Enhancing the student experience with Twitter

This case study describes a Department of Psychology project to engage students through social media.


As part of the Future Leaders Programme, the Department of Psychology convened a Social Media Project Group to examine how the use of social media could enhance the student experience for the Faculty of Social Science and Health.

Durham Psych Twitter image Requirements

The group approached this task from several angles: holding student focus groups; reviewing the literature; examining other universities’ social media profiles; liaising with CEEC, Marking and Communications, CIS and the Library; discussing the project with departmental and faculty representatives; and consulting with digital marking specialists. What emerged from all of this was that the department required a social media tool that…

  • Could promote research, achievement and news
  • Had a clear purpose
  • Was distinct from students’ personal social media spaces
  • Projected authenticity (rather than, for example, marketing messages)

 Possible Solutions

smart phone with social media appsThe Group considered using Facebook or Twitter. While it was clear that Facebook was favoured by students in their personal social media use, it was also evident that students did not want academic content filling up their social media feeds. Twitter, meanwhile, is very popular among academics, who use it to network, share their research and engage in intellectual exploration. It is externally facing, and has the potential to engage future as well as current students–and even academics and students at other institutions.

Final Solution

Twitter was chosen for the first year’s pilot: @DurhamPsych.


While it is free to use Twitter, maintaining an account can be quite time-consuming.


The Group were aware of a number of considerations, for example:

  • Twitter is most effective when a lot of individual staff members also use it
  • It is necessary to agree a clear purpose for having a social media profile, and to update the feed regularly
  • There is limited value for enhancing the student experience inasmuch as students do not tend to favour Twitter

Therefore, it was evident that an explicit Social Media Strategy was required to ensure regular and consistent use of the Twitter account. The Department of Psychology agreed the following strategy:
Sample tweet activity bar chart
Platform Strategy: Twitter (with Instagram for images)

Content Strategy

Goals: Promote research, raise profile of department and staff members


Post (original Tweets): new papers, old papers, grants, awards, achievements, etc.

Re-Tweet: staff posts relating to research (no politics, etc.)

Re-Tweet: Psychology-relevant science news, jobs, grants, etc.

Like: Tweets from other Durham departments, other Psychology departments

 Follow: other Psychology departments, research centres, academics, ECRs, research students and relevant organisations (e.g. Psychological societies, funding bodies, charities, etc.)


If you would like to discuss this project with someone in the Psychology department, please contact Dr Dan Smith.

As shown, departmental accounts do require liaising with a number of different stakeholders at the University. To discuss the learning and teaching potential of individual Twitter accounts, however, please do get in touch with the Learning Technologist for your faculty.


Twitter provides a lot of support for getting started and managing your account: Twitter Help Center

Be sure to review the University’s guidelines on Engaging with social media.




REVIEW DATE: October 2017