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How #HigherEd can use Snapchat Custom Stories for social media student takeovers (via

I’ve believed for a while that the most fun part of working with social media is throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Trying new things is intimidating, but there are always lessons to be learned in success and/or failure.

When Snapchat announced Custom Stories at the end of May, all higher ed social media professionals asked themselves the same question: “What does this mean for us?”

After poking around the new features, I thought it might allow us to take a different approach to student takeovers.

The new update happened to launch the same week we had content scheduled to congratulate high school seniors who will attend Texas A&M in the fall. This campaign included a Snapchat takeover with two future Aggies on two very different sides of the country – one in California and one in Texas, but 200 miles from campus.

Only one person can be logged into a Snapchat account at any given time, but by using the new Custom Story feature, our two future Aggies were able to do their takeover at the same time…


Read more here.

Snapchat: How Duke Communicators Can Join the Fun

By now, we’ve all at least heard of Snapchat.

It’s the crazy popular app (currently the #1 free app on the Apple App Store) that allows users to share videos or photos that disappear within 24 hours. As of today, it’s the second most active social media network, behind only Facebook.

For marketers though, it’s still the Wild West out there; success metrics on Snapchat are so slim that there’s confusion on what content strategies work. For example, as of today there’s still no easy way to see how many followers you have. Still, the potential for cultivating a captive audience on the platform is worth taking seriously.


So What?

The rise of Snapchat has three larger implications for higher education communications:

1. It coincides with a trend toward social messaging. Interestingly, while we tend to think of Snapchat as a social media network, the company itself describes it as a messaging platform.

2. Content on Snapchat is posted in real-time, so it’s inherently timely. That’s no accident. For example, there’s no equivalent of a profile page, and no space to describe who you are. So the only meaningful thing users see when they follow you is whatever you posted in the last 24 hours. To those who are scared away by the fact that content disappears, Snapchat strategist Carlos Gil says, “As marketers, we operate in real time. If it’s not consumed today, it’s irrelevant.” So, what have you done for them lately?

3. Snapchat is exclusively mobile. If you’ve ever wondered why the interface feels so clunky, just know that the design is part of what has made it so successful. It was designed for mobile natives (i.e. the young’uns):

  • The first thing users see when they open the app is not a news feed, but a camera, ready to capture the next ‘snappable’ moment.
  • Discovery functionalities are minimal. Snapchat was designed for messaging, so many users have the app synced to their phone’s address book to find people to follow.
  • It’s made for vertical video.


Cool. So What Can My Department Do To Join The Fun?


Great question! We don’t recommend starting an account for most parts of campus. Building a followership and posting good content consistently on Snapchat is such a challenge that it’s probably not worth the time/resources. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use Snapchat for your communication efforts. Here are two things you can do if you have an event or initiative you want to cover on Snapchat:

1. Snapchat On-Demand Geofilter: Geofilters are special graphic overlays that communicate the “where and when” of a Snap in a fun way, whether users are sending it to a friend or adding it to their Story (the Snapchat equivalent of a status update). For as low as $5, businesses and individuals alike can purchase On-Demand Geofilters for their event, business, or a specific location. Brand logos and trade-marks are permitted. Get started here.

2. @DukeStudents Snapchat Takeover: We are helping the Devils’ Advocates explore the idea of takeovers for their DukeStudents Snapchat account. If you’re interested in experimenting with us, give us a holler.

What they’re looking for:

  • Visual content. Think: Video first.
  • A host – that is, somebody who’s willing to be in front of the camera. Snapchat is all about using the front-facing camera to create intimacy. Remember: Users connect with human faces, not brands.
  • A storyboard with a beginning, middle and end. Plan for a 1-3 minute long video composed from clips during the day. Our peers at Princeton University put together this great blog post on storyboarding for Snapchat.

Here are the guidelines they provide to people taking over the account.


