UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for January 14th, 2011

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 January 2011

Previous Surveys of Institutional Use of Twitter

Back in July 2009 Liz Azyan published a UK University Twitterleague which listed the number of followers for various official University Twitter accounts. In September 2009 Liz followed this with a List Of UK University Twitter Accounts.

In May 2010 Duncan Hull published a post entitled The University of Twitter, UK: A Quick Survey. which summarised Twitter usage by the 20 Russell Group Universities – these are universities which:

represent the 20 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

As Duncan pointed out “they are exactly the kind of places you would expect to be embracing and experimenting with new technology“. In response to Duncan’s post Paul Dobson provided further analysis of Twitter usage by Russell Group Universities.

Finally I should mention a recent article on “Top 10 of Social Media in HE” published by the Science Guide blog which provides a summary of Twitter (and Facebook) usage across leading European Universities. This post points out that “Having a closer look at how universities from different countries perform in communicating via Twitter and Facebook, it is easy to see that Great Britain dominates the ranking” :-)

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Building on such previous work, a survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was carried out on Monday 10th January 2011. The survey recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published. In addition links to the Tweetstats service are given which provide additional statistical information on Twitter usage, together with a summary of the average number of tweets posts per month. A record was also made of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts. This information is published in the following table.

 Ref. No. Institution Nos. of Followers Following Tweets Tweetstats
1 University of Birmingham: @unibirmingham
Name: Birmingham Uni
Location: Birmingham, UK
Web: http://www.birmin…
Bio: News and events from the University of Birmingham
4,681 222 1,011 Tweetstats for University of Birmingham:Average 40 tweets per month
2 University of Bristol: @bristoluniName: Bristol University
Location: Bristol, England
Web: http://www.bristo…
Bio: News, events and general announcements from the University of Bristol
4,040   33 1,164 Tweetstats for University of Bristol:Average 91 tweets per month
3 University of Cambridge: @cambridge_uniName: Cambridge University
Location: Cambridge, England
Web: http://www.cam.ac…
Bio: News and Events from the University of Cambridge
11,759 211   923 Tweetstats for University of Cambridge:Average 43 tweets per month
4 Cardiff University: @cardiffuni
Name: Cardiff University
Location: Cardiff, UK
Web: http://www.cardif…
Bio:
6,764  43   862 Tweetstats for Cardiff University:Average 25 tweets per month
5 University of Edinburgh: @uniofedinburgh
Name: Edinburgh University
Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Web: http://www.ed.ac.uk/
Bio: Official news and events from The University of Edinburgh
4,092 177   666 Tweetstats for University of Edinburgh:Average 25 tweets per month
6 University of Glasgow: @glasgowuni
Name
:
Glasgow University
Location: Scotland
Web: http://www.glasgo…
Bio: Official news and events from the University of Glasgow
6,007 122   716 Tweetstats for University of Glasgow:Average 26 tweets per month
7 Imperial College: @imperialcollegeName: Imperial College
Location: London
Web: http://www3.imper…
Bio: Imperial on Twitter – follow us for campus alerts and daily highlights. Send your tweet tipoffs to twitter@imperial.ac.uk, or talk direct via @imperialcollege
6,210 2,248  889 Tweetstats for Imperial CollegeAverage 42 tweets per month
8 King’s College London: @kingscollegelonName: King’s CollegeLondon
Location: London UK
Web: http://www.kcl.ac.uk
Bio: News from King’s College London. King’s is a multi-faculty research-led institution and one of the world’s top 25 universities.
865  139  192 Tweetstats for King’s College London:Average 21 tweets per month
9 University of Leeds: @universityleeds
Name
:
University of Leeds
Location: Leeds, UK
Web: http://www.leeds….
Bio:
3,161  188  573 Tweetstats for University of Leeds:Average 44 tweets per month
10 University of Liverpool: @liverpooluni:
Obsolete Account
1,450 0 1
10 University of Liverpool: @livuni
Name: Uni of Liverpool
Location: Liverpool, UK
Web: http://www.liv.ac.uk/study/
Bio: This is the official Twitter channel of the University of Liverpool. Any questions? Tweet us!
2,900 405 1,352 Tweetstats for University of Liverpool:Average 50 tweets per month;
11 LSE:
No central single Twitter account found. However several official accounts exists e.g. @LSEpublicevents and @LSENews

12 University of Manchester:
No central single Twitter account found
13 Newcastle University:
No central single Twitter account found
14 University of Nottingham: @uniofnottinghamName: Nottingham Uni
Location: Nottingham
Web: http://www.nottin…
Bio: A twitter channel for Nottingham University
3,179 1,850 1,662 Tweetstats for University of NottinghamAverage 74 tweets per month
15 University of Oxford: @uniofoxford
Name
:
Oxford University
Location:
Web: http://www.ox.ac.uk
Bio: Twitter stream of the University of Oxford
12,265    48  380 Tweetstats for University of OxfordAverage 74 tweets per month
16 Queen’s University Belfast: @queensubelfast
Name: Queen’s University
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Web: http://www.qub.ac.uk
Bio: Queen’s has a record of academic achievement which stretches back more than 150 years. It offers a world class portfolio of research & educational opportunities
1,127    91  369 Tweetstats for Queen’s University BelfastAverage 23 tweets per month
17 University of Sheffield: @sheffielduni
Name
:Sheffield University
Location:Sheffield, UK
Web: http://www.sheffi…
Bio: Founded in 1905, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities with an outstanding record in both teaching and research.
5,869 5,089  744 Tweetstats for University of Sheffield:Average 30 tweets per month
18 University of Southampton: @southamptonnewsName: Uni of Southampton
Location: University Road, Southampton
Web: http://www.southa…
Bio: The official twitter channel for the University of Southampton.
1,876   302  796 Tweetstats for University of Southampton:Average 30 tweets per month
19 University College London: @uclnewsName: UCL News
Location: London
Web: http://www.ucl.ac…
Bio: News from UCL – London’s Global University
2,523   190  940 Tweetstats for University College London:Average 44 tweets per month
20 University of Warwick: @warwickuni
Name
:
Warwick University
Location: United Kingdom
Web: http://www.warwic…
Bio:
6,334   715 1,137 Tweetstats for University of Warwick:Average 40 tweets per month
TOTAL 83,562 12,073 14,376

