COLUMBIA — Despite the madness of moving, getting used to a new town and preparing for a new job, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin has already begun connecting with the MU community through Twitter.
Loftin, 64, did not officially become chancellor of MU until midnight Saturday, according to his Twitter account. But since his hiring was announced in December, he has been living up to his social reputation and interacting personally with students and others by favoriting and replying to their online posts.
According to a Twitter analysis website called Twtrland, Loftin tweets from his Twitter account, named @bowtieger in homage to his affinity for bow ties, about seven times a day. That's roughly three times the rate of the average user.
What's even more unusual is that 83.2 percent of all of his tweets are responses to other tweets, rather than just his own stand-alone posts. A quick scroll through Loftin's profile shows that most of those replies are conversations with students.
MU's previous chancellor, Brady Deaton, had a Twitter account, as well — @MUchancellor. That account averaged only one tweet every few days, with few replies. Only about 15 percent of that account's tweets mentioned another Twitter account. The rest were pictures of Deaton and his wife and tweets promoting MU events.
@MUchancellor was often tweeted at by other users, but rarely by students. @bowtieger, however, is popular with students, who have been inviting Loftin to events or just asking personal questions.
Compared with the online presence of other SEC presidents and chancellors, Loftin's stands out. Out of seven schools the Missourian looked at, six of which are in the SEC, only two presidents even had Twitter accounts.
The Twitter accounts of Louisiana State University and University of Kentucky's presidents, @lsuprez and @UKYpres, respectively, averaged about one tweet per day, well below Loftin's average. Only about 10 percent of all of their tweets were responses to other users, and most were written with a formal, institutional voice.
Meanwhile, Loftin responds to nearly all tweets directed at him, including parody accounts — Twitter accounts that make fun of a person or current event, like one created when a python got loose in a residence hall.
@bowtieger ARE YOU MY FATHER— Mizzou Python (@MizzouPython) January 31, 2014
@MizzouPython I'm lost, too, but I don't think we're related.— R. Bowen Loftin (@bowtieger) January 31, 2014
@bowtieger is not purely about student interaction. Loftin also uses the account to share pictures of himself and document his personal life in a way that more closely matches how his students communicate than his peers. He even creates his own hashtags — words or short phrases used to group related tweets or start conversations; they're preceded by a pound sign.
Loftin's use of Twitter has helped him become quickly popular on campus, with students treating him as a celebrity, stopping to get pictures with him or just welcoming him to the school.
Between posing for the smartphone cameras and sharing humorous updates, Loftin also shares words of advice and declares himself eager to genuinely connect.
@bowtieger Welcome home!! So happy to see how well connected our incoming chancellor is with the Mizzou family.— Chris Rucker (@imchrisrucker) January 25, 2014
@imchrisrucker Relationships are the currency of life.— R. Bowen Loftin (@bowtieger) January 25, 2014
Loftin's informal use of Twitter has drawn a few questions from people involved in higher education. When asked recently about the benefits to administrators of being on Twitter, Loftin tweeted this simple response:
@Mike_Ekey By following a cross section of students one can get a true look at one's university through their eyes. Priceless!— R. Bowen Loftin (@bowtieger) January 21, 2014
Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.
If retweets, mentions and follower counts are foreign to you and you'd like to learn more, take a look at our social media editor's favorite site for explaining Twitter. The URL is the completely appropriate, momthisishowtwitterworks.com, and the site has proved effective for Twitter newbies (motherhood not required).