3 ways listening on Twitter helped me address student WiFi complaints

By listening to student complaints on social media, I was able to help address common WiFi issues in several ways. Here, Rowan University students use their laptops in the Campbell Library on the Glassboro campus.

When I started in my current position as Assistant Director of Communications for the IT department at Rowan University, I logged into our Twitter account eager to share information about the services we offer the campus community.

I thought I’d gain followers and increase my digital reach by sharing posts about cloud storage options and learning technologies. But, I had made a rookie mistake. I started talking before I listened to the conversation that was already happening.

Whether I was touting unlimited storage on Google Drive or showcasing new classroom technology, my posts were met with a common response: fix the WiFi. I quickly learned that nobody cares about specific technology services if a core system — in this case, the campus WiFi network — seems to be failing them.

So, I took a step back and started listening. The conversation wasn’t always pretty, but it gave me insight into what was most important to the people communicating on Twitter. This new approach helped me address student WiFi complaints in three distinct ways.

Direct Support

“Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?” This question is often raised as a joke among IT folks while troubleshooting a problem, but it’s funny because it often works. When all else fails, turn it off and turn it back on again.

The WiFi version of that step is forgetting the network and rejoining it, and sometimes, simply responding to a WiFi complaint with that suggestion helped a student solve their problem, as shown in the exchange below.

By listening and responding to student complaints on Twitter, I was able to provide direct support and resolve an issue without them having to call or email for further assistance. This approach resolved the issue for this one student, and, given the public nature of Twitter, it likely helped other students.

Indirect Support

It’s not always possible to troubleshoot a WiFi issue over Twitter. But, even if you can’t directly resolve a problem, you can provide information about where to get more help. When I first started in my position, complaints about WiFi on Twitter often went ignored. I made it a priority to respond to every complaint about WiFi and provide steps for getting help if I couldn’t resolve the issue myself.

In the exchange below, I tried to offer the same tip to forget the network and rejoin, but it didn’t work, so I directed them to our in-person support team for further assistance. While, ideally, I’d be able to directly resolve the issue, I provided another avenue to assistance for them.

Proactive Outreach

After listening to student complaints on Twitter, I began to see a pattern. Complaints always spiked at the beginning of the semester, when new students were coming to campus and trying to connect for the first time and returning students were trying to connect new devices or update old devices.

Once I recognized this pattern, I was able to do more proactive outreach via our Twitter account, targeting messages to the student population at the times I knew they would be looking for WiFi-related information on campus.

In addition to sending direct emails to students, providing tips for getting connected to campus WiFi, I also started featuring content I knew would help students troubleshoot common issues and get online faster.

The post below was shared by the main Rowan University account, extending the reach of the post and helping spread the word to more students.

Technical improvements to the campus WiFi, including the launch of a new network on campus that makes it easier to connect personal devices in 2020, has led to a steep decline in the number of WiFi complaints we receive on Twitter. In recent years, I’ve been able to shift my focus more on providing information about services we offer, but I still keep my ear open on social media, and I make sure to listen closely.


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