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?


  1. Absolutely fabulous! What fantastic advice, clear, well directed and thoughtful. I love the fall back on grammar if you are stuck!!

  2. Glad you liked it. We're going to miss Hollie!

  3. A few extra tips while I'm here...
    Try to keep tweets to less than about 120 characters - that way they are easier to retweet
    Don't tweet too much in a short time - you'll start to annoy people (though exactly what the frequency should be is difficult to call)
    Try to always reply to mentions (@replies) quickly
    Look in the home feed for what people we follow are saying and see if there are any you can respond to proactively

  4. I really like this approach and style :)

  5. Why, thank you. Nice to see you yesterday. Shame no chance to catch up!

  6. [...] it at ALTC2009 (thanks James!). I’m pleased to see one of the Tagginganna posts up there, Advice from Helpdesk Hollie, and of course (who could forget) the-practically-went-viral Brown [...]

  7. [...] Facebook and Twitter updates (as per Helpdesk Hollie’s advice) in addition to our automated RSS [...]

  8. It's absolutely brilliant...:-)