As UF students are flocking to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the university is following suit.

Those efforts have resulted in a No. 9 ranking in the first list of the Top 100 Social Media Colleges, announced StudentAdvisor.com early this week.

The group compiled the rankings based on the quantity and effectiveness of UF’s interactions on Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks.

“It’s absolutely critical to have a strong social media presence to reach the people you want to reach the most,” UF spokesman Steve Orlando said. “This is the way students communicate. This is the way they get their information.”

For students at UF, the amount of news and data available on social networking sites is seemingly limitless.

According to the UF Web Administration website, the university has 82 official Facebook pages, 52 Twitter accounts and 12 YouTube channels.

“The most surprising findings were in the incredibly diverse ways the colleges engage in social media,” said Dean Tsouvalas, editor-in-chief of StudentAdvisor.com, on the results of the study.

At UF, the most popular of these is the “University of Florida” Facebook page, which has more than 200,000 fans, a number that ranks sixth nationally among colleges.

But UF is concerned with much more than just the sheer number of viewers, Orlando said.

“You have to engage the audience, find out their interests and provide some of that info,” said Bruce Floyd, the lead social media and web manager at UF. “It becomes hollow if all you do is just post information … We’re trying to ask questions so that people can discuss it and talk about it.”

Floyd handles the main UF accounts on Twitter and Facebook, among others. He was given full control of the Facebook page in fall 2009 and brought it from 20,000 followers to the bastion of information it presently is.

“Sometimes we’re the first point of contact with a lot of people who are interested in the university,” he said. “It’s the virtual opening of the door.”

Orlando and Floyd agreed that other UF social media outlets provide useful and timely information to current students. Some professors have taken to using Twitter for classroom purposes, while the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Academic Advising Center uses its page to keep tabs on how long the wait is to see an adviser.

Floyd said he expects UF’s involvement in social media both in and out of the classroom to only increase going forward, regardless of its high national ranking.

“It doesn’t mean by any stretch that we can sit back and say, ‘Oh, we’re done,’” Floyd said. “It’s about active participation, so we have to be interactive and involved.”

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