Using HootSuite to Manage Student Communications

Everyone is using Twitter to engage their community in less than 140 characters. But not many departments have come to rely on the microblog as their primary communications channel with students. Florida State University’s Mike Sklens has led the charge in incorporating social media into the Admissions and Records department’s day-to-day workflow. And through leveraging Twitter as a customer service hotline, their department has cut their response time in half.

“Our Registrar’s office uses both Facebook and Twitter to keep students informed about important deadlines and other things going on around campus,” says Sklens. “We also occasionally share articles that we think are relevant to the office body.”

Sklens and his team use Hootsuite — a popular Twitter Management application that offers rich functionality around managing multiple Twitter accounts. At the beginning of the Fall term, Sklens’ team pulled up FSU’s academic calendar and scheduled reminder posts on HootSuite for the important events based on their deadlines. For really important deadlines, like the deadline to drop classes, they set up two reminders. The first goes out a few days before the deadline, and the second goes out the morning of.

“Having all of these reminders scheduled is great. But I think this system really shines when something goes wrong,” Mike believes. What he’s referring to is the inevitable hiccup in the registration process when it opens, the system overloads and goes down. This is when they experience the power of using HootSuite. “Typically, students call and let us know. We used to tell them to check in 30 minutes, and to call back if it still wasn’t working. Now we ask them to follow us on Twitter or Facebook. When the system goes down, we post a message letting people know. We post another message as soon as the system is up and running again. This has saved us so much trouble.”

There was an instance where Sklens was able to solve a student’s problem without him even asking for help. The student couldn’t register and mentioned it on Twitter. Sklens spotted the message in a Twitter search that he has saved. His username happened to be his actual name, allowing Sklens to look his file up and fix the registration issue. Once fixed, he sent the student a Direct Message on Twitter to let him know.

“This kind of secret customer service is one of my favorite things about Twitter,” Mike says. “I’d love to be able to do it more often, but FERPA gets in the way. Most problems require that I verify the student’s identity, or discuss private information — neither of which I’m entirely sure are “OK” to do on Twitter under FERPA.”

Atleast in the case of the student mentioned, Sklens didn’t have to verify his identity or reveal any of his personal information to help him out. He was able to solve the problem by sending a message saying “It’s fixed, call us if you’re still having problems.” This was also able to be done privately through DM, and not a public reply. As this becomes the norm at institutions across the country, we can start to see how this is a strong case for social media being more than just a fad.