In past columns, we’ve looked at how Twitter can be integrated into individual classrooms, but Web and Social Media Designer Douglas Derda and the social media team at Robert Morris University (RMU) are taking Twitter and social media to a whole new level, transcending university borders to get community members excited about what they have to offer.
Working with Lamar Advertising, RMU purchased digital billboard space for use during the 2010 Winter Olympics as a platform for former Robert Morris Colonials goalie Brianne McLaughlin to tweet updates of her experience as an Olympian from the front lines of competition in Vancouver. The few billboards they occupied generated tremendous response. Newspaper and radio media aside, “outside of Pittsburgh, e-mails started pouring in from fans asking how we did it, [and] alumni were psyched to see their school in the spotlight,” Derda said.
With the success of the Olympics project, RMU and Lamar teamed up again, this time with the NCAA men’s basketball team on their trip to the NCAA tournament. Coach Mike Rice sent updates from the road, as well as the games, offering Pittsburgh behind-the-scenes glimpses of the tournament and the team as they prepared for play.
Derda feels that the success of this project hinges in part on RMU’s dedication to, engagement. “RMU puts a premium on engaged learning, which means we believe that what students do outside of the classroom is just as important as what they learn inside it,” he said. “We are so committed to this idea that we require students to complete a Student Engagement Transcript, which documents activities such as student government, theatre, athletics, community service and study abroad.”
To Derda and the team, engagement involves human contact, illustrated in projects like the Twitter billboards. Focus is on bringing the best and brightest at RMU to the masses outside the university’s walls. “When you send messages on Twitter or Facebook, you are talking to a real person,” said Derda. “If your online presence is blasting out ads all of the time, you’re not making a connection and the message becomes cold and lost.”
RMU’s marketing team is student focused and interested in using tools like Twitter to help facilitate connections in the community. Regarding future Twitter and social media plans, Derda says there is much in the works. “If you’re impressed now with what Robert Morris University has accomplished, wait until you see what we have planned next.”
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