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How Duke Students Welcomed the First Members of #Duke2021

For the 861 student applicants who got good news about their admission to Duke University Wednesday night, the acceptance notice was just the beginning of the welcome they received.

For the Devil’s Advocates, a Duke student social media team working with the Office of News and Communications, the notices were a highlight of weeks of work to create social media graphics and digital swag and to electronically greet the students.

Here’s a replay of how last night played out:


The Advocates oversee @DukeStudents accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, and Snapchat. When the Early Decision notices went live online at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the team was ready with personal greetings to the first acceptances of the Class of 2021.

Most of the greetings carried best wishes, but there was some early advice as well:

“When you arrive, make sure to talk to those around you; their life stories may be eerily similar or wildly different, and each person you come across will have something valuable to teach you. Keep your ears and heart open, and you’ll learn just as much from them as you will in class.” Jair Oballe, Class of 2019

The Advocates helped the Class of 2021 celebrate their news with a Spotify “Happy Dance” playlist around the theme of admitted students being “The One,” a playlist that had no problem fitting in Orleans and Olivia Newton-John as well as more contemporary singers.

Leading up to 7 p.m., current Duke students shared words of encouragement and their own memories:


At 7 PM

When the admissions notices went live online at 7 p.m., Twitter was immediately filled with admitted students sharing their good news and posting photographs of their letter of admission (with their addresses blacked out). The first admitted student to tweet with the hashtag #Duke2021 was Michael Castro.


The @DukeStudents Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts immediately started sending congratulations and welcome messages to admitted students.


Soon after the Class of 2021 started the celebration, parents, siblings and Dukies joined in:

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag tweeted: “Loving these #duke2021 tweets. Congrats to the first Blue Devils of 2017!” At one point, #Duke2021 was trending on Twitter in Durham.

To wrap the celebration up, the Devil’s Advocates ended the evening with this tweet:

This was originally published on Duke Today

Medium: An Explainer on a New Platform for Duke University

What is it?
Medium is a blogging platform started by the founder of Blogger and Twitter. It is a place to write and publish. It’s also super easy to use and edit.

How it works.
Anyone can start a free account and start publishing their writing. Writers can publish to their own profiles, or they can publish their writing on publications. Writers can create their own publications and/or contribute to publications that curate stories. Medium has an existing network of writers, so communities form easily and writers can follow each other’s work.

You can find and follow people and publications using Medium’s search. Comments in Medium are left in the margins, which is a great way to create an interactive reading experience. You can also recommend articles that you like.

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Medium is wide-open as far as topics. Writers publish both short-form and long-form and stories vary in tone, format and topic. You can insert photos and videos in a Medium story to make it more visually compelling.

Writers and readers on Medium vary. Some are bloggers and journalists. Some are experts on
a certain thing. And some are just curious people who want to tell their stories.

A full 95% of Medium‘s readers are college graduates, and 43% of them earn six figures or more. Even better, from an advertiser standpoint, these readers are also young, with half of them in the coveted 18-34 demographic and 70% of them being under the age of 50.  — From this article.

32% of Medium readers are from the United States, followed by 12% from India, and a combined 14% from the UK/Germany/France. — From Alexa.

People and Publications to Follow.

And its users are some heavy hitters: The Gates Foundation uses Medium to post updates on the latest charity work. The White House posted the State of the Union address on Medium ahead of the event. Google (GOOG) just started using the service to promote its “Ideas” blog. — From CNN

Here are some of my current favorite Medium publications:

Should you use Medium?
Are you just getting started with a blog? Medium has a huge built-in audience.
Are you new to blogging? Medium is really easy to use.
Are you looking to get more readers on what you are already writing? Medium might make sense for you to use in addition to op-eds and existing blogs you are publishing.

How are Duke people using Medium?
There are a handful of Duke professors who publish their opinions and findings to Medium.

Duke University has just launched a publication where we plan to pull in these stories as well

  • Faculty opinion pieces, especially thought-provoking pieces that may not be quite right
    for an op-ed, or that may have missed the short window of the news cycle, but would still be of interest to readers
  • Posts that distill faculty research expertise in a ready-friendly format, such as this post explaining work that was published in 2015 but is relevant to current conversations and political debate
  • First-person essays and posts related to the experiences of students, faculty and staff
  • Institutional opinion or perspective from senior leaders regarding policy issues, current events, or other current topics
Duke University's official publication on Medium

Duke University’s official publication on Medium

Have a Medium account? Let us know by emailing the #DukeSocial team.

