By losing control, UT trends on social media

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Natalie Groves and Nicholas Persac, UT’s social media coordinators, allowed Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, former Student Government President and Vice President, to take over UT's social media accounts for a day.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Natalie Groves

If you want to grow your social media presence, you have to give it up.

This is the lesson Natalie Groves and Nicholas Persac, UT’s social media coordinators, learned when they let two self-described “good boys” — Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu — take over their Twitter and Snapchat for a day on March 3.

“This password was sooo easy to guess. Get ready for the #RotManTakeover,” wrote the former student body president and vice president on UT’s Twitter.  

As Rotnofsky and Mandalapu asked social media users what they should eat for lunch (grass from East Mall, seven raw eggs or UT President Gregory Fenves’ leftovers?) and advised President Barack Obama to send his college-aged daughter to UT, analytics showed the #RotManTakeover had reached nearly the same number of Twitter users in a day that UT typically reaches in a week.  

“With 27 tweets, collectively they reached almost half a million people,” Groves wrote in an email. “I personally didn’t come across one negative tweet about the takeover.” 

However, for Groves and Persac, the takeover was not a one-off experience but instead part of a broader plan to engage more closely with students on social media. In addition to keeping students updated about events and interesting things on campus, Groves said, the University debuted on Snapchat in February to capture daily campus life for current and prospective students. 

“Whatever we think is cool or what our users want to see, we’ll go out and snap,” Groves said, noting that UT had increased its Snapchat friend count by 50 percent since its launch. “After spring break, we did a Snapchat story about how different buildings on campus miss the students — PCL missed you, Welch Hall missed you — just kind of fun, lighthearted, entertaining things that people want to flip through.” 

For Groves and Persac, social media isn’t an afterthought — it’s their full-time jobs. Hired in 2014 and 2015, the two manage the main UT-Austin social media accounts. When not letting students take over the accounts, Groves said, they post three to six times a day on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and work with 200 departments and college social media accounts to keep UT’s message consistent across all platforms. 

In addition, they use data to track how well their content is doing, relying on spreadsheets to make sense of UT’s activity on its social media platforms. Social media statistics shared with The Daily Texan show the University has picked up more than 160,000 new followers on its primary channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn — over the last year. 

However, social media still has to have the human touch to make sure it’s fulfilling its goal: properly communicating UT’s brand to its community and the general public. 

“There’s no magic number,” Persac said. “We look at it from the value of the content to make sure we’re elevating UT’s brand, that it’s inserting our expertise — the knowledge, the scholarship, the opportunity of the University into the conversation — and we do it differently channel by channel.”

These social media initiatives seem to be paying off, said Marymar Martinez, a theatre and public relations junior who manages social media for a nonprofit. Martinez said she is glad UT has begun using platforms
besides email to update students about campus happenings.

“They’re giving great photos on social media, they’re promoting great events like Voices Against Violence on their Instagram, and they’re just doing a lot more than than they have done before,” Martinez said. “I really appreciate it.” 

This story has been updated since its initial publication.