NU begins using Twitter, gains student following

Stephanie Lu

From the Northwestern University Library to nuCuisine to ASG and everything in between, NU is satiating students’ need to know what’s going on around their campus – in real time.

In a recent survey conducted by the Greater Talent Network, Inc., NU placed 16th out of 100 schools in the country using Twitter to spread academic news. Other institutions using Twitter include Harvard Law School, Stanford University and Loyola University Chicago.

Twitter’s popularity springs out of a fundamental human desire to share information, said Tom Collinger, NU’s Integrated Marketing Communications chair.

“Word of mouth has always been understood to be the most believable and powerful form of influence, more than advertising and any form,” he said. “The technology has just made it possible for the behavior of sharing to happen much more quickly and much more widely.”

The University started “NorthwesternU” on Twitter shortly after the Qatar campus was established, said Alan Cubbage, vice president for University Relations. Matt Paolelli, the University’s web content provider, has been the driving force behind helping to develop NU’s Twitter accounts and Facebook page.

“You can’t say a lot (on Twitter), but it’s a good way for media outlets to find out what we’re putting up as news,” Cubbage said.

NorthwesternU has slightly more than 1,600 followers, including CNN and the Chicago Tribune.

“We’re still in the honeymoon phase,” Collinger said. “Nobody has been using this kind of instant access, broad communication platform for more than a year or two, it’s that new.”

The speed of Twitter updates appeals to some students like Weinberg sophomore Cassandra Byrne.

“It’s efficient and convenient, because I spend a lot of time reading Twitter updates anyway,” she said. “And it makes me feel good about my university stepping into the 21st century.”

McCormick freshman Marc Denning said he appreciates the flexibility and freedom of reading Twitter updates.

“I can subscribe to exactly the news sources I want to hear from rather than having to sift through a bunch of stories that don’t interest me,” he said.

But while the University’s Twitter feed makes students feel like they’re in the know, it’s not for everyone. Collinger said the main challenge for institutions and companies using Twitter is that the attention spans and interests of individuals are limited.

“I live a Twitter-free life,” Weinberg freshman Leah Krevitt said.

However, Collinger said he believes Twitter will mature as a communications platform.

“Over time, we will want to filter out some (sources) and only hear from the kinds of sources we want to hear from,” he said.

Cubbage said he is proud of NU’s adaptation to the growth of the Internet.

“I give a lot of credit to my staff,” Cubbage said.

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