A survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was published on 14th January 2011. But are the approaches taken across that sector typical of the UK HE community? In order to observe approaches across a wider group of institutions the survey was repeated across the 1994 Group. This group, which was established in 1994 “brings together nineteen internationally renowned, research-intensive universities. The Group provides a central vehicle to help members promote their common interests in higher education, respond efficiently to key policy issues, and share best methods and practice.”
The survey was carried out on 18-19th January 2011 and, as with the initial survey, recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published together with details of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts and the provision of links to the Tweetstats service which provides statistical information on the average number of tweets posted per month .
Note that following comments made on the initial survey it was felt that it would be useful to include information on the number of Twitter lists which the accounts are included in (as described in a post on Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! we may start to see Twitter lists being used in a number of interesting ways(.
In addition information on the background provided on the Twitter Web site is included, as this may have implications for accessibility, and details of the date of the first tweet have been included. The statistical information provided by the Tweetstats service was extended to profile the Twitter clients used to post tweets. Also note that the information was gathered from the Web interface while not logged in to Twitter and that the full URL of the link to the institutional Web site is provided (rather than the partial URL which is displayed which was published in the previous survey).
|Institution||Nos. of Followers||Following||Tweets||Nos. of Lists||First Tweet||Tweetstats||Background Image|
|1||University of Bath: @uniofbath
Name: University of Bath
|5,339||73||1,642||290||19 Jan 2009||Tweetstats for University of Bath:
Average: 65 tweets per month.
|Logo and brief textual information|
|2||Birkbeck, University of London:
No single central account but multiple accounts listed.
|3||Durham University: @durhamuni
Name: Durham University
|4,302||2||208||233||2 Aug 2008||Tweetstats for Durham University:
Average: 6 tweets per month.
Twitter clients: Twitterfeed (100%)
|4||University of East Anglia: @UEA_news
Name: Uni of East Anglia
|3,256||129||307||158||26 Mar 2009||Tweetstats for University of East Anglia:
Average: 13 tweets per month.
|Plain blue background|
|5||University of Essex: @Uni_of_Essex Name: University of Essex
Location: Colchester, Loughton, Southend
Bio: The University of Essex is one of the UK’s leading academic institutions. We are one of the UK’s top ten universities for both teaching and research.
|2,259||237||876||112||27 Feb 2009||Tweetstats for Uni_of_Essex:
Average: 38 tweets per month.
|Photo with text of URLs for other social Web accounts|
|6||University of Exeter: @uniofexeter Name: University of Exeter
Location: Devon, UKWeb: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/
Bio: Exeter is a top UK university which combines world leading research with very high levels of student satisfaction.
|1,829||1,720||608||71||28 Jul 2009||Tweetstats for University of Exeter:
Average: 33 tweets per month.
|7||Goldsmiths, University of London: @goldsmithsuol
|2,883||458||428||174||13 Feb 2009||Tweetstats for Goldsmiths, University of London
Average: 15 tweets per month.
|8||Institute of Education, University of London: @IOE_London
|699||279||226||29||22 Jan 2010||Tweetstats for Institute of Education, University of London:
Average: 13 tweets per month.
|Photo, logo and textual information|
|9||Lancaster University: @lancasteruni
Name: Lancaster University
|2,886||136||290||198||20 Mar 2009||Tweetstats for Lancaster University:
Average: 10 tweets per month.
|10||University of Leicester: @UniofLeics
Name: University Leicester
|758||49||141||49||9 Oct 2009||Tweetstats for Leicester University:
Average: 14 tweets per month.
|11||Loughborough University: @lborouniversity
Name: Loughborough Uni
|423||14||164||43||5 Aug 2009||Tweetstats for Loughborough University:
Average: 9 tweets per month.
Twitter clients: Tweetdeck (80%), Web (7%)
|12||Queen Mary, University of London: @qmul
Name: Queen Mary Uni Londn
|2,644||1,250||799||150||28 Jan 2009||Tweetstats for Queen Mary, University of London:
Average: 30 tweets per month.
|Photo and logo|
|13||University of Reading: @UniRdg_News
Name: Uni of Reading
|625||143||176||42||19 Jan 2010||Tweetstats for the University of Reading:
Average: 8 tweets per month.Twitter clients:
|14||University of St Andrews: @univofstandrews
Name: Univ of St Andrews
|2,352||118||299||158||2 Feb 2009||Tweetstats for University of St Andrews:
Average: 12 tweets per month.Twitter clients:
Tweetfeed (78%), Twhirl (8%), Seesmic (5%), Web (2%)
|Blue background and logo|
|15||School of Oriental and African Studies: @SOASNews
Name: SOAS News
|16||University of Surrey: @uniofsurrey
Name: University of Surrey
|4,058||473||710||216||???||Tweetstats for University of Surrey
Average: 24 tweets per month.
|Photo and logo|
|17||University of Sussex: @sussexuni
Name: University of Sussex
|5,866||1,171||1,824||321||16 Feb 2009||Tweetstats for University of Sussex:
Average: 74 tweets per month.
|18||University of York: @uniofyork
Name: University of York
|2,822||113||394||222||30 Mar 2009||Tweetstats for University of York:
Average: 17 tweets per month.Twitter clients:
bit.ly (58%), Web (40%)
Note the the results from use of the MyFirstTweet service were inconsistent due to problems with the service itself. It is also unclear as to whether the correct page will be displayed by following the link provided.
Also note that the results for SOAS were not included in the subsequent discussions and analyses.
The previous survey documented examples of emerging best practices including suggestions on:
- Content provided in profile information (the bio: field).
- Location information.
- Links to the host institution.
This information is not repeated here.
A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics for the 1994 Group is given below:
- Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 423-5,866 (in comparison with a range of 865-12,265 for Russell Group Universities).
- Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 2-1,720 (in comparison with a range of 33-5,089 for Russell Group Universities).
- Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 141-1,824 (in comparison with a range of 192-1,167 for Russell Group Universities).
- Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 6-74 (in comparison with a range of 23-91 for Russell Group Universities).
Further Thoughts on Emerging Best Practices
The previous survey highlighted some suggestions for emerging best practices based on observations on how Twitter is being used across Russell Group Universities. This suggestions will not be repeated here. Instead comments will be restricted to some of the additional features which were surveyed:
- Background image and content: In the previous survey it was pointed out that “many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others … with additional textual information and link information“. However such approaches may, arguably, act as barriers to people with disabilities. There will be a need for institutions to understand and address such concerns.
- Twitter clients used for posting: The Tweetstats tool provides information on clients used to post tweets. It may be useful for those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts to monitor the various clients used in order to be able to identify tools which may prove particularly useful for institutional tweeting.
- Dates of first tweets: The date of an initial tweet may give an indication of when an institution began tweeting (although this may not be when a institutional Twitter feed was officially launched). However such information may indicate when Twitter became prevalent as an institutional tool. many of the institutions seem to have launched their service in early 2009 – it would be interesting to see if that related to an event shortly before that date.
I hope these comments will prove useful for those involved in managing institutional (or department) Twitter accounts.