How to Create a Global Social Media Campaign (with Students!)

Tiles of Global Baton images

This summer, I managed the Duke Global Baton, a campaign on Instagram where students posted photos and videos from their international studies and global work.

The campaign required me to connect with a new student each week in various locations around the world, and this was my first time coordinating an international campaign. Here’s some of what I learned, from one novice to another.

Before the Campaign Starts

Plan, plan, plan! There are numerous steps that need to be taken well in advance to ensure a successful project.

  • Advertise and recruit. This is a big one, and the earlier you start, the better. For example, starting in February or March, we would post graphics on social media inviting students, faculty and staff to apply to hold the baton in the summer. We would also promote through our newsletter and ask partners on campus to spread the word.

For sign-ups, we’ve used a Qualtrics form and email. Both work! With a larger campaign, it may be nice to have the additional organization that Qualtrics provides.

Applicants would send us their preferred name, year at Duke, program of study and availability. We also considered asking for a photography sample, but so far, we’ve had no issue with lack of quality.

  • Select participants. Decide what criteria you are looking for. For our global campaign, we like to show the breadth of Duke’s international work. We selected baton holders based on the region they would be traveling to and the type of work they would be doing. Availability is probably the most important factor, however! Which leads me to…
  • Schedule. During our ten-week summer campaign, our goal was to have a new student posting every week. Create a spreadsheet as candidates volunteer and use this to solve the scheduling puzzle.

And have a Plan B for scheduling. As we all know, life happens. During our scheduling step, we would make sure to note other Duke study away programs held during the same timeframes and keep a list of other students that we had worked with in the past and could possibly ask to fill in if someone cancels.

  • Prep instruction. We made a short document that explains the campaign and provides some guidelines. Once participants were selected, we would send the document in a template emails for participants that also included dates, passwords and trouble-shooting advice.
  • Design graphics. It really helps to have some of the design work done when the campaign starts. Think about how you might use graphics in advance. For our campaign, we used graphics as covers for the Instagram highlight reels and also shared flyers on Facebook. It helped to have a versatile design where we could plug in images from the different countries and adjust the text as needed.
  • Prepare thank-you’s. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Write a template email in advance to save a little time, and tailor it to the individual participant.

During the Campaign

Screenshot of Global Baton homepage

Remind. A week before someone is scheduled to post, send an email to remind them of the dates that they are scheduled to post. In this email, we would also include our username, password and any other small reminders about hashtags and signing posts with their personal handles, etc. (We’ve also considered using LastPass to make it easier to share and change the passwords but haven’t quite implemented it yet.)

Respond quickly. Answers questions from participants promptly. With a multi-person campaign, it is important that you answer questions as fast as you can. For us, there were times when participants would have trouble logging into the Instagram account because of security concerns with their location. To allow them to post, we needed to send the authentication code, and quickly. You don’t want to risk your contributors losing interest or not being able to post during their scheduled time.

Send encouragement. A lot of our participants are either in intensive programs or spending time with family and sometimes need a little encouragement or a reminder to post. Let participants know what you’ve enjoyed seeing.

Monitor social accounts. We didn’t review posts before baton holders published, but we would read each post. We’ve never had an issue with content so far (fingers-crossed!).

Throughout the campaign, show some engagement on your social media feed, and it will pay off! We look for active posts and also like and comment on images from other users. Think of it like being an interesting guest at a party – share something valuable and encourage others.

Archive images. Keep in contact with the participants and ask for their original photos that they posted. These pictures will be extremely useful for any sort of documentation or advertising after the campaign, and the resolution is much better than a screenshot. After participants finished posting, we asked them to upload images to a Box folder. Some just emailed their images, and that’s fine, too.

Promote the campaign on other platforms. Here is another instance when having access to archived, full-resolution images can help. We would repost photos from Instagram to our Facebook account and share the link for the campaign. This would allow us to promote the campaign to a separate audience and generate more engagement on both platforms.

