Duke Admissions is Tweeting, Blogging and Posting

Please also see this U.S. News & World Report article on how admissions offices are using social media tools to communicate with high schoolers. 

By David Jarmul

Christoph Guttentag has an interesting perspective on how life has changed for college admissions officers. “Hitting the road for admissions again. Year 30,” he wrote recently. “Still recall Year 1–no cell phone, no GPS, but lots of maps & change for the pay phones!”

Even more interesting, perhaps, is whereDuke’s undergraduate admissions dean wrote those words: on Twitter. They were among several posts he made last week during a trip to Massachusetts. “Springfield last night & this a.m; Worcester later today. Flying BOS-RDU early tomorrow. No time for sightseeing, alas,” he responded online to a tweeted question from a staff member. A few hours later he posted: “About to start Exploring College Options program at #MechanicsHall in Worcester, MA.  Spectacular facility!”

Guttentag’s Twitter posts (@DukeAdmissDean) are the latest example of Duke’s admissions office embracing social media to engage with a generation of applicants who have grown up with smart phones and Facebook accounts.

A year ago, the office recruited its first student bloggers, hiring seven students with diverse academic interests and homes ranging from North Carolina to Thailand. One of them, Latrice Coleman, went on to post stories about accumulating Duke T-shirts, studying in Italy and attending a Duke-Carolina basketball game. Another, Monica Hogan, described being a “hopeless dance addict” who also studies biology. Thousands of applicants followed the bloggers. Those who were admitted got to meet them at the university’s Blue Devil Days events in April.

Twitter featured prominently at those gatherings, with Guttentag inviting admitted students and their parents to submit questions and comments while touring the campus. “i loved duke when i got here, but now, i think i’m officially IN love with this school,” tweeted one visitor, Mbenoye Diagne, who is now enrolled as a freshman. Victoria Chang wrote, “I have officially committed to Duke University! I couldn’t be happier 🙂 Class of 2016!!” Guttentag monitored Twitter throughout the weekends, pausing during his talks in Page Auditorium and other settings to address questions he’d seen online.

Also in April, the admissions office held eight “live video chats” in which Duke students discussed topics such as how they found research opportunities, studied abroad or pursued the arts.  They interacted with prospective students through Google+ Hangouts On Air, a Skype-like tool that enabled them to field questions from their dorm rooms or campus venues such as Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Duke Lemur Center. Duke on Demand, the university’s video site, posted archives of the chats.

Most of the students who decided to attend Duke joined a Class of 2016 group on Facebook, where they began making friends months before they moved to campus. Meanwhile, the admissions office began interacting with a new batch of applicants through its public Facebook site. The office also has been using social media to connect with parents of prospective students, such as through a web chat where they asked questions of parents whose children already attend Duke.

The office’s new approach can also be seen in its website, which it recently redesigned with colorful graphics and deeper pages to work well on iPads, smart phones and other mobile devices, as well as on desktop monitors. Inside Higher Ed profiled the site, calling it “mobile-ready and built upon quality storytelling.”

Cara Rousseau, the university’s social media manager, and her colleagues have also developed Duke sites for Pinterest and Foursquare, and are monitoring college-oriented sites such as StudentAdvisorUnigo and Zinch. Rousseau splits her time between the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of News and Communications while also advising offices across the university. Her blog highlights social media innovations across Duke generally.

One recent post to the blog described how Duke used a live video feed to cover its newest students as they gathered on East Campus in late August for their official class photo. The article included a photo of an iPhone affixed with rubber bands and duct tape to a lift above the gathering. The phone sent video of the event via Skype to a production team below, which incorporated the images into a live video program on the Duke Ustream channel. More than 4,000 parents and others watched the event live, with 559 alumni and others “liking” it on Duke’s main Facebook page.

Rubber bands  and duct tape exemplify Duke’s spirit of innovation with new communications tools, according to Rousseau. “Social media is still very new, so we’ve been experimenting with different platforms and approaches to see which will be the most effective,” she said.

This article was originally published in Duke Today. 

Library Answer Person Trending

Those of us who work in marketing, public relations and the social media world spend a lot of time talking about – and thinking about – how to make our digital media viral. We know how hard it is to have a topic trend on Twitter or to create a overnight video success on YouTube, but we keep fighting the good fight. We make stellar content, promote it heavily and cross our fingers for a little good luck and timing.

