There are now over 100 million active Twitter users – but is your college principal one of them? If not, should they be, and so for that matter should the rest of the senior management team.

“But isn’t that the job of the marketing team?” I hear some people cry. Others might answer the Twitter question with responses like “I tried getting into it, but just couldn’t get the hang with it”, “It’s like another language with all of those hash tags and things – I don’t get it!”, “Where would I find the time?” or “I’d like to, but I have real work to be getting on with”.

Yes, Twitter is a powerful tool for college marketing and PR and your marketing team undoubtedly should be tweeting for your organisation – and, of course, many already do. You can get some great PR from Twitter.

As well as providing opportunities to network, Twitter is also a space in which you can establish a reputation and tell people about the key things happening within your college.”

Our college song and video, produced by student record label Interim Records, was recently picked up and re-tweeted by MC Hammer to over 2.3 million follows worldwide! Such a retweet brought City College Norwich and our work to promote student entrepreneurship to a much wider audience – and our local paper thought it was a great story too!

But Twitter is not just about the corporate. It is also an inherently personal medium, which gives you the opportunity to network virtually with many of the key people with whom you work – and, perhaps more importantly, those with whom you want to work. It’s the mother of all networking opportunities, anyone who’s anyone is there, and you can talk to whoever you like.

For me, too, it’s been a huge source of new and hitherto inaccessible information. I now concentrate my tweets (following some professional advice) on one core topic – entrepreneurship. I have found so much information (mostly in the States but from all over the world too) that I just would not have come across without Twitter.

For example, do you know what Crowdfunding or Crowdsourcing is? Well I didn’t until I started following a crowdfunding guru in the States and we are looking at doing a pilot student start up here in Norwich following crowdfunding principles later this year.

As well as providing opportunities to network, Twitter is also a space in which you can establish a reputation and tell people about the key things happening within your college. Provided you add value with your tweets – highlighting and sharing knowledge and resources that will be helpful to those with whom you are engaging – your Twitter following will grow rapidly.

Although I have been tweeting for a couple of years, I only really started properly around six months ago and even more recently concentrated my tweets around education and entrepreneurship. In the first eighteen months I went from zero to just over 150 followers. In the last six months I’ve gone from 150 to over 1200 – not exactly Stephen Fry (millions) but it’s a positive step!

As a college principal, I spend a lot of my time talking to people: to students, employ
ers, staff and a plethora of partners who are in the business of further education and training.

Twitter extends and opens up those conversations, bringing new and sometimes unexpected opportunities for new partnerships and projects. We have a 19 year old entrepreneur coming to the college to deliver a two-day course to some 13 year olds from one of the local academies where we are the lead sponsor, later this month; I “met” this young man through Twitter and met face-to-face at the AoC Conference.

Twitter also invites you to tell others about what’s happening. As well as providing the opportunity to tell the world about what you’re up to, it is fantastic for finding out what’s happening elsewhere – very often in real time. Twitter enables you to be fully up to speed with the very latest news, even before stories make it into the news bulletins and papers (in part because so many journalists are also active Twitter users).

Of course there is an investment of time needed in following others on Twitter, adding your own tweets and engaging in conversations – as there is in making phone calls and writing and responding to emails. Twitter is very often more immediate and to the point – and it can open up a whole new world of possibilities to you, your organisation and your students.

If you’ve tried it and not quite “got it” – persevere! It will surprise you as to its connectedness – honest! And, of course, do follow me at @dickpalmerccn – all you need to know about crowdfunding.

Dick Palmer is Principal and Chief Executive of City College Norwich

Want to know more about using Twitter. Why not download our FE Week Guide to Twitter? Click here