Contact partners, again. Let other communicators know when students in their programs are posting and ask other groups on campus to help promote the campaign.

Make highlight reels (Instagram) and collages (Facebook). This is the fun part. This is where your pre-made graphics are extremely helpful. This year, we decided to make a highlight from the country where each baton holder posted. Our highlights feature some of our favorite posts and most active posts this summer (another use of the archived photos; it’s all coming together huh?).

Highlight reel examples

After the Campaign

Once it’s over, there are just a few more things that need to be done.

  • Show more appreciation. Another thank you to the participants can’t hurt. Your mom would be proud. And by doing this, you help your chances with good participation during the next campaign.
  • Offer a reward. We would give participants Duke Global swag. If they completed a survey, the swag was even better ☺
  • Reuse content. We made a couple multimedia features that summarize the campaigns. To create the layout, we used Adobe Spark and posted the feature on our website and shared with partners. Again, full-res archived pictures are very useful. Show what your campaign is all about. This also serves as a last “thank you” to participants. Here are a couple examples:
Screenshot of 'A Week in Singapore' website

Other Tips

During this campaign (again, my first one. EVER) I found a few things that aren’t necessarily required but very helpful.

  • First, remember to leave lots of room for creative freedom. We want to make sure that our participants are expressing themselves (while representing Duke respectfully). You want variety, why else run a collaborative campaign?
  • Next, be flexible. Admittedly, this was hard for me. However, I learned with working on a campaign relying so heavily on outside participation, flexibility is a MUST. Be ready for things to change or not go how you planned. It is ok, and the truth is probably no one will know there is a problem but you.
  • My last bit of advice, before I send you off to be a global campaign expert – it’s okay to be annoying. Everyone is dealing with time differences, travel logistics and overall busy people things. I learned very early that it is ok to “hound” people, and they often seem to appreciate reminders. But you also must be very responsive, in turn.
Picture of 4 women from the Office of Global Affairs
(Here’s the wonderful team that made it all happen, the Office of Global Affairs.)

Social Media Do’s & Don’ts

Whether you’re looking to expand your social media efforts or simply keep pace with the competition, here are some tips, tricks and some of my personal preferences that might make the job slightly easier and your content all the more share-able.


We’ve all seen the @ symbol. Every major social media network offers the ability to tag other users, which you should do. But there are some rules (more like guidelines).

First, a tag is not a hashtag and should not be used the same. A tag identifies the person or brand and notifies them you’ve mentioned them in a post. A hashtag identifies posts on a specific topic. (More on that later.)

Tags work very much like starting a conversation in real life. They’re the social media equivalent of a “heads up,” helping to signify to another user that you’re talking about them, alerting them to potential topics of interest, and/or initiating a chat.

Much like there is an art to conversation, so too is there an art to tagging. Tag no one and you miss opportunities for positive conversations. Tag everyone and you’ll turn them off and they’ll tune you out — Kind of like someone calling your phone repeatedly and leaving a bunch of voicemails (boo).

  • DO: Use tags on all social media platforms
  • DO: Be selective about who you’re tagging
  • DO: Limit tags to two or fewer per post and to users who would be legitimately interested in your content
  • DO: Incorporate tags into the general flow of your writing
  • DON’T: Tag anyone & everyone who just might be interested in your content
  • DON’T: Tag yourself
  • DON’T: List a bunch of tags at the end of your post


Hashtags are a great way to join a conversation and/or categorize your post for others to find with ease. However, excessive hashtag use is one of the most irritating social media habits to avoid (IMO). A well-used hashtag can increase engagement, but too many or inapplicable hashtags render your post illegible and gives your account an air of desperation.

This section’s title trends towards the hyperbolic, but even the below tactic is rather unadvisable:

Also keep in mind, hashtags do work differently on each platform. For your convenience, the one and only Sonja put together this most practical of presentations. And if you’re in the market for Duke specific hashtags -> Well we have a list for that.

