This past fall, I was at a number of NAFSA: Association of International Educator regional conferences. I attended some sessions about social media and engaged in lots of conversations about social media and its uses and implications for international education.
It seems that "conventional wisdom" says that students are not on Twitter. Some of this was backed up by studies that I think are either limited in their scope or are so old (even one year back!) that they're irrelevant.
There's no doubt that students are using Twitter and that their numbers are increasing. It's logical.
Are they using Twitter to find out information? Perhaps.
I monitor some keywords and phrases on Twitter to find students who twitter and here's some of my observations:
- Students may not be asking questions about international education -- but they are expressing interest and hopes and dreams.
- They are following and monitoring Twitter accounts that give them helpful and realistic information about international education
- They are passing on this information through retweets
- They are expressing complaints -- in very blunt language -- about their campus offices and advisors, programs, recruitment agencies, etc. regularly. Sometimes it is easy to determine the target of their displeasure, sometimes not. (That's why it's a good idea to monitor mentions of your organization or office.)
- They are more likely to engage their peers in conversation on Twitter, but they are beginning to use it to communicate with companies and offices. This makes me wonder how many of you with an office or corporate Twitter account are monitoring it regularly in order to be able to answer the @ (Public) and DM (Private Direct Messages) that people may have been sending you.
I have also noticed particular groups of students who seem to be most active with international education. Geographically, students from Asia are active in using Twitter. Interestingly, they often used English to write phrases associated with international education, even when the rest of their tweet is in their native language!
I'm also seeing growing use of Twitter by students in the Middle East and some of the exchanges reflect the cultures. For example, I've seen questions about whether a father/brother should allow a female relative to study abroad without a chaperone.
In the United States, there is a noticeable use of Twitter by African-American students and I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of tweets I see from them about their hopes of going abroad.
If you're on Twitter, what trends with students have you noticed?
- 2011 Student Diplomat Video Contest Launches Today! (nafsa.org)
- How Study Abroad Changed my Career Path (wanderingeducators.com)
- Profiles in International Education: Lisa Niver Rajna (wanderingeducators.com)
- Profiles in International Education: Karen Smith Rotabi (wanderingeducators.com)
- My USA Today Editorial Promoting Study Abroad (ricksteves.com)
- Ten education journos worth following on Twitter (b2bsocialmediaguide.com)