Valentine Dining Tweets
Issue   |   Mon, 02/06/2012 - 21:25

Valentine Dining Hall (@AmherstDining) has joined the ever-growing list of Amherst College Twitter accounts. Valentine has joined the popular media site in an effort to connect the dining hall and the students on campus. At 149 followers and one week in, this Twitter account has been testing the limits of its 140 characters to reach out to all those who check its “tweets” each day.
Launched by sophomores Quinn Saunders and JJ Hoffstein, the idea was formulated when Saunders began thinking of a way to use the varied student opinions regarding the College’s only dining hall to improve it, rather than just let the comments sit. Bringing his idea to Hoffstein, the two contacted Charlie Thompson, the Director of Dining Services.
“The timing was perfect,” Thompson said.
For the past year and a half, Dining Services has been thinking of ways to use social media to get the student perspective on Val, and this was the opportunity they were looking for.
“We sort of look at ourselves as entrepreneurs and saw an opportunity for added value for Val,” Hoffstein said.
Twitter, the two budding entrepreneurs reasoned, makes Val seem younger, newer and more responsive to customers. Social media is the big thing of our generation, and Saunders and Hoffstein believed they could be the catalyst to help Val in targeting students to shape the customer experience by giving students a voice in a proactive way.
“[We chose Twitter] because it’s such a real-time social media platform. You have an input, and Val’s going to tell you what’s going on. It’s a news feed, really,” Saunders said.
In fact, it’s already working. On Jan. 28, @AmherstDining got the tweet, “choo choo wheels would be a great addition to the pasta bar.” Two days later, Valentine simply tweeted back, “Look out, the train is coming! Choo Choo Wheels are on their way to the pasta bar.”
Hoffstein says it was a simple process of showing the head cook the tweet and seeing if it was possible — and it is.
The account has also provided a way to immediately alert students who lost their ID card in Val and has been answering questions about puzzles like the missing pizza station (it returned on Monday).
A real-time platform like Twitter would also be useful in cases like last October’s infamous snowstorm, when no one really knew what was happening or what would be open. However, with a Twitter account to update on the dinning hall, anyone following the account or activating the mobile notifications would have gotten a simple tweet informing them that there was warmth, food and light somewhere on campus.
This Twitter account aims to raise student morale about Val and is also a way for Val to show that it is trying as hard as it can to accommodate its customer base, the vast majority of which is the student body. It will be somewhere to learn about plans for the immediate future that the downstairs office at Val develops but remain unknown to the students, like the new café in Frost Library run by Dining Services.
While plans for the future and suggestions for improvement are being made, Saunders and Hoffstein are still focusing on publicity. Working with Dining Services, they’ve already created their first event: “Dinner with Biddy.”
For this first publicity occasion, 12 students were chosen at random to share a gourmet artisan meal with the College’s president this Wednesday. The two hope that events like this will continue to increase the account’s popularity, making more students aware of Val’s new future. The launchers of this Twitter account added that the more people that join, the more useful the account will become and the better it will be for everyone who checks it.
Hoping to offer transparency to Dining Services, the Twitter account is working each day to improve and build upon what it already has.