  • DO: Use hashtags appropriate to your content
  • DO: Use hashtags differently depending on the platform
  • DO: Check hashtags to make sure they don’t have unintended or alternate meanings
  • DON’T: Use inapplicable hashtags just to join trending topics
  • DON’T: Over hashtag — For maximum engagement, you pretty much get 1 or 2 per post and that’s it (except on Instagram)


Every day millions of people upload millions of social media images. It’s true that photos usually garner greater engagement, but those that inspire actual engagement rather than a cursory glance are few and far between. Why? Too many images are low-quality, unappealing, incorrectly sized or just flat out boring.

The images you share with a post are every bit a part of the story you’re telling as the text. Actually images are more emotionally resonate, so your image will generally supersede the accompanying text as the main takeaway for your audience. So a pixelated photo or an image without a focal point is like showing up to a cocktail party in your worn-out pajamas.

  • DO: Use the right size image for the right platform – Sprout’s handy list is a good place to start
  • DO: Improve your visual literacy (Words have meanings — So do images)
  • DO: Use visuals with consistent color and design aesthetic (if possible)
  • DO: Plan your social content with visual imagery in mind
  • DON’T: Use headshots alone on social platforms — There’s almost always a better way
  • DON’T: Use graphics on your Instagram feed — Trust us
  • DON’T: Post blurry or pixelated pictures


This section begins with one overarching message: People are less likely to click on a link if they don’t trust where it takes them.

There is a lot of bad content on social media, so people tend to be a tad skeptical. This means we have to work even harder to gain users’ trust, most of the time before they ever click on that link we’re sharing.

When it comes to links, looks aren’t everything but they certainly make a difference. The main platforms we use to share links — Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn — use social cards, which allow the content creator to choose the image, title and description that displays on social media platforms when someone shares the content.

Without social cards on your website, we have to manually upload (and alt text to) an image every time we (and anyone else for that matter) share your link. The alternative is to live with whatever image the platform pulls in from your website, which is more-times-than-not most unflattering. Facebook and LinkedIn allow for some customization when posting natively. Twitter does not.

If your website does not have social cards (especially Twitter Cards), please talk to your web developer to have them added. If you do have social cards, please be cognizant of what images are being pulled in. Decapitated headshots and too small images don’t do anyone any favors and diminish the chance a reader might actually click your link (unless you’re indeed trying to scare them away).

  • DO: Have your web developer add social cards to your website
  • DO: Pay attention to what images the cards pull in on different platforms
  • DO: If your website uses vertical images, plan to have horizontal options for social
  • DON’T: Share sketchy links to sources that might not be trustworthy
  • DON’T: Bury your link in a bunch of tags and/or hashtags like it’s a word search puzzle


Since we’ve given you examples of what not to do, here’s a Tweet that gets all four things right to end today’s conversation:

Well that’s all the advice I have for this blog post outing. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and be sure to check out our previous entries as well as be on the lookout for upcoming posts on all manner of topics related to the wide world of social media. Until then 👋

Social Media Accessibility at Duke

You may have heard communicators starting to talk about accessibility at Duke, and while a lot of it has to do with websites and videos, some has to do with social media as well.

Video Captioning

Let’s start with videos since we use video so often on social media. While not all videos require captioning at Duke, in order for us to share videos on our main Duke channels, including social media, videos do need to be captioned.

Screen capture of video with captions featuring President Price

The easiest way to caption your videos is in YouTube. YouTube allows you to upload a text file or transcribe your file in real-time, and then it auto-times the captions for you and makes an .srt file. You can use that same .srt file on pretty much every platform that allows captioning, including Facebook and Twitter (although on Twitter, you need to use Media Studio).

If your video is longer than a few minutes, you can use an OIT-vetted captioning service to outsource the captioning. For livestreaming, we’ve also typically outsourced captioning.

