On Monday, Twitter announced a new feature it is currently beta testing for businesses. The feature, called "Contributors," allows organizational accounts to include tweets by multiple contributors. So, for instance, a main Twitter account for WidgetsInc could have John_WidgetsVP, WidgetsSupport and WidgetsPrez all contributing tweets. The contributors' usernames would show up in the "byline" of the tweet.
It remains to be seen how Twitter defines a "business" -- can it be any large-scale (or even small-scale) organization, regardless of whether it is for-profit or nonprofit? If the Contributors functionality is available to organizations such as universities, there could be significant benefits for organizing and empowering social media voices on campus.
As Twitter has exploded, many universities not only have "main" accounts, but a variety of accounts hosted by individual departments, schools or initiatives. While this is great, it can be a challenge to align priorities, avoid redundancy and tap the energy of a dispersed community. Through the Contributors functionality, select accounts could potentially feed up to the main university Twitter presence, which could then serve as a collaborative hub for social media presences at the university.
Facebook fan pages allow multiple admins, and this is a somewhat comparable model. But rather than every contributor appearing the same to fans or followers, it gives a greater sense of community by both fostering individual voices while giving them access to a broader, unifying platform. Sort of a social media maypole, weaving together the varying messages of the university that add up to its brand and character. Stay tuned to see how this evolves.