More Reading
How to Use Medium: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing, Publishing & Promoting on the Platform, from Hubspot

Medium for Business: The Complete Guide for Marketers, by Social Media Examiner

How to do Medium Well, by News for Authors

Periscope and Facebook Live

Here at Duke, we’ve been experimenting with live-streaming video tools! Here’s a quick look at how we’re trying out Periscope and Facebook Live video features. 
Periscope is a mobile-based live streaming application that is owned by Twitter. Videos last for up to 24 hours on the channel, but you can archive your own videos using a nifty tool named Katch. We’ve been using Periscope to cover everything from the recent Nobel Prize press conference, to an inside look at a Fuqua class to a 10-hour reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost. If you have a Twitter account personally or professionally, you can create your own Periscope account for live-stream coverage. Here is a recent blog post Sonja Foust wrote on the inexpensive equipment that helps to have for easy videos on social media. 
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10-hour live streaming of Milton’s Paradise Lost

Facebook Live is a video-streaming feature that is only open to verified Facebook Pages at this point. The expectation is that live video streaming will open up to all Facebook Pages at some point in the future. The large Duke Facebook Page (that is verified) has held one Facebook Live event — Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, speaking about STEM and minorities, in an event hosted by President Brodhead on our campus — and it was a big success with over 7,000 live viewers. 
I look forward to sharing more as we continue to learn about these new and exciting tools! 

Duke Does Digital Swag

By Elysia Pan and Cara Rousseau

On December 11, 2015, Duke welcomed 811 Early Decision students to the Class of 2020. Along with their acceptance letter, the admitted students and their families were given the gift of Duke digital swag – a collection of Duke images displaying the hashtag #Duke2020 and #DukeFamily for mobile and desktop backgrounds, social media sharing and posting in online spaces.

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Under guidance from Duke’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of News & Communications, the project was executed by DiDA, a Duke student-led, full-service marketing agency. Four students were involved in creating/updating the site and creating themes that would appeal to admitted students and their families.

The site garnered more than 40,000 page views, 10,000 unique visitors and 3,000 total downloaded files.

Why Digital Swag?

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The project helped us reach three goals:

  1. Create a virtual community for admitted students and their families

By creating the digital swag, we fostered an intimate online community for the incoming class as soon as admits received their acceptance letters. Students and their family members were able to use these graphics as a digital marker that they joined the Duke community (think “online bumpersticker”).

  1. Create engagement between current and prospective students

Our approach was to showcase Duke in the best way possible: by creating connections between current and prospective students so that they end up recruiting each other. This project was a way for admitted students to interact with current undergraduates, and vice-versa.

  1. Show off cool student work and organizations

We always want to show off the talents that our undergraduates possess! We also were able to show design/media-savvy students that there is a community here on campus for them.

Lessons Learned

We learned a few things that can be applied to other digital media projects in higher education:

  1. Make your project easy to update in coming years

When you’re working with student teams, it’s important to think ahead on projects that will need to be updated in coming years, as students graduate and study abroad. We created a generic Gmail account for the Squarespace site we built and we saved the graphics on a shared space. This way, we were able to work with a new graphic designer the next year and he was able to access the website and all of the files he needed.

  1. People prefer iconic/beauty shots to images featuring people

We created a heat map of the images that were downloaded and learned images showing people typically performed the weakest. The most popular downloads were Duke spring, #ForeverDuke buttons and Duke ducks.

We’ve seen that people shots are effective on social media when the audience can identify people who they know in the shot. For admitted students and their families, they probably didn’t identify with photos of current Blue Devils. But, they were eager to share pictures of iconic Duke places and things.

  1. Make projects accessible to as many audiences as possible  

By creating the suite of #DukeFamily graphics, we made the site appealing to people beyond the incoming class. Alumni, staff and faculty were excited to be able to show their Duke pride on their devices and social media profiles, too.

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We’re excited to evaluate how Early Decision students receive their digital swag this year, and perhaps tweak the site based on their reactions for Regular Decision students.

Now, go swap out your cover art and show your Duke spirit!


The project was led by Duke’s Office of News & Communications and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and was implemented by the student-led Duke Innovation Design Agency (DiDA).

Elysia Pan is a Duke alumna and works as an admissions officer in Duke’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, where she focuses on yield activities, recruiting in the arts & humanities and manages in-house design. 


State of Duke’s Social Media: Summer 2015

A few times a year, we update a report showing high-level data for Duke’s social media presence. This information helps us see overall growth of Duke’s presence, trends in platforms and growth across individual accounts.

Our team maintains a social media “census” that lists all of the institutional accounts for Duke, and we do a biannual update of their followers and presence across channels. As of summer 2015, here are the aggregate numbers for Duke’s overall social media presence.


We also take an in-depth look at growth and engagement on the main Duke University social media channels. The big trend that we are seeing is a deep increase in our Instagram activity and community, which has grown over 100% in the 2014-15 academic year.

