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October 7, 2013

Salem State boosts focus on social media

SALEM — When Salem State University went into lockdown recently after a stabbing incident on a campus shuttle bus, sophomore Tyler Carlton was one of the many who turned to social media for the latest updates and information from SSU.

He and his classmates are more apt to use Facebook or Twitter, he said, than to check email, search websites or make a phone call. And the university has taken notice.

From answering questions about registering for classes to the shuttle stabbing “shelter in place” order, social media outlets have proved another way for the university to respond to students, disseminate information and shape the college’s image.

In the past several months, the university has made a concerted effort to increase and improve its social media presence, starting with the hiring over the summer of Web manager Amanda Voodre, who manages the college’s social media.

That effort kicked into high gear during the lockdown — especially to interact with students and others who posted questions — in addition to reverse-911 messages, press releases and other more traditional forms of communication.

“We knew that all eyes were on us,” Voodre said of the stabbing and lockdown incident. “ ... (Social media) really helps with rumor control, (and) built a sense of confidence within our community that we had a sense of control.

“During the shelter-in-place order, students were in classrooms with their phones and watching this unfold. They had a lot of questions. I tried to answer everything that I could so everyone had the right information.”

On an average day, Voodre keeps a constant eye on the college’s social media accounts, posting information about campus events and responding to inquiries — from when the library closes to why a favorite parking spot is blocked off.

“We do get complaints ... (and) we address those and try and help position the student in the right direction so their experience turns into a positive one,” she said. “That conversation’s public. People can see (it), and see whether or not a student is happy.”

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