Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now not only places to communicate with friends, but also outlets for Ohio University as a whole -- as well as individual colleges, schools and faculty members -- to interact and to connect with other students, faculty and alumni.
The official Ohio University Facebook page* now has more than 13,500 fans, and continues to grow. The university also has a Twitter account (), where followers can get information on upcoming events and university news.
The university's YouTube site* features videos such as the "Word on the Street" series, videos documenting OHIO history and many more innovative videos showcasing university events, academics and programs. Plans are also in the works to add courses and other education-oriented videos.
Jill Bateman, social media manager in University Communications and Marketing, says these sites are ways to build avenues of communication and start engaging conversations between the institution and the public.
"Facebook and Twitter are a new source of communication, but already have a huge customer base. That's where people are. Through these sites we can keep people informed and engaged, but most importantly, social media sites give us a platform to build communities that help us all better serve the university," Bateman said.
Junior public relations student Grace Naugle follows the university on Twitter and says it can be a great source of news and ways to find information quickly.
"The OU Twitter account is an easy one-stop site to find out what is going on at the university. I use it to find information on upcoming events, news and even school closings," Naugle said.
Individual schools and colleges also use Facebook and Twitter. The College of Education, for example, uses its Twitter site () almost daily. On it, there are posts about events, stories and news on issues pertaining to education in Ohio and on a national scale.
"Twitter has been a useful tool for the College of Education by allowing us to send out information and easily receive input," said Morgan Lyles, the college's public affairs intern. "It's an ideal way for us to share information quickly to people within and outside of the College of Education."
Faculty members and administrators have also begun using social media sites. Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi, for example, uses * (@OUDean) to make himself more accessible to students.
"I do the tweets myself. They're mostly for current students and parents, but they're usually general enough for anyone," Lombardi said. "I'm trying to find the right balance of personal and academic tweets. I mostly comment on interaction with students on campus."
Lombardi's tweets also can be read by non-Twitter users on the OHIO currents students' homepage. He says he has seen a receptive audience and has received numerous messages and questions from his Twitter followers.
"There is a general evolution of communication," Lombardi said. "Everything is on demand. The university using these tools shows that we are in the mix, communicating as society and how the students are."
Dining Services also operates a Twitter account ()*, which was created this past December. Assistant Director of Sales, Promotion and Research Carlos Samano says his main goal is establishing conversations by providing students another way to talk directly with Dining Services.
"We encourage students to let us know their feedback regarding food and the facilities," he said. "We really are interested in knowing what all students think about the dining services."
Dining Services recently used their Twitter account to advertise the opening of the renovated Shively Dining Hall.
"Before it was open, we started sending out tweets with photos of the facility. It helped students know this was going on and to visit when it opened," Samano said.
Dining Services has also been telling students about specials at certain facilities and getting feedback about food choices via Twitter. For instance, they received a tweet about not having fruit available at the Shively Grab 'n Go. In less than a week, Dining Services was able to fix this inconvenience and fruit is now being served there.
In regard to all of the university's social media sites, Bateman says individual departments often are looking to use them as marketing tools, as a way to enhance education and as a way to build relationships.
"Social media gives us a multidimensional communication tool," she said. "We want to spark people's imagination. There are a million ways to use these tools. You just have to take advantage of it."