*Accounts to follow if you want to see these best practices in action:


  • Gary Vaynerchuk: The author of NYT bestseller Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook has his sights set on Snapchat as 2016’s “next big thing.”
  • Yusuf Omar: Yusuf participated in the 2016 Duke Media Fellows program and is an advocate for mobile journalism.
  • DJ Khaled: Once the butt of jokes about the ‘selfie generation,’ he’s now – literally – the poster child for influencer marketing. #BlessUp
  • DukeStudents: Because duh.
  • Bonus: Check out this story on how Wake Forest U uses Snapchat during finals week to encourage students and raise awareness of on campus resources. Simply, Study Buddy Ann is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

*Tip: Try using these links from a mobile device, after downloading the Snapchat app.

Four Things Students Say About Social Media

Keeping up with ‘the kids’ is exhausting.

It seems like every year there’s a new trend or social media platform that affects the way we reach students online. Luckily for us, we’ve got a secret weapon in the never-ending fight to stay hip: Nearly 45 student ambassadors who represent us across social media (including Chinese social media channels). Especially considering our university’s small size, it’s a huge team. Here’s what we’ve learned from them this year:


FOMO Rules All


The pressure to make the most of the “the best four years of their lives” has always been a thing for college students past and present. Because social media never sleeps, however, ‘fear of missing out (FOMO)’ is at an all time high in 2016. From the moment they wake up in the morning, students are constantly plugged in to the people, places and things that are important to them on social media.

The takeaway for social media managers: Experiment with posting easily digestible content at different times of the day, possibly during high traffic periods when students are likely to be on the bus or taking a break between classes. For content that requires more of a captive audience (e.g. videos, long-form articles), try posting after 8 p.m. when students are more likely to be on their desktops instead of their mobile devices.



Facebook’s Not Dead, But Twitter Might Be

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They may not admit it, but Facebook is still an important part of their lives. Sure, it may be the family dinner party they can never leave but, as one student told us, “Facebook serves as the baseline for all the other social media platforms.” While Snapchat and Instagram are spaces where they get the stuff they want, but Facebook is a space where they get the stuff they need: Event information, trending conversations on campus, contact info for students they don’t know directly, … In short, it’s their Yellow Pages.

Twitter, on the other hand, is (directly quoting from a student here) “just lame.” Graduate students find value in it for professional development purposes but, for undergrads, it doesn’t serve a purpose that isn’t already fulfilled on their other channels.

The takeaway for social media managers: Thanks to the almighty Facebook algorithm, organic reach for brand pages is declining. If you want to reach students on Facebook, instead of working to attract more followers to your brand page, try posting your content in event pages, private groups and public, campus-wide groups. Try having a student ambassador or intern post on your behalf, so that it comes from a student voice.



The Days of Fliers IRL (In Real Life) Are Over

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If you haven’t before, check out the events tab of your Facebook profile. There, in one place, is everything you need to know about the things happening in your area, events you may be interested in and events your friends are attending (because nobody wants to go alone). For this reason, students say Facebook is the best place to promote an event. Paper fliers, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as effective.

The takeaway for social media managers: Having an event page on Facebook, and making sure it includes as much relevant information as possible, is essential if you want to promote an event. After you’ve created it, have students share with their networks and invite their friends.



On Snapchat, Continuity Is A Major 🔑🔑🔑

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For students, one of the appeals of Snapchat is that users don’t have to be fed content they don’t want to see. Whereas other social media platforms require users to scroll through a newsfeed, users on Snapchat consciously choose which story they want to see. For that reason, students say they want to know what to expect when they tap on your Snapchat story, so continuity is key to retaining viewership.

The takeaway for social media managers: If you manage a Snapchat account, try to be consistent with your content. Compose a distinct beginning, middle and end to your story so that viewers can easily follow along.

Managing A Social Media Presence – Weeks 3 & 4

As part of the Duke ProComm professional development program, Cara and I teach a course titled “Managing A Social Media Presence.” We teach staff how to identify the right channels, voice/tone and approach for an integrated social media plan. By the end of the course, participants leave with a finalized social media strategy and a better understanding of tools and online applications. We’ll be sharing course readings here for the next few weeks.


