To tweet or not to tweet?
That was the question Dan Smith, dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, had been asking himself for a couple of years.
Urged by Kelley students to take up Twitter, Smith finally succumbed last week, becoming the latest business school dean to tweet his whereabouts, thoughts, and other tidbits. He joins nearly a dozen other Twittering deans from such prominent business schools as Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School (see “B-School Deans Worth Following on Twitter.”)
THE KELLEY DEAN BEGAN TWEETING WITH THE SCHOOL’S 1,000TH FACEBOOK LIKE
Smith began with a fair amount of promotional fanfare befitting his academic specialty in brand management and strategic marketing. To promote both its Facebook and Twitter audiences, the Kelley School advertised a countdown to Smith’s first tweet: Dean Smith would begin tweeting once the Kelley School reached 1,000 Facebook likes, a goal reached May 10. To raise awareness, the school began designing and selling t-shirts, complete with the Dean’s signature glasses and bow-tie.
It also created a #DeanDanFan hashtag and encouraged students to snap and upload pictures of themselves rocking their Dean Dan shirts – several of which were taken on Kelley sponsored Spring Break trips around the world. And finally, the school gave away t-shirts via a scavenger hunt of sorts: students who found #DeanDanFan tokens scattered in the Kelley building received a t-shirt and were then entered into a contest drawing to have coffee with Dean Smith.
As Smith, now dean of the Kelley School for eight years, tells Poets&Quants, “A number of students over the last couple of years have asked me to consider tweeting, I would tell them, ‘Certainly you must get a lot of information coming across in text messages, emails and Facebook posts. Do you really want one more?’ And they said, ‘Yes. We’d like to know what your thoughts are and what you do in a typical week.”
THE DEAN’S WIFE HAD NO OBJECTIONS BUT WONDERED IF ANYONE WOULD FOLLOW HER HUSBAND
Smith checked with his wife, who had no objections about the potential distraction. “I talked to my wife a little bit and she was indifferent about it,” says Smith. “She said, ‘Aren’t we already in an over-communicated society? Will anyone follow this stuff?’”
Smith thinks so. Besides, as he jokes, “It sounds like this new technology is going to be with us for awhile.”
So starting on May 10, Smith began his virtual life on Twitter as @DeanDanSmith. His first tweet, accompanied by a Twitpic of himself with a Kelley was sent from New York City: “With our 1,000th Facebook fan, Olivia Goodman, at a Kelley Alumni event in NYC. So great to see everyone!”
PLANS TO TWEET ONCE A DAY WHICH WOULD HAVE HIM SURPASS HARVARD DEAN IN A FEW MONTHS
Smith says he plans to tweet from his Blackberry, iPad and office desktop, though for now he’s writing out his tweets and sending them to an official at the school who Tweets out the messages on his behalf. His goal: “I am going to try to tweet once a day, depending on where I am and what I am doing,” he says. If Smith can make good on his objective, he’ll quickly beat Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria who had only tweeted 97 times since joining Twitter in April of 2009. Nohria hasn’t tweeted since Feb. 28th, nearly three months ago, yet as the most followers of any B-school dean with 4,987, about 400 more than Stanford’s Garth Saloner at 4,584.
In his first seven days, Smith tapped out nine tweets, followed 57 other Tweeters and attracted 331 followers. He has a long way to go to catch up to the Twittering dean he most admires, Robert Bruner of the Darden School. Bruner has 1,766 tweets, more than any other business school dean, and 2,586 followers. “I like Bob’s mix of sending out notes to students and alums on what he’s doing and occasional articles and books he is reading along with inspirational quotes,” adds Smith.
(See following page for B-School Deans Worth Following on Twitter)