If there’s one safe haven to push beyond the status quo and experiment, it’s universities.
With this idea as the backdrop, I thought it would be a revealing exercise to review 100 or so university Twitter profiles and select the best five. The winners would show what happens to the simplest of communications – 160 characters seems to qualify as simple – when you’re brave.
The exercise was revealing, but for the wrong reasons. I discovered that 97 percent of university Twitter handles essentially follow a formula like:
- Tin Man University, the leading __________ in _________________. We mold students into ________. Go #______!
Forget needles. Just finding sharp objects in the haystack was a challenge. After reviewing 157 university Twitter profiles, I decided to rethink the competition.
There is now one grand prize winner, a few profiles deserving of notice and some that I classified as ironically bad.
Some universities have cultivated brands over the years that prompt the outside world to associate a certain uniqueness with the school. Logic says that this is where I should head to find the best Twitter profiles.
Not so fast.
UC Berkeley has developed a reputation for walking to its own drummer. While I can understand that the school doesn’t want to be known for student protests, I thought that at least there would be a subtle nod to the unconventional.
That’s about as conventional as it gets.
Digging deeper, I looked to universities known for their outstanding writing curriculum figuring all outbound words would pass scrutiny. This proved not the case as symbolized in a couple examples from NYU and the University of Iowa.
Turning to schools with a reputation for outstanding journalism departments caused me to question the cliché, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.”
What about a university built on creativity like the Pratt Institute?
OK, the university arguably best known for the performing arts, Julliard, surely must have a Twitter profile that prompts a double take.
Now there’s a line that exudes emotion.
Deserving of Notice
After reading so many profiles that followed similar formulas, I want to acknowledge the universities that at least have the guts to break from the pack. Let’s start with Ithaca College.
I confess that I hadn’t heard of Agnes Scott College before this exercise, but I do like its sass.
It’s not every day that a university promotes full tuition scholarships to all students on its Twitter profile.
I give Saint Mary’s credit for at least being conversational.
Out of all the marquee names known for writing, Hamilton College took a shot at capturing its vibe.
The Grand Prize Winner
A sizable gap separated those deserving of notice from Carnegie Mellon, a stone’s throw – assuming the stone landed in a flat-bed truck – from where my parents grew up in Pittsburgh.
The writing could be the poster child for “beauty in simplicity.”
Given the inclination of universities to be formal, even pretentious in their narratives, I appreciate the way the school achieves the exact opposite.
If you know of a university Twitter profile that qualifies as outstanding, please send it my way as a posted comment.
Wellesley College’s career center has a pretty great Twitter bio, IMO. https://twitter.com/mycws
I agree Erika. Thanks for highlighting this one. The conversational nature of the kick-off line, “Be the difference” rates above the norm.
Had to check up on my alma mater’s description after reading this (https://twitter.com/SantaClaraUniv). It’s a bit formulaic and hashtag happy, but better than “The official Twitter stream of XYZ.”
Great post, Lou!
Thanks for the positive words Jo.
If it’s any consolation, my alma mater (https://twitter.com/UofA) didn’t rate any better.
Universities are fond of that word, “leading.”