Social Media is Critical for Universities

My husband is a (very) proud graduate of Virginia Tech so I consider myself to be a Hokie-in-law. We both watched in shock a few years ago when a nut job called Cho killed 32 students and faculty. Since then social media has really taken off and I’ve often wondered if the horrific events of that day could have been averted or at least lessened had social media been then what it is today.

This morning a gunman entered the University of Texas at Austin library and fired off shots. I’m happy to say that the report I just heard stated that nobody else appears to have been killed, other than the gunman who apparently shot himself. Thank goodness!! The report also stated that the university sounded their alarms and sent text messages to staff; I’m sure that they followed their established protocols for an emergency and that the tragedy at Virginia Tech helped shape them.

But there is something they didn’t do that I wish they had. They didn’t push the news through social media. Doing so would have pushed the urgent message that an armed gunman is in the library to all of the students (and other interested individuals). It would have communicated to their students in a way where they would have known in an instant.

Example of how social media was used for online crisis communications at the University of Texas

This is what their Facebook page looked like this morning after the fact:

I don’t mean to criticize the administration there because, after all, it ended as well as it probably could have, nobody else was hurt and, let’s face it, I’m certain that they tried their best to resolve this quickly and peacefully. But in this day and age I advise educational institutions to embrace social media, particularly as a vehicle to distribute critical information quickly. This is where your students already are, Folks. Embracing twitter and Facebook will help with marketing your facility and connecting with your target audience. And, when necessary, it will also help you sound the alarm to your fullest capability.

Posted on: September 28, 2010, by : bex