Measuring Return on Investment in Higher Ed Social Media

When talking about social media analytics, questions pertaining to ROI (return on investment) usually come up: How do we measure success and what are the numbers that really matter? I contributed to a conversation on this topic with our peers at other universities.


 Universities To Follow On Snapchat

If you’re curious about how our peers at other universities are using Snapchat, check out these schools:

University of Florida (Account Name: uf1853)

University of Michigan (Account Name: uofmichigan

Princeton University (Account Name: PrincetonU)


Four Things Students Tell Us About Social Media In 2016

We invited Duke students for a great conversation on how they use social media.


Inexpensive Equipment for Social Media Photo & Video

We know that some of you are operating as one-man/woman shops and doing what you can with social media photography and videography based on your available resources. Sonja pulled together a quick shopping list of inexpensive items for your photo and video kit to raise your game without busting your budget.


Sonja Foust’s Essential Guide to Video Marketing at Duke


Managing A Social Media Presence – Week 2

As part of the Duke ProComm professional development program, Cara and I teach a course titled “Managing A Social Media Presence.” We teach staff how to identify the right channels, voice/tone and approach for an integrated social media plan. By the end of the course, participants leave with a finalized social media strategy and a better understanding of tools and online applications. We’ll be sharing course readings here for the next few weeks.



Twitter to Expand Tweet’s 140 Character Limit to 10,000

One of Twitter’s most beloved features is set to change. See CEO Jack Dorsey’s explanation. Then check out what people are saying about the news using #Twitter10K.


Hands On With Twitter Moments: The Human-Curated News Stream

This new(ish) feature helps users find the best of Twitter in an instant. As Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff writes, “Moments is the answer to the question, ‘What would Twitter look like if it started as a news curation site?’”


Twitter’s New Timeline is Here, And It’s All About the Algorithm

The company pushed out an update this week that made its much-talked-about timeline redesign official. The new feature shows tweets that are sorted based on relevancy, rather than only chronology, at the top of your timeline.


Twitter Account to Overly Thirsty Brands: Stop Saying the Word ‘Bae’

We briefly touched on the importance of having a voice on social media that makes sense for your brand. When brands stray too far from their voice on Twitter, the result can be… painful to watch. @BrandsSayingBae shames companies trying way too hard to sound like teenagers.


Instagram’s Newest Feature Is A Bigger Deal Than It Seems

Instagram announced that it’s finally adding a much-desired feature: The ability to switch between multiple accounts without having to log out.


Nerdy Holidays For Higher Education

These holidays, some serious and silly, can be good social media fodder.

Managing A Social Media Presence – Week 1

As part of the Duke ProComm professional development program, Cara and I teach a course titled “Managing A Social Media Presence.” We teach staff how to identify the right channels, voice/tone and approach for an integrated social media plan. By the end of the course, participants leave with a finalized social media strategy and a better understanding of tools and online applications. We’ll be sharing course readings here for the next few weeks.



ICYMI This week, we talked about the giant of social media – Facebook. Here’s some additional reading to look over before next week’s class:


Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works

TIME Magazine gives a brief history of how a controversial Facebook feature, the News Feed Algorithm, grew into one of the most influential products on the Internet. Researchers say that, as Facebook’s News Feed gets smarter and we spend more time interacting with it, its impact on the average person will likely come under increasing scrutiny.


Latest Facebook News Feed Algorithm Tweak: High Ratings and Likely Engagement

With its latest tweak to the News Feed Algorithm, Facebook hopes to understand what types of posts its users find interesting – enough if they’re not liking, commenting or clicking on them.


Facebook Page Messaging

The Facebook Help Center has a FAQ page that might be helpful to those of you who receive private messages on your Facebook pages.


Here’s How To Use Facebook’s Mystifying Privacy Settings

Despite sitting on vast gold mines of users’ personal data, Facebook tries to be transparent in how much of your information it shares. However, Facebook is still in the business of data collection, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.


Facebook Pages Manager App for iOS

This was mentioned in class. Just thought I’d share the download link.