Note the @lsepublicevents (which is described as “Free public lectures and debates at LSE, with high profile speakers from government, politics, business, academia and civil society. http://www.lse.ac.uk/events” was not included in this list of institutional accounts as his seems to be a departmental Twitter account. However, for the record, this Twitter account had 10,542 f0llowers, was following 1,162 account and had posted 3,470 tweets.

Discussion

Institutional use of Twitter is relatively new, so best practices are not yet well established. Surveys of Twitter usage can help to identify patterns of usage from which in may be possible to observe emerging best practices.

Profile Information

The information on the Twitter profile can help to understand how institutions regard their use of Twitter.

  • Institutions which make it clear that the Twitter account is an official channel or is providing official news : Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton.
  • Institutions which define the scope of the Twitter account as covering news and/or events: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, KCL and UCL.
  • Institutions which provide marketing information in their Twitter profile: KCL, Queen’s University Belfast and Sheffield.

Location Information

A variety of location information was provided in the profiles:

  • City and UK: Seven Eight instances: Birmingham, UK; Cardiff, UK; Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Liverpool, UK; London UK; Leeds, UK; Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK; Sheffield, UK
  • City and country: Two instances: Bristol, England; Cambridge, England
  • Country only: Two instances: Scotland; United Kingdom
  • City only: Four instances: London; Liverpool; Nottingham; London
  • Road and city: One instance: University Road, Southampton
  • No location: One instance: University of Oxford

Location information could potentially be used by automated harvesting tools or by location-sensitive applications. Note it was also noted that non of the Twitter accounts provided location information in a machine-readable format.

Links

The following institutions provided links to their institutional Web site from their Twitter profile:

  • Links to home page: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick and Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial College and KCL
  • Link to news page: UCL
  • Link to Study page: Liverpool
  • Link to about/help information: None

Note that links to an institutional Web site from a popular service such as Twitter may help in enhancing an institution’s Google ranking. [Note as described in a comment to this post, this is unlikely to happen due to use of the NOFOLLOW attribute.]

Also note that a link to a help page could provide information on how the Twitter account is being used.

Metrics

A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics is given below:

  • Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 865 -12,265.
  • Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 33-5,089.
  • Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 192-1,167.
  • Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 23-91.
  • Numbers of institutions not apparently using an official Twitter account: Three institutions to not seem to have an official Twitter account and one institution is not using what seem to be an official Twitter account.

Note that:

  • The number Twitter followers may be some indication of value. However this number is likely to be influenced by the size of the institution:
  • An institution may wish to develop a policy on following other Twitter users. There is no need to follow other Twitter users, especially if the Twitter account is used for one-way broadcasting of information. If Twitter accounts are followed this will allow direct messages (DMs) to be sent between the institution and the user. Also not that it is possible to configure a Twitter account so that new followers are automatically followed back.
  • The number of tweets posted will be affected by the date the Twitter account was created. The average number of tweets posted per month may be a more useful way of comparing usage patterns across institutions.

Emerging Best Practices

The following suggestions are proposed for best practices for institutional Twitter accounts:

  • An appropriate profile should be provided. This could be used, for example, to clarify the status of the Twitter account, the scope of usage and to promote the host institution.
  • The location of the host institution should be provided, in text and as geo-located metadata, in order for tweets to be available to location-aware services.
  • Twitter profiles should provide links back to appropriate pages on the institution’s Web site.

Note that it is probably also desirable to provide a policy on use of an institutional Twitter account. It may be desirable to link to the policy from the Twitter profile, so that users can easily discover the scope of the Twitter account, policies on following users and policies on responding to messages.

Also note that this post does not seek to address the question as to whether an institution should have an official Twitter account. That question, and related issues such as the purpose of the account, who should manage it and how it should be resourced, will be very dependent on institutional factors, including issues such as the relationship with other communication channels, possibly including Facebook.

Finally it should be added that it was observed that many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others, such as Cardiff University, with additional textual information and link information (though this is not hyperlinked). However it should be noted that information provided on the Twitter background will not be available to those who use a dedicated Twitter client so there will be a need to provide relevant information in the Twitter bio field.

Your Feedback

I’d welcome feedback and comments on this survey and the accompanying suggestions. Is the data I’m provided correct? Are the suggested emerging best practices appropriate? Are there other suggestions which could be provided? I’m always welcome snapshots of Twitter statistics for other institutions (from the UK and beyond), although note that in order to provide meaningful comparisons, data should be provided for an official institutional Twitter account and not for departmental accounts.


NOTE: Information on the official University of Liverpool Twitter account has been received (which could not be found easily on Google). The table and summary information have been updated. Also note that the totals in the table were collated after the post was initially published.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 29 Comments »