Duke University Library’s Answer Person blog recently stumbled on the recipe to go viral, when a 2004 blog post on the difference between payroll and income tax received over 20,000 hits last week. Read more about how it happened here.

Facebook Tech Talk at Duke

Facebook is on campus this week. (That’s fun to say.) Two software engineers at Facebook, Tom Occhino and and Nick Schrock, will deliver a combined tech talk at Schiciano Auditorium on Thursday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Tom will lead off the talk with “Code Is Written To Be Read.” He will detail useful tips and principles for tasteful API design. Nick will speak on how “Code Is Written To Be Used.” He will detail some indications that you need a new cross-cutting framework or abstraction, provide some advice on how to design it, and then suggest principles to successfully deploy it across an organization with a number of stakeholders with different viewpoints and constraints.

If you need any more incentive to attend, food will be served.

Aptly, register through this Facebook event.

Blogging from abroad: How to get the most out of your travel writing

A huge amount of Duke students blog while they study abroad and explore global education opportunities. Just this past summer, over 100 students blogged during their DukeEngage service projects. It’s a great way for them to document their experiences and also build an online portfolio to share with future employers.

Want some tips on blogging during a study abroad experience? Check out this USA Today College article, highlighting a number of Duke’s student bloggers and myself sharing tips and best practices.

Capturing an Image of the Class of 2016

The first Duke tradition most first-year students participate in is the university’s annual class photo shoot on East Campus. Each year, the Duke Photography department pours a ton of time and resources into capturing the perfect shot of the incoming class at sunset at their new home for the next four years.

Since this is such a high-energy event, we decided to start a new tradition: Live streaming video of the event, including student interviews, social media interactions and a skycam view of the photo shoot.

Photo credit: Jim Rosenfield. Showing Jonathan Lee, James Todd and Cara Rousseau, from left to right.

This ended up being a pretty slick project, with over 4,000 total viewers and a ton of social media praise. Here’s how we pulled off the project and some things our team learned.

Video Production

We used the Duke UStream channel as the platform for the live stream of the class photo shoot. Because the photo shoot is taken by photographers up in 60-foot lifts, we also wanted to incorporate some “skycam” aerial footage to show the students filling in the class numbers. In order to do a picture-in-picture type video, we used live streaming software Wirecast, which allows live feeds from multiple cameras to be streamed in a broadcast.

iPhone capturing aerial footage

Because we didn’t have resources to man a video camera in the lifts, (the Duke photographers were busy!), we duct-taped my iPhone to the lift and used Skype to send live video of the aerial view to our equipment on the ground. The result: A skycam!

To be safe, we were plugged in to the Internet with an ethernet cable, and had a staff of three manning the cameras, running production and overseeing the student interviews and social media interactions.

Graphic design and music added a nice layer to the production this year. For music, we used “Time Has Come” by Tauri Wind, a student band featured on the Small Town Records 2010 Compilation. We incorporated graphics showing the make-up of the incoming class and Duke’s student body at key times during the event. We also used visual reminders to prompt viewers to use social media channels to connect and participate throughout the event.









After the webcast, the video was archived on our UStream channel and the video is now available on the Duke YouTube channel and Duke on Demand, Duke’s video website.

Student Interaction and Social Media 

To keep the event authentic and fun, two upperclassmen hosted the live stream and interviewed first-year students on the ground as they filled in the numbers for the photo shoot. Senior Ashley Alman and Junior Vinesh Kapil did an amazing job and provided entertaining commentary throughout the event. We practiced a run-through with them for about 20 minutes before we went live, but they were mainly unscripted, which we hope made Mom and Dad feel like they were on the field with us Wednesday evening.








The Twitter hashtag #Duke2016 is being used for all Orientation Week activities, and was especially used by parents during the photo shoot event. UStream is great because it has a social stream function where viewers can connect their Facebook and Twitter accounts to join the conversation. We had many parents participating through social media as they looked for sons and daughters in the 2016 on East Campus.



We live-streamed the event last year, but chose to treat it as a beta test and not do promotion around the production. This year, feeling more confident in ourselves, we used social media and traditional channels to promote the event to incoming students and their parents. We utilized the Class of 2016 private Facebook group and the #Duke2016 hashtag to spread news about the event. Also, our Student Affairs friends kindly sent an email to first-year parents a week ahead of the event, letting them know to tune in on Wednesday night to watch their students participate in their first big Duke tradition. Finally, UStream featured the event on their homepage, which definitely helped with traffic flow. We ended up having over 4,000 total viewers during the live-stream and are interested to watch the viewer numbers on the archived video.

