Departments Reaching Students Through Social Media

By Chelse Greaux and Matt Doyon
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va. —  Virginia Commonwealth University departments are tapping in to social media to stay connected with students.

Facebook, where students can become “fans” of department pages, is one of the most popular options for social networking. The site claims more than 250 million users worldwide, and already has a base nearing 40,000 in the VCU network.

With such a large number of students to potentially reach, Kelsey Farmer, an exercise science major, isn’t surprised to see a growing number of departments use sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s where the students are so the faculty is seeing that as a way to get in touch with them,” Farmer said.

In addition to being a full-time student, Farmer is also the secretary in a club for exercise science majors and frequently uses Facebook to contact her members.

“It’s a lot of hoops you have to jump through when it would be easy if it was in one central location,” Farmer said.

Although E-mail is the university’s official form of communication, it is not necessarily the primary way to reach students. Michael Huffman, director of student services for VCU’s School of Education, thinks E-mail has slipped down the chain of what students rely upon for information.

“I think for many students it may be kind of a second or third choice for communication,” Huffman said.

Huffman helps maintain the School of Education’s Facebook page, which has more than 200 fans. The page features tools such as graduation applications, and information about upcoming deadlines and events regarding the department. The School of Education is one of about a dozen VCU schools and departments on Facebook.

Huffman said the personal choice given to students of which media to use will help shape the response of schools and departments.

“I think students certainly will finally gravitate to what their going to find their favorite way to communicate, whether that’s E-mail, or whether its Facebook, Twitter or any of the other media.”

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