Image Tagging

The other main part of making social media accessible is adding alt tags to your images. Alt tags give alternate text to describe an image. If your websites are accessible, you’re using alt tags there already. Now, many social media platforms also give us the opportunity to insert alt tags for images.

On Facebook, every time you upload an image, there’s an option to edit your photo and add alt text:

Screencapture of Facebook post showing edit option on uploaded photo
Click the paintbrush to edit the photo.
Screencapture of alt text option on Facebook images
Then click the “Alt text” button to add your own alternate text to the image.

You can even go back and edit photos you’ve already posted to include alt text.

On Instagram, the idea is the same. You can edit the photo to add alt text.

Screencapture of 'Add Alt Text' option on Instagram
Click on the “Add Alt Text” option.
Screencapture of Alt Text screen on Instagram

As with Facebook, you can go back and edit images you’ve already posted to add alt text.

Twitter allows you to add alt text as well, as you are posting. You do need to turn on the option first, though.

Screencapture of 'Add description' option on Twitter
Click the “Add description” option at the bottom of an uploaded picture.
Screencapture of space to add description on Twitter images

Unfortunately, as with all Twitter posts, you cannot go back and edit them later, including going back to edit or add alt text.


If you’re doing a lot of social media, you’re probably scheduling your content. You can schedule natively in Facebook, including adding the alt text, but what about the other platforms?

We haven’t found a great scheduler for Instagram that includes all of Instagram’s features, like alt text and location tagging. Luckily, if you have a scheduler you like, you can continue to use it and just add the alt text after you’ve posted.

For Twitter, we’ve been told that Sprout includes accessibility options. In UComms, we’re using Buffer for Twitter scheduling, which does allow us to add alt text. Without a scheduler that allows alt tagging, Twitter is really hard to manage and make accessible. There’s no native scheduler in Twitter and no way to edit old Twitter posts.

Hacks to Make Things Easier

Not everything has to be alt tagged! If, for example, you’re posting a link on Facebook or Twitter, the “card” that comes with that link does not need an extra alt tag.

Screencapture of Twitter card example
This is a Twitter card!

If your website is set up with the proper OpenGraph tagging for Facebook and Twitter, you should be all set and not even have to worry about uploading a separate image for your tweet or post. (Your webmaster can help you with this!) If you want to see a preview of what your link or anyone else’s link will look like on Twitter, you can try the Twitter card validator.

More on Accessibility

There’s a whole website at Duke dedicated to accessibility, so I encourage you to dig into that if you have more questions about what you should be doing, what you’re required to be doing, and how to implement changes in your processes. Also, please feel free to reach out to me (Sonja Likness) about social media accessibility or Joel Crawford-Smith at Duke about your other Duke accessibility-related questions. We’d be happy to help!

And, BONUS: Joel and I recently did a Learn IT @Lunch about accessibility.

Lessons in Social Media and Life

As we all know, social media doesn’t take days off. So when a number of professional opportunities recently left our team understaffed for a month, I decided to cover day-to-day management of our social content and engagement.

Some people laughed when I told them. Others gasped. And they all asked – how I would do this in addition to my own full-time job?

I’ll admit I was concerned. Although I had been part of the social media team since 2016, I had only occasionally actually pushed the buttons to control our accounts, and certainly not for an extended period of time.

But as is common with professional “opportunities,” this was a valuable learning experience for me, and a chance to realize just how many life lessons also apply to running social media, for example:

Mistakes are inevitable. Own them, learn from them and move on.

“It’s a rite of passage,” my colleague said when I texted her in a panic one evening, after a Twitter follower pointed out that I had linked to the wrong story from a tweet. The follower’s #loveduke response to my correction was a welcome affirmation of the community we engage with on our social channels. I made other mistakes after that, but never again failed to double check my links.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

We generally post to our Instagram feed and story once a day during the week, and I was fortunate that colleagues from our digital team – skilled photographers, videographers and designers – were happy to plan and create our content for the month. They recommended photos for the feed and pulled together slides for our daily stories for me to post.