I’m interested to hear how you would improve this project next year. Please leave feedback and questions in the comments section below!

Watch the entire video here: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLHHNtkA830


Talk Energy with Duke Experts on Twitter

Over the past year, our news and communications team has been exploring different ways to use social media to connect Duke researchers and faculty with larger audiences. One of the more successful experiments are Twitter chats – conversations on Twitter using a hashtag around a topic and/or event. Twitter chats are a great way for Duke experts to weigh in on a topic and engage in public education.

One example of a Duke Twitter chat was when we had faculty, post-docs and students tweeting during the 2012 State of the Union using the hashtag #DukeChat with #SOTU, the main hashtag for the event. We ended up with a total of 45 people tweeting 250+ times with the hashtag, creating some good conversation around the opinions of Duke experts.

Duke’s next Twitter chat  is hosted by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and follows the release of two new case studies exploring the opportunities and barriers associated with clean energy, using solar water heating and combined heat and power as examples. On August 21 from 2-3 p.m. EST, two study authors will lead a conversation about the case study projects and an overview of the state of renewable energy in the southeast U.S. To participate in the chat, send your questions and comments on Twitter using the hashtag #seenergytalk, or post them early to Facebook. We hope to meet you there!

Duke Admissions Launches New Site, New Mobile Platform

Last Wednesday, the university’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions launched a colorful new website and mobile platform that place students front and center. Social media plays an elegant role in the site. Tweets, bloggers and video are integrated throughout the site, which pays close attention to the student voice and student-to-student interactions. This follows the themes of storytelling and relationship building that we have focused on in our admissions communications strategy over the past year.

Read more here…

Are you a new grad looking for a job? I’m hiring!

I’ve been the social media manager at Duke for a little over a year now and constantly tell people that I have the best job at the university. I get to work with a stellar peer group of communicators and marketers, I am constantly challenged by new projects and I have a number of mentors across campus. The work is interesting and I wear many hats including admissions marketer, content manager, and university consultant.

All of this keeps me pretty busy. As part of an expanded social media and video production capacity at Duke, I’m looking for a social media fellow to support our good work in the Office of News and Communications. I promise it will be the second-best job at Duke.

Below is a short description of what we’re looking for.

The Office of News and Communications is hiring a full-time Social and Digital Media Fellow to support social media operations, reach out to target audiences through social media and produce short videos for news and other institutional purposes.

The position requires a proven record of being able to identify and report on stories, independently produce news-style reports within a few hours and use social-media tools effectively. This is a one-year fellowship with the option for ONC to extend the position for an additional year.

Strong journalistic writing skills, enthusiasm for new media, a collaborative spirit and a demonstrated ability to produce high-quality news material under tight deadlines required.   To apply, please send your resume, three published story URLs and links to any online video publications to Maxine.Borjon@duke.edu.

A refresh for Duke’s social media website

Students, alumni and other members of the Duke community can now browse a social media directory and extensive other material thanks to an update of Duke’s social media website.

Duke originally launched the site in 2010 as one of the first university “aggregation sites.” Because of the quickly changing social media landscape and Duke’s expanding online presence, I recently worked with the Office of News and Communications and the Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications to refresh the site, Social Media at Duke, which is at socialmedia.duke.edu.

The site features a directory that tracks how Duke’s schools and departments are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. It also highlights the latest tweets from official Duke Twitter accounts, a stream of videos from Duke on Demand, a connect tool for Duke’s main Facebook page and a stream of the most recent posts from this blog.

Duke University Social Media Website

Duke University Social Media Website

This project reflects a push to deepen social and digital media efforts at Duke and to better integrate tools such as Facebook and Twitter with the university’s wider news, communications and marketing efforts. In addition to using these tools to reach larger audiences, Duke is also active  on niche social networks such as Pinterest and foursquare.

This blog will showcase Duke’s growing social media presence. Its purpose is to communicate how people are using these new tools across campus. I hope you’ll browse previous posts, contribute with comments and return often.

You can post your own thoughts about social media at Duke in the comments section of this post or send your questions to socialmedia@duke.edu.