Many GW students took issue with Justin Guiffré’s column suggesting that a school publication – mainly its Twitter account @GWToday – was damaging our school’s reputation. As a student, I found his attack on one of the school’s publications to be an overreaction. But as a social media consultant, I found it to be flat-out wrong, and the manifestation of a misunderstanding of Twitter itself.
For three years, my company has provided social media strategy and advice to campaigns, political action committees and companies across the Northeast. Our advice in regards to social media has always been the same: Go above and beyond. Go outside the box. Think creatively. Showcase your personality and hide your press releases. We’ve yet to have a problem.
GW follows this model correctly, and like all personalities, it sometimes is a bit loud, eccentric or personal. Guiffré’s criticism would have been on the mark if GW’s goal was to act exactly like every other University on Twitter – but GW’s goal is to stand out, to attract attention and to give a personal feel to the school. His criticism focuses on a tweet that bashed the New York Yankees, as if a prospective student might be discouraged from attending GW based on baseball allegiance. This is a good thing; we don’t want to be like every other University that tweets out press releases, talking points and prepackaged fun facts. Anyone following GW Today’s feed is aware that the account is being run by an actual person.
It’s not exactly clear what Guiffré wants the University’s Twitter to actually look like. More professional, perhaps. but in Twitterspeak, professional is boring. Tweeting can be a lot like giving a speech. We’re wowed by speakers who seem to speak from the heart, often without a speech, and who showcase their real personality. And we’ve seen what a flap a teleprompter can cause. GW has rightfully chosen speaking up over using a teleprompter. Sometimes speaking without a teleprompter can cause mistakes, but it’s better than staring at a sheet of paper, appearing to be reading from a list. Prospective students want to be talked to, not read at.
Though GW’s Twitter presence isn’t perfect, there’s much worse to be seen on Twitter. Sarah Palin invents words like “refudiate” and compares herself to Shakespeare. Kanye West has emotional breakdowns. Twitter is an open community that turns down staid press-release material and embraces the eccentric, and GW has reacted accordingly.
Every year, applications are up, our school is noted as one of the most active on Twitter and interest in GW continues to rise. GW’s doing everything right, and a little Twitter personality never hurt anyone. except maybe Kanye West.
-The writer is a junior majoring in political science. He is Chief Executive Officer of R&M Political, LLC, a social media and online publications firm.
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