How a president (and her pooch) win Twitter
The most popular tweets Renu Khator (@UHpres) shares with her 91,000-plus followers star her adopted German shepherd, Ruby.
Along with the fact that pets rule the internet, Ruby’s past a stray on the University of Houston campus also fuels her popularity. “I watched the dog from my window every day for a week as students would try to feed her,” Khator says. “When there was a three-day holiday, I told my chief of police to keep an eye on the dog and to send me a report every day to make sure she didn’t end up in the wrong hands.”
Khator swooped in to adopt Ruby a mere 15 minutes after the skinny, 18-month-old dog was tranquilized by animal control and taken to a shelter in 2018. The facility didn’t have room to keep the dog long term. “I brought her home and tweeted right away because I knew the students would be worried if they didn’t see the dog on campus,” she says.
Khator does all her tweeting on the go, using editing apps to clean up her photos. She likes to see what people are talking about, but she refuses to get dragged into arguments.
Mainly, she says, “I use it to show people I’m here and I’m listening.”
Her next most-popular posts involve athletic events, though she also writes about research and other academic matters. She wants people to let her know about parking problems and other day-to-day issues that she can have fixed.
Khator did not heed the advice of her university’s communications department staff when they advised her against joining Twitter 10 years ago. Still, she recognizes how situations get blown out of proportion on social media when higher ed leaders haven’t sought training in digital communications skills.
“These crises get created, and university presidents get trapped in difficult situations before they’ve had time to explain or fix things or change course,” Khator says. “And the judgment in public is offered before there has been time to understand the issue.”
Read UB’s full profile: How Renu Khator drives a big-city university to its full potential