When it comes to social media, Penn isn’t afraid to have a little fun.
The University’s central social media accounts, particularly Twitter, have fostered engagement with current and prospective students, alumni and even television networks, while promoting more serious events and initiatives across campus.
With a social media presence spanning all 12 of its constituent schools and assorted research centers, Penn is social media savvy.
Penn’s central social media accounts — which include Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Instagram — unite the eclectic mix into a cohesive voice and are run by University Communications. The Office of Communications also has a Web Team, which manages the University’s general website as well as its YouTube and Flickr accounts.
Each school and center that chooses to can run its own social media accounts for the purposes of promoting its own content, Manager of New Media Communications Matt Griffin said.
Although Penn President Amy Gutmann does not have a personal Twitter account, she recognizes the power of social media. “One must embrace social media if you’re an institution who’s heart are students — young people,” Gutmann said.
Penn’s Office of Communications created a role especially to tackle the growing niche of social media. The University has also invested in methods of managing and tracking its social communication and launched a University-wide social analytics platform.
Griffin oversees the University’s social media use. He started in the newly created position in February 2012. Griffin operates the social accounts on a daily basis, aided by a group of interns who take photos around campus to be featured on Facebook and Instagram.
“I have to say, one of the best feelings I get in this job is retweeting, responding to or favoriting something tweeted by a student who didn’t expect it,” Griffin said. “People will tag us, but they don’t necessarily assume we’re paying attention.”
Griffin said he believes Penn’s social media activism has had a positive effect on prospective student perceptions of the University.
“While the perception is that they’re communicating with this grand institution, the reality is that it’s me — one person behind a desk trying to engage with as many people as possible,” Griffin said. “You could stand out on Locust Walk with a flyer and maybe get the same kind of interaction, but then the veil is lifted. You literally are a person, rather than a person in the guise of Penn.”
Prospective students are not the only ones to whom the University appeals via social media, though.
“The value of it is to maximize the engagement of as many of our alumni and parents and students and friends as possible,” Gutmann said. “And it’s fun.”
While Penn-specific events such as Hey Day and Commencement can typically be expected to shine on social media, Griffin said, “some weirder things work well, too.”
Griffin added that Penn references in pop culture are “always a hit.” The University has seen spikes in social media attention from such television shows as Suits, Pretty Little Liars and True Blood.
“Yeah, it’s a little frivolous, but when @Penn responds to these things in a tongue-in-cheek way, it makes the brand more fun and engaging,” Griffin said. “And if you can’t be fun on social media from time to time, then you’re missing out.”
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