Schools embrace social media

Students are not the only ones addicted to Facebook and Twitter – the University is working to stay in the social media loop as well.

Visitors to the GW School of Business Web page can now follow academic events and updates using Twitter and Facebook, making it the latest GW school to join the social networks.

“It’s a brave new world of communication,” said Molly Brauer, communications director for the business school. “We wanted to have a place where folks from various places can see what the business school is up to.”

More than just making casual connection with friends, social networking sites also help schools keep up with changing media landscapes.

“First there were papers, then radio, then TV and now the Internet,” Brauer said. “And since newspapers are dying, it’s important to experiment with popular forms of media.”

More and more businesses and professionals are joining these sites as a way to reach and communicate with more people.

“I looked at the other schools on Facebook and these sites and I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got to be on there,’ ” said Donny Truong, a Web designer for the business school, who has been leading the effort to engage the school in social media.

More than half of Facebook’s users are outside of college and the fastest-growing demographic is people age 35 years and older, according to the site. Twitter is likewise most popular among people over 35, according to a Time magazine article. Brauer and Truong said this allows schools to reach out to more people than those who would generally be on the school’s e-mail listserv.

“There’s a huge movement across colleges to use social networking sites because it’s very difficult to reach people,” Brauer said. “With these tools, we can communicate with past students, recruiters, potential faculty – there’s many audiences and we have the ability to get in touch with them now.”

The Elliott School of International Affairs, too, has caught the social media bug and boasts more than 550 fans of its Facebook page and nearly 700 Twitter followers.

Menachem Wecker, assistant director of public affairs and a Web designer for the Elliott School, said he initially mocked his girlfriend for her devoted “tweeting,” but since linking the school with the network, he now sees the new communication as highly beneficial.

“At first I made fun of her,” he said. “After all, isn’t Twitter about telling the world what you eat for breakfast? But I then realized it could be a great tool for the school.”

While the social networking tool serves mainly to communicate, potential for professional networking exists as well. The business school also has more than 4,200 members on LinkedIn, a social networking Web site focused on fostering professional connections.

“I get calls and e-mails all the time from people within the LinkedIn group looking for jobs and internships,” Brauer said.

More traditional methods of communication such as newsletters, phone calls and mail make reaching large and diverse audiences difficult. But with use of online social networking, GW schools can now correspond easily with more school affiliates. A press release can be linked to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, allowing far more people the opportunity to get the latest GW updates.

“Most of us are already on these sites, so now all we have to do is spread the word. It’s efficient and probably one of the best ways to get in touch with people nowadays,” Truong said. “I think it’ll be very successful.”

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