Thursday, 21 January 2010

Advice from Helpdesk Hollie

Our helpdesk is staffed by a group of postgraduate students who answer the phones, respond to emails, talk to visitors and are, as the term suggests, generally helpful. More recently they've also been tweeting and facebooking (I'm verbing nouns) - this started back in September. Our aim has been to engage with students without invading their social space. When they started it was quite experimental, I gave very little guidance other than 'be friendly and remember it's public' but they took to it like ducks to water.

Well, a much-loved member of our helpdesk staff is moving on so I asked her if she would write some guidance on how to tweet from our Student Development account to help new members of helpdesk staff. Here's what she said.
There are just a few things to remember when sending out Twitter updates:
  • Students are not children - they do not like to be patronised.
  • Students don’t generally use Twitter for business, so don’t want lots of boring updates. You have to catch their attention.
  • Anyone can see your Twitter update- you need to make sure you don’t say anything you’ll later regret.
  • If you make the tweet interesting enough, maybe it will be re-tweeted (and you could start a revolution).
It’s important that students know what’s going on, but also important that you show how it could be useful. I try and make it a bit personal, usually by asking a question beforehand or relating it to a situation that many students will be in:

You can do the same thing for resources that are available. I think if it’s clear that you understand what students are going through, they’re more likely to make use of the things you are advertising.
You can find things on the events pages of the website that people might not know about otherwise, like tree planting or cake baking, or re-tweet things from other people that SDZ followers might find useful.

Feel free to be creative with tweets- it might make people take more notice.

If all else fails and there is nothing going on, I usually resort to grammar guides - if your grammar is shoddy and you don’t make an effort to sort out your punctuation either in essays or job applications, it gives the impression that you might not pull out all the stops in other areas, too. Anyway, nobody likes a misplaced apostrophe!
I thought this was really helpful advice for the way we are using Twitter. What do you think? And have you got any suggestions?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Brown cake

After the success of the cake at our pedagogical research group in the School of Biological Sciences yesterday a couple of people asked me to blog the recipe, so at the risk of raising the bar of the standard of posts on this blog, here goes. Its officially called Sticky tea loaf but my kids lovingly call it Brown cake.
  • 4 oz butter
  • 5 oz sugar
  • 4 oz dried fruit
  • 5 floz water
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
Heat all that lot up in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
  • 6 oz plain flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Sift dry ingredients and add to fruit mixture. Finally, add beaten egg. Place in a lined loaf tin and bake in preheated oven (gas mark 4/180) for about an hour. Eat as is or spread with butter. Keeps for a couple of weeks.