GU Ups Online Presence
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 15:02
Amid grumbles that Georgetown has been slow to utilize 21st-century technology, the university has ramped up efforts to maximize use of social media in the past year.
In March 2012, the Office of Communications created a cross-campus, collaborative Social Media Working Group to develop a unified institutional identity to grow and organize Georgetown’s online presence. The working group has about 40 members and meets once a month to discuss social media strategies.
“There really is no precedent for developing a strategy around social media at a university like Georgetown,” communications officer Rob Mathis said. “We’ve really found that Georgetown is a leader in this area.”
In a list of U.S. universities compiled by social media analytical company Klout, Georgetown is ranked as the 17th most influential user of social media.
Mathis stressed the importance of engaging audiences, which include students, faculty, alumni and the community-at-large.
“In order to be authentic, content needs to be developed with your target audience, not just for them,” Mathis said.
As such, each networking platform has a designated purpose and audience. While the university’s Facebook page, which recently surpassed 50,000 “likes,” delivers news from the university, the Georgetown Twitter feed, with more than 16,000 current “followers,” shares general updates and encourages more audience interaction.
In addition to these efforts, several university offices and departments operate separate accounts on a variety of platforms. A landscape analysis conducted six months ago revealed 400 accounts with a combined reach of 1.6 million people.
“Because there are so many audiences, I don’t think one account on its own could do justice,” Mathis said. “I’m more interested in making sure we [have] great approaches.” Anupam Chakravarty (SFS ’10), senior manager of interactive communications at the Office of Advancement, echoed the importance of this approach, citing the Office of Advancement’s Tumblr page.
“Tumblr is a platform that we’ve increasingly used [for] temporary moments in the Georgetown experience that we really want to highlight,” Chakravarty said.
Posts on the Tumblr account have included birthday wishes addressed to the university, a yearbook-like tribute to the 2012 Commencement ceremonies and images for use as Facebook cover photos.
The Office of Advancement was also responsible for the “Hoya Holidays” card and the Dec. 19 “Georgetown Moments” YouTube video, which has nearly 16,000 views on YouTube.
The Office of Advancement found its social media efforts integral to its work with alumni outreach and the Campaign for Georgetown.
“People are able to share in the Georgetown story, especially alumni, who like seeing pictures of things like [Regents Hall], which wasn’t there when they were here,” Chakravarty said.
Chakravarty added that alumni are often curious about student life because of their own memories of Georgetown. The Georgetown Alumni Twitter feed was created one year ago and had 2,384 followers at press time.
“It’s important to let social media be authentic, unpredictable, in the moment,” Chakravarty added.
The university has used Pinterest and Foursquare and partnered with video-streaming platform UStream to produce live webcasts integrated with Facebook and Twitter. President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai’s Jan. 11 speech in Gaston Hall was the first webcast, drawing 170,000 viewers.
Georgetown’s Center for Social Impact Communication, founded in 2008, also shows the university’s commitment to social media and its impact on social issues.
“Our mission is very much tied into the university’s about making a positive difference in the world,” CSIC Deputy Director Julie Dixon wrote in an email. “We work with a lot of smaller nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area, for whom figuring out how to best use social media can be a real challenge, usually because they don't have the staff, time or resources to devote to sustaining that engagement.”
This drive to provoke thought and increase engagement can also be seen in other initiatives, such as University Provost Robert Groves’ blog. Groves’ blog posts are sent out to students in university-wide emails and published on the Office of the Provost’s website.
Groveshas also attempted to take advantage of Twitter, using his personal account to promote his blog posts and occasionally interact with followers. He has 543 followers, compared to Georgetown University’s 16,392.
Student organizations, like Students of Georgetown, Inc., have used similar platforms to reach out to the student body.
However, Corp Director of Marketing Keaton Bedell (COL ’13) said that younger people are less likely to comment than older users like those targeted by the Georgetown Alumni Association — a challenge for an organization largely focused on engaging the current student body.