Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Global Connections

Campus communication in the age of social media

December 9, 2009
By Paul Miller

It's hard to believe the Internet turned 40 years old this year. In those heady days, an engineer named Len Kleinrock developed a way for computers to talk to each other through an invention called packet switching. Data networking was born and, over the years, the Internet. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other technology that millions of people use through devices smaller than a deck of cards.

We now chat with our thumbs

Whereas Kleinrock-era computers filled whole rooms, we now chat with our thumbs to folks in Karachi while waiting for a double-stuff latte.

Twitter – it’s such a dizzy name – can have serious influences. This year’s election turmoil in Iran, for example, would have gone unnoticed if not for citizens’ street reports via mobile technology.

The University stays connected

Twitter doesn’t have quite the same hard-edged impact at Colorado State, but such technologies are helping the University stay connected in other ways. In this age of instant communication, CSU’s Public Safety Team can send emergency information via cell phone text alerts to anyone who signed up for the service.

Campus members also are notified through e-mail, Reverse 911, CSU’s website, and other communications with mass media. The team has kept campus updated on the H1N1 virus this season, and the effort will continue as long as there’s a need for information.

Direct interaction with key audiences

Emergencies notwithstanding, members of CSU Public Relations are continuing to develop social media networks that allow direct interaction with key audiences.

“We’re encouraging departments, colleges, student groups, and alumni to get involved with social media through CSU,” says Kimberly Sorensen, Media and Community Relations coordinator.

“It’s a great way to communicate with core audiences or to just find out what’s going on with the campus community.”

Alumni's network on LinkedIn, and other media

CSU’s Alumni Association has a dynamic network on LinkedIn and other media that keeps alumni in the loop, and athletics coaches are accomplished Twitterers who have notable fan connections. (Football coach Steve Fairchild sent a tweet during halftime at the CSU-CU game.)

The Office of Admissions – one of the first contacts that students have – is well aware of social networking and media trends and closely watches for new marketing opportunities to reach prospective students.

Admissions Office is kept on its toes

Jim Rawlins, executive director of Admissions, says that counselors in the office continue to keep tabs on various social networks to informally test the real-time response waters with prospective students. The fact that trends and technology shift so rapidly keeps the office on its toes. Instant messaging, for example, is considered passé these days in some quarters.

Although technology may provide a range of ways to contact students, those communications are handled very carefully.

“Just because we can use certain tools doesn’t mean we will,” Rawlins says.  “Students blog, but they may not want to see our blogs. Blogs and Facebook pages actually are at the bottom of the list in terms of how students want to be contacted.

“E-mail is perceived as old-fashioned by students – it’s the way you talk with ‘old people.’ But students are also tactile; they still want one key print piece from a university,” Rawlins says.

Old-school/new technology conundrum

That brings up an old-school/new technology conundrum. Justin Boyd, a senior in communication studies, discovered a Twitter/Facebook dichotomy on a campus man-on-the-street survey he did in September. All but two survey participants said they much prefer Facebook over Twitter – in fact, a few students said Twitter was “useless and a waste of time.”

Some students seemed to like the distance that Facebook provides: “It’s easy to use, all my friends have it, and it’s nice because I don’t have to actually talk to people,” a freshman said.

Internet is highly cherished

It’s notable that, even with the Internet’s glitches and scams, it remains highly cherished. If something like Twitter can be valued at $1 billion – a milestone reached in late September – then a lot of us are busy doing what we do best: communicating with each other about all things great, small, and in between.

Like an irresponsible cousin, social media is part of our human family, inextricable and sometimes impossible to evict, taking up space in our homes and creating more generations of people who grow up staring down at tiny screens. Whether that’s hurting or helping is impossible to know – until we do a Google search.

Did you know . . .

  • Years that new technology took to reach 50 million users:
    • Radio - 38 years
    • TV - 13 years
    • Internet - 4 years
    • IPod - 3 years
    • Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months
    • IPod application downloads hit 1 billion in 9 months
  • 96% of Generation Y (born between 1977-1994) have joined social networks
  • One in six higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum
  • 80% of companies use LinkedIn as a key tool to find employees
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest behind China, India, and the United States.


Excerpt from "The Art and anguish of ones and zeros," originally published in Colorado State Magazine, Winter 2009-2010.