04/16/2012 12:58 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2012

What College Presidents Can Gain From Tweeting

Twitter has proven to be a groundbreaking service in terms of how we produce and distribute information on a global scale, but still, some are hesitant to join its platform.

A local Boston news site recently published an article explaining "Why More College Presidents Need to Be on Twitter." The president of our country (or at least his intern) is keen on the little blue bird, so what excuse can the presidents of our nation's colleges offer for not preening their digital feathers?

College presidents who make their forays into social media can serve to further personalize their institutions through online engagement and foster connection with a vast digital audience interested in the workings of an educational institution. Twitter provides a viable platform on which to connect with students, colleagues, alumni, student-run publications and groups, college offices and even prospective attendees. Of course, running a university comes with its demands and heavy schedules, not to mention teams of people whose jobs include generating positive images for these schools. But Twitter as a service is free, simple to use and easily manageable. Presidents of small or private institutions can use Twitter to build upon the intimate, individualized values of their educations and presidents of major institutions can use the opportunity to provide a voice for their schools through personal pages. What content would they publish? Twitter is perfect for generating blurbs about news updates, reactions to school events, alumni successes, student and faculty achievements, articles, fun facts, quotes, travel updates and multimedia. In the case of campus emergencies, having immediate access to an effective distribution platform could also prove to be crucial for implementing safety procedures. College presidents can use the platform to address local incidents or widespread trends, harnessing the opportunity to provide informative feedback for hot button issues. Basically, the territory is wide open for educational higher-ups to incorporate social strategy into how they inform and engage with large groups of people, especially when they oversee young, often digitally savvy constituencies. As the research assistant to the President of Sarah Lawrence College, I'm proud to say that Karen Lawrence recently took the plunge to join Twitter. If being her neighbor, optioning to take her James Joyce lecture, and dining at her kitchen table as a first year still didn't get students as close to Karen as they wanted, now they can follow her on Twitter as @PresKarenSLC keeps them informed, 140 characters at a time. Here are some other examples of College Presidents embracing the network: Immersed in the world of academia, classically trained intellectuals are provided with ample opportunity to express some aloofness towards the virtual realm, but technology is inevitably transforming every field and being in the social media game will give any community leader a more impressive platform on which to personalize communication and market ideas. If anything, the rising trend of students creating mock Twitter accounts for their college presidents might prompt academic leaders to step up and stake their own claims on the digital turf -- that is, before some version of @FakeCollegePrez does it for them.