University uses social media outlets to reach UNA, local communities

UNA, like the vast majority of other universities across the country, is using social media to reach current and prospective students, as well as alumni and members of the community.

The university has a active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

UNA went through a strategic rebranding process in 2008 and began using social media websites.

“When we began to really look into using social media, one of our alumni in Atlanta had already begun a fan page for the university on Facebook,” said Josh Woods, director of university communications. “We contacted her, she made us administrators of the page and the rest is history.”

Jeremy Britten, UNA’s web communications manager, conducted various workshops for faculty and departments on campus in 2009. These workshops were constructed so the various departments would be introduced to and learn the most effective ways to employ social media.

Almost all of the Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts connected to UNA were set up by Britten, but each department or student group is responsible for maintaining the accounts.

“It could reflect negatively on the university if groups or departments don’t update often,” Britten said. “However, that is something we’re going to try to address in the upcoming year. We want to stay current with what media students are using at the moment.”

Thinking of different ways to communicate with students and alumni is one of the goals the university has for the upcoming year.

“Email doesn’t work anymore,” said David Shields, vice president for student affairs. “We have to use what’s most effective and then be flexible with that medium. Right now, social media is what works.”

Staying current with the audience is something Woods also agrees with.

“You have to think about what your audience is doing,” he said. “If my primary audience is using graffiti walls, then I’m going to grab a can of spray paint.”

One area of social media that UNA is looking to grow in is Foursquare, a social networking game that allows its users to check in at different locations and play against other individuals. Foursquare recently mentioned the university’s SGA recycling initiative on its blog, which was an outstanding honor, Britten said.

Britten and Woods update the Facebook and Twitter accounts a few times each day, but try not to bombard students and members of the community with information.

“I think the update frequency is appropriate,” Shields said. “It’s a passive gathering of information, as opposed to pushing out updates on people. We try to stick with just the relevant things and respect the person’s time coming into the sites.”

Shane Lashley, a senior Sociology and Criminal Justice major, feels the same.

“I think the university sends out just enough,” Lashley said. “It’s useful how the information travels quickly, and it’s just the right amount.”

Most students see the updates on social media sites long before they see emails or the UNA homepage.

“The social media has been effective for me,” said senior Allison Ray. “I’m connected to social media. And during emergencies, like the recent tornado warnings a few weeks ago, it was good to see the updates on social media every few minutes.”

Others, like junior Haley Carter, said the university has room for improvement.

“I think they do pretty well with getting information out,” Carter said. “But I think they could really do more.”