henning, social media manager at the University of Kansas, which attracts 127,663 Facebook fans and 5,519 Twitter followers to date.

Henning said that every post he submits to social media goes through four or five coworkers in his department before publication online.

“We always make sure it’s a group conversation,” he said.

Aniciete is confident about PSU’s future in social media.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

Aniciete hopes that students will interact on the university’s social media pages, such as when Cameron Enron, a high school junior, wrote on PSU’s Facebook wall.

 “Officially scared that since my junior year is almost a complete epic fail, I won’t get into PSU,” Enron wrote.

Christina Armstrong, a current student at PSU, replied to Enron’s post.

“I’m rooting for you! And remember, if things don’t work out, PCC is a great alternative until you have enough credits to transfer,” she wrote.

According to Enron, he uses PSU’s page to connect with students and ask about the university requirements.

“I’m a minority out-of-state student, so I really want to know what life at the school is like,” he said.

About 50 students and faculty responded to PSU’s most recent Facebook query: “How do YOU get to campus, Portland State Vikings?”

The post promised T-shirts to 30 randomly selected fans and the chance to win a grand prize.?