Sharing Video On Facebook

Last Week on Instagram: #DukeSnowDay


As snowstorm Jonas hit the east coast last week, students took to campus and enjoyed their day off. Here were the top #DukeSnowDay posts on the ‘Gram:



Squad does snow ❄️ #dukesnowday

A photo posted by Juliana Carvalho (@jucordelia) on







BREAKING: Duke Chapel construction wraps up ahead of schedule on this #DukeSnowDay (PC: @elizabetsy_jane)

A photo posted by Duke University Students (@dukestudents) on




Last Week on Instagram: #PictureDuke

10K Picture Duke

Duke’s community hashtag on Instagram, #PictureDuke, has surpassed 10K uses! Serving as a meeting place for Blue Devils on the social media platform, the hashtag has allowed us to see the Duke experience through the eyes of those who know it best. Here are my picks for last week’s best #PictureDuke posts:






Home again. #pictureduke #artstigators

A photo posted by Stephanie Joe (@stephanie.joe) on







3 Tips For Good Twitter Karma During a Live Chat


twitter karma

(twit-er-kahr-muh) n.

  1. The principle according to which each Twitter user brings upon him/herself inevitable results, good or bad, either within the Twittersphere or IRL.

Do Your Research

Make sure you’re using the appropriate hashtags and stay on topic! In your effort to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way, it also helps to have prepared ahead of time some links, images or content you’d like to share at appropriate moments.Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.46.38 PM


Keep It Snappy

It can be tempting to try to cram as many thoughts as possible within 140 characters. However, concise tweets (think: 120 characters or less) are more shareable and more fitting for the fast-moving world that is the Twittersphere.Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.49.11 PM


Engage With The Other Participants

Think of a Twitter chat as a house party; nobody likes party guests who are only there to draw attention to themselves. Avoiding party fouls and following good etiquette will ensure, not only you’ll have a good time, but others will, too. Some easy ways you can accomplish this are:

  • Like, retweet or reply directly to a tweet.
  • Follow other participants to show you’re interested in maintaining a connection with them afterwards.
  • Thank your host before or after the chat.

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#MiltonPalooza: Duke’s First (And Last) 10-Hour Periscope Broadcast


If not for the alternating readers at the lectern, room 328 of the Allen Building would have been dead silent.

In a room that couldn’t have fit more than 15 chairs at one time, the Duke English Department hosted a 10-hour marathon reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost and managed to pack the house with dedicated attendees for nearly the entire day. Even President Richard Brodhead, who was giddy at the chance to read his favorite passage, joined in on the fun.

From our perspective, the event was a good opportunity to test out a theory regarding Periscope, a new live streaming mobile app that is integrated with Twitter.

One of the appeals of the platform is that it allows users to tune in to – and interact with – a live broadcast in real-time. Notably, our videos typically garner many more live viewers than replay viewers. To capitalize on that desire for immediacy, why not open the window of opportunity for people to tune in by making the broadcast as long as possible? To see if doing so increases the number of live viewers, we took the theory to the extreme by live streaming the entire 10-hour reading marathon.

Mind you, this was an event that might typically be a hard sell on social media – particularly because it appealed to such a niche audience. Still, we stuck a phone on a tripod, hooked it up to a charger and kept the camera rolling. Viewers had no prior heads up and were given only the following video title for context: “For 10 straight hours, cheer on Pres. Brodhead and @Duke_English as they read ‘Paradise Lost.’”


The results were better than we could’ve expected:

  • 735 followers at the time of the broadcast
  • 1,199 live viewers
  • 314 hearts
  • At least 4% of viewers watched the entire broadcast
  • Viewers watched for an average of 8 seconds


Some highlights from the live comments:

*Baby crawls into view of the camera.

“That baby needs some attention. He’s the real star here.”

“Just went upstairs to get a phone charger. Paradise Lost is hammering my battery but I don’t want to miss a second of the excitement.”

@TwitterUser1: Who’s the reader at the podium?

@TwitterUser2: Idk, maybe John Milton?

@TwitterUserA: What is this?

@TwitterUserB: They’re reading all of Paradise Lost

@TwitterUserA: Why?

@TwitterUserB: I’ve been here 2 hrs and I’m still not sure