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Have What it Takes to ‘Take Over’ Twitter? (Guest)

EMG Guest

Beth Pullias is a PR coordinator/social media specialist at George Mason University. She has worked at Mason since January 2012. Beyond posting to Twitter and helping create awesome social media campaigns, she also writes for the university’s news desk along with pitching news to the media. Her favorite things about social media are engaging with people who she may have never met before and learning from others.

Originally from the Atlanta metro area, she graduated from Reinhardt University with a BA in Communications. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, obsessively checking Twitter for news, and spending time with friends and family.

George Mason University consistently ranks high on national lists of diverse institutions. With students from more than 100 countries with all kind of interests, passions, knowledge and experience, we have many stories to tell and many voices that make up the Mason community.

In July 2012, the social media team met with our new social media savvy President, Dr. Ángel Cabrera. Our meeting discussed ways to tell the many stories of people at George Mason in a new and different way.

During the meeting, Dr. Cabrera showed us the Twitter handle @Sweden. For those not familiar with this account, Curators of Sweden (@Sweden) hands over the country’s official Twitter account to its citizens. Each week, the account is passed off to a new person to talk about what they do, and share experiences and opinions they have as a way for the many voices of Sweden to be heard.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed to hand off our account to students, faculty, and staff across the university in an experiment we called The Mason Nation Project.

Scary—we know.

Our goals for the project included broadening and diversifying our Twitter account’s voice, engaging the university community with those outside of Mason in a unique way, and increasing our Twitter followers in six months.

During our planning phase, I reached out to the administrators of @PeopleofLeeds— a similar project to @Sweden—to figure out how they ran their project. They sent me the rules and regulations for their project, which was very helpful and helped us craft our own. I also contacted Twitter to find out how we could secure our account in the event one of our curators went rogue and locked us out of our account. (Luckily, no one has done that and we hope never will!)

Each curator tweets from Monday morning to Sunday evening. On Monday, I switch over the profile picture, add a short biography, change the password on Twitter, and update our website with their bio. Our design team created a marker for us to add to their photo when we upload it to Twitter and a logo for the project.

My direct supervisor, Tara Laskowski, and I identified several key students, faculty, and staff members that we knew were active on Twitter to test out the project. We opened the project up and allowed people to nominate others who would be interested in the project. Our goal was to get a wide variety of Mason community members to showcase the different voices of Mason.

To prepare our 6,000 followers for such a big change, we promoted our new concept by dropping hints of what to expect and launched a website with full details of why we were doing the project and how to be nominated. We also made the announcement on our news desk site.

In order to still push out information about the university, we started @GeorgeMasonNews. This handle allows us to post information about news and events happening on campus. It was important that our community could still find information on Twitter outside of the project and make sure to tweet out the handle every week after introducing the new curator.

Our rules are simple. We encourage our curators to tweet and express their personalities and interests, but remind them they are tweeting on behalf of George Mason University. We remind them that anyone from a child to their grandmother might be listening—so if they’re embarrassed to say it to grandma, think twice before posting.

We do not have a minimum or maximum number of tweets but encourage tweeting throughout the day. They also agree to not change or alter the account’s password, email, or user name. Our suggestions for tweeting includes things they are doing on campus—classes they are taking, dining experiences, events, etc. Many accounts still use our handle to get their news out and encourage them to retweet as they see fit.

Thus far, we’ve reached our goal of broadening and diversifying the voices of our handle along with engaging our community. To date, we’ve had almost 40 curators with more than 1,200 new followers.

Throughout the week, I’ve made sure to use Storify to archive all the past tweets. Our curators have ranged from a professor conducting a field study at Arlington National Cemetery to a junior taking part in an alternative spring break trip and even students studying abroad over winter break.

What I love most about The Mason Nation Project is the interactions between the curator and our followers every week. Each week, someone learns something new about the university—including us. Through our curators, we have learned how to cook ramen noodles in a coffee pot, how a professor who lives in a different state handles his commute each week, and what life is like for a university photographer. Whether it’s telling someone good luck on a final or giving them information on campus, this project is a great way for people at the university to interact with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to.

The project will be continuing into the next school year and we’re really excited to see (and hear) what members of our community are doing each week.

Are you interested in starting a project like ours? Feel free to email me for more details of the project.

2 Replies to “Have What it Takes to ‘Take Over’ Twitter? (Guest)”

  1. Strange.

    We ‘hand over the brand’ every day to admission’s interns who do tours. Not only do we hand over the brand, we can’t even go back and see what they write.

    And yet, handing over the Twitter feed, which is publicly viewable in real time is ‘scary’. I don’t think this is scary at all. I do think it is a tad gimmicky, and might not be in line with what our followers want, but it isn’t scary.

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