DukeSocialMedia_Summer2015.pdf (1)

See the full report and look forward to another update this fall.

The Graphic Designer’s Toolkit: Essential Apps and Resources

Guest post by Meaghan Li ’15


Photo editing and manipulation: Adobe Photoshop


Photoshop is now a household name and an absolute staple in every creative industry that you can think of. It lets you enhance, retouch, and manipulate images for all of your everyday and professional needs, whether you’re amping up the contrast of a landscape shot, brightening the smiles in a family portrait, or tackling full-scale creative projects.

 Vector art and illustration: Adobe Illustrator

Before I began working as a graphic designer at Duke, Adobe Illustrator was completely foreign and utterly intimidating. Once you’re familiar with the interface and functionality of Illustrator, however, it becomes a seamless and intuitive powerhouse for all of your graphic needs.

Experimenting with color schemes and palettes:


Color Scheme Designer is an extremely simple and effective tool for creating gorgeous color schemes. Choose your base color, and the website will easily create a palette of complementary, analogic, or accented shades to match.

Creating photo mosaics: Fotor

Here at Duke Social Media, we love using collages and mosaics to showcase several student photo submissions and campus shots at one go. Fotor is my favorite tool for creating photo collages; not only is it simple and fast, but it also gives you several options to experiment with the style and composition.

Admitted Chinese Graduate Students Get Answers via Sina Weibo

By Laura Brinn
Their questions were typical of incoming graduate students: What are the best housing options on- and off-campus? Are tuition payment plans available? How successful have graduates been in pursuing careers in New York and Washington D.C.? And of course, are graduate students able to get tickets to Duke basketball games?

What made the group of admitted graduate students posing the questions different is that they were using Weibo, a popular Chinese social media channel, to connect with current graduate students and Duke staff in real time to learn more about graduate school and campus life at Duke.

The session Tuesday morning was hosted by the Graduate School’s Admissions Office, in collaboration with Duke’s International House and Public Affairs and Government Relations team, the Career Center and the Duke Chinese Student and Scholars Association.

Nearly 40 percent of the Chinese applicants who have received admissions offers from the Graduate School signed on to join the one-hour chat session, during which seven students and five staff members scrambled to keep up with the constant influx of questions and comments. While some of the participants have already accepted their offers of admission to Duke, others are still weighing their decisions, and finances, housing and career prospects are among the many factors they must consider.

Representatives from the Pratt School of Engineering’s graduate programs, as well as the computer science department, also attended the session to provide specific answers to questions about their programs, which attract large numbers of applicants from China.

“This is a great way for us to answer common questions in real-time, in a conversation-like forum,” said Liz Hutton, associate dean for graduate admissions. “The Graduate School has experienced tremendous growth in applications from Chinese students in recent years, and connecting like this helps us overcome time-zone and connection challenges and provide instant access to current students, program staff and experts on campus life.”

This is the second year the Graduate School has used Weibo to connect with admitted students. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions will host a chat session for admitted students from China this Friday on RenRen, another Chinese social media channel.

Duke maintains official university accounts on three Chinese social media channels: Weibo, RenRen and Youku. If you are interested in using these channels to connect with prospective students or other groups in China, contact Laura Brinn, executive director of global communications, or Cara Rousseau, social media manager.

This post originally appeared on Duke’s global website.

9 Trends for Social Media: State of the Web for 2014

Recently, Blyth Morrell and I presented to Duke Communicators on the state of the web for 2014. The full slide-deck can be downloaded here and the highlights from my social media section are expanded on below.

Social Media Trends 2014

  1. Post-Facebook Strategy Conversations

This is without a doubt the most talked-about social media topic on our campus this year. As Facebook has gone public and they continue to tweak their algorithm, organic post reach is miserable for pages.

First, I want to make the point that Facebook itself is not dead. It continues to be the social network where most americans have an account. But, the way people use Facebook is changing, and the way Facebook serves content for brands is drastically changing.

Facebook just turned 10 this year. It has allowed companies to basically do free advertising for the bulk of this time, and now they are focusing more on a revenue-based model. Facebook is becoming more and more a space where pages need to pay to play with audiences. Because of this, brands are looking at either investing in ad spend on Facebook, or retooling their strategy on different channels and platforms.

It’s important to at least be thinking about a day when we all wake up and Facebook organic reach for pages is at 0%.

Duke Implications:

Start by taking a close look at how your work on Facebook is going. What are you getting out of your page, and what are you putting into it?

Is Facebook driving traffic to your website? Are you engaging with your community there? How much time are you spending creating graphics to post there, or moderating discussions in groups or comments? Take a look at your Google Analytics to see which social media channels are driving traffic now, and think about beefing up your use and/or presence on those sites. For instance, if Facebook is driving most of your traffic, but Twitter is second and linkedin is third, think about what you might do differently or better if you were to shift your focus to those secondary channels.

