The role of Twitter on campus

Having just finished a post for the CoPress blog about the Whitman Pioneer’s first real foray into covering breaking news on our website I started thinking about what the actual role for Twitter is on a college campus that is largely not using the service. At Whitman there are only a few dozen students that I know of using Twitter; even fewer are actually using it consistently. This became apparent when out of 1,200 visitors to our ski team article only 9 came from Twitter status updates.

Part of what makes working for a college newspaper so great is the sense that the paper works as a means for dispersing news for the community; it fills a role that Facebook, Twitter, local newspapers, and more fill partially but not completely. Thus, I see the role of Twitter for a college newspaper as largely being about alerting the community to breaking news, website features, etc. The problem comes when that community is not using Twitter.

The Pioneer has 50 followers on Twitter, but only a few are actually a part of the Whitman community and thus, the majority are not going to necessarily be interested in the daily happenings of the college. This raises the question of what we should really be using Twitter for. Should it be a means of updating Whitman-specific information, or a mode of alerting others to interesting content that may be outside of the Whitman spectrum?

I’m sort of stuck on this question. It seems that most other college news organizations are using Twitter to send updates about campus-centric information; this would be great if people at Whitman actually used Twitter. Since they don’t I’m wondering what people out there have done with their newspaper Twitter accounts if their community is not using it. I’d love to hear ideas.