  1. Google+ on the Rise… or, on the Chopping Block?
  • 300 million people visit Google+ (or use it indirectly) per month.
  • That is far less than Facebook’s 1.2 billion, but more than Twitter’s 241 million.

Especially given the decline in page reach on Facebook, communicators are talking a lot about other social networks where they can reach their communities. Google+ is one of those places. We’ve all referred to Google+ as a ghost town, but it does have active communities in certain areas, especially science, research, medicine and health. These are areas where Duke is strong.

That said, while Google+ is on the rise in terms of user numbers, Google Authorship was killed last year, and many marketers are wondering if G+ is next on the chopping block. Also, google recently made it optional to create a Google+ profile when you sign up for a new Google account, for the past 2.5 years it’s been mandatory.

Duke Implications:

If you have great content in the medical, education, science or health fields, consider sending it along to the Duke’s social media team to consider posting on our main Google+ account. Graphics are a must!

  1. LinkedIn Growing as a Publisher

LinkedIn’s core demographic are those aged between 30 and 49, i.e. those in the prime of their career-rising years. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn also has a pronounced skew toward well-educated users.

This year, LinkedIn launched a new publishing feature, allowing people to share their stories, articles and blog posts through the platform. It’s a great way to showcase knowledge and expertise, and also raise visibility in search. Both connections and followers see published posts just like on the Facebook news feed.

Duke Implications:

This could be an interesting way for us to encourage faculty to promote themselves through the LinkedIn platform. Duke’s Office of News and Communications is incorporating this as a part of our regular social media training for faculty.

  1. For Millennials, There is no One True Social Network

Facebook is like their yellow pages: Millennials have a profile, but don’t comb through the listings every day. They are splitting their time among networks and using Facebook as a sort of baseline social network. Instead of Facebook being “cool” it’s “useful,” seen as a utility and gateway to the rest of the web. Millennials aren’t locked into one network of choice.

Duke Implications:

For recruiting and communicating with undergraduate students, it makes sense to have a presence (even better if run by student voices) on a variety of channels to reach students where they are.

  1. Trendjacking

This is the act of capitalizing on an existing trend in order to bolster one’s brand in the virtual marketplace. We are seeing more and more of this happening on social media this year. Think about the Oreo dunking tweet that went live when the lights went out at the Superbowl. Oreo’s content manager saw a trend spiking, acted swiftly and amplified their brand with a viral message.

Duke Implications:

We have migrated the way we manage the editorial calendars for featured content on and social media, thinking more about these platforms as a google doodle space. Our content managers are paying more attention to weird/geeky holidays and tapping into what’s trending – as it makes sense for the Duke brand.

  1. Video Marketing

We’ve all cared about video marketing for a while now, and the topic has only gotten more serious in 2014. For video, user statistics continue to soar, people are seeking for more content in less time, mobile apps continue to rise and storytelling through video platforms is an established format. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of how prevalent video creation has become and the ubiquity of video sharing on mobile devices.

Duke Implications:

We continue to focus resources on video marketing, experimenting with video on newer channels like Vine and Instagram in addition to a large presence on YouTube. We happily welcomed Sonja Foust to ONC this year to manage Duke’s YouTube channel and video marketing efforts.

  1. Contests and Campaigns

In my opinion, 2014 is the year that social media contests and campaigns got really good. Some of my favorites were the National Geographic Covershot contest and the Travelocity Gnome’s #iwannago photo campaign. Also, don’t forget the Oscars selfie shot was a viral campaign thought up to market Samsung.

Duke Implications:

We’re doing more and more cool campaigns and contests on our social media channels. Just this year, we have run #MyDukeRoom, #MyDukePath, #BlueDevilLove, #WisdomWednesday and #WhatsYourForever. Something I’m thinking about for 2015 is how we better coordinate all of these campaigns and align our resources to be more consistent and effective across accounts.

  1. Brand Ambassadors

As social media has become an integral part of our lives and how we all communicate, it’s important in our jobs to tap into our communities of interest online.

Duke Implications:

We are taking a harder look at using our alumni/faculty influencers to spread messages, and using student street teams to be roving communicators to tell Duke’s story.

  1. Taking Social Media Seriously

Gone are the days of social media just being a small part of a  marketing and communications job. Social media is a real line item in many budgets, and the importance of this work is reflected in increased advertising spend and jobs being created to support social media efforts.

Duke Implications:

Many new communications positions at Duke have a strong focus on digital and social media. We are also preparing to enter an enterprise-level agreement with a social media management and reporting tool that will bring Duke’s social media efforts to the next level with collaboration and data analysis.