When I realized my Insta caption skills weren’t really going to cut it, and that I risked spending many long hours agonizing over captions, our student social media team jumped in and suggested captions that resonated with our followers. (Pro tip: this caption business is way harder than it looks.)

Quality output requires real investment.

We can – and should – find ways to be efficient in our work, but there are no shortcuts to quality.

Last year we adjusted our strategy for the @DukeU Twitter feed, vastly reducing our retweets of other Duke accounts and increasing the volume of original tweets. While that’s helping us support important institutional goals, it has also added a solid two hours to our daily workload.

Managing all of our channels, monitoring and responding to hundreds of mentions and messages a day, and trying to get my other work done meant that I had to reduce the volume of our tweets in order to get it all done. As a result, our posting volume and engagement measures were significantly down for the month I was trying to do it all.

We have a small but mighty social media team, and although it was a good test to see what we could get done with fewer human resources, it was also a clear demonstration of the resources our team needs to deliver the best results for the university.

We’re back to full staff now, and I’m happy to have real pros managing our channels again. I’m also grateful I had this opportunity and glad I took the leap to do it, even if my Instagram captions still need some help.

Trends in Social Media

What should you be looking out for in social media for 2019? I recently gave a talk about this at Duke, and here’s some of what I think is coming:


  • Live video is still a big trend this year, but it’s even more engaging and interactive!
  • Keep an eye on native LinkedIn video.
  • Create with mobile in mind.
  • Look for more YouTube content from Duke University this year!
Aaron Chatterji is one of Duke’s LinkedIn video stars!

Speaking of LinkedIn…

Is it the year of LinkedIn? They’re rolling out lots of new features lately. We’ve seen huge growth in native video uploads, especially first-person explainer-style formats. LinkedIn also recently relaunched Groups with new features. We’ve found that the articles we post on Duke’s LinkedIn page give us pretty good referral numbers to our website.

Messaging Apps

You all know about Facebook Messenger, and I hope you’re paying attention to your Facebook page’s inbox. But did you know that you can now do ads in Messenger?

WhatsApp also just launched WhatsApp Business, and while we’re not doing anything there yet, I’m definitely keeping an eye on it.

And, yeah, Snapchat is still a player here! While the stories-format content is easier and sometimes more popular on Instagram now, Snapchat is still an important 1-to-1 communication tool for many of our students.

More on Stories

Yep, we’re still talking about the stories format. It’s the big new thing! So what does that mean for you?

Source: Buffer

It means you’re going to have to start thinking about vertical video if you haven’t yet. Gone are the days when I’d constantly yell at people to turn their phone horizontal to make videos. Now vertical video is a totally legit format!

It also means you have a great opportunity to make in-the-moment, less produced content, and for those of us with a small team, this is great news!


A couple of apps based on the idea of music are up-and-coming. Of course there’s Spotify, which lets you create public playlists. (Check out the @DukeStudents Spotify!)

And if you have teenagers around you at all, you probably also know about TikTok (formerly We don’t have an institutional TikTok account yet, but we might in the future!

My prediction? Apps and social media with huge music libraries are going to keep being kind of a big deal!

Social Media’s Reputation

Social media took a big hit this year. People are questioning everything that’s posted, stupid viral stunts are hitting the news, users are worrying about their privacy (and rightly so!) and some are even leaving social media all together.

As brands, it’s our job to make the spaces we control on social media as safe as possible for our fans and followers. Puppy pictures are always a good place to start, just sayin’.

Social Media Efficiency

If you’re doing social media for higher ed, chances are you’re also doing lots of other things. We’re famously over-burdened with communications duties. Fear not, though. I’m here to help give some guidance on how you can do the social media part of your job faster and better.

Use a social dashboard.

I’m not here to sell you a product, but using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer (even the free versions!) can really help you streamline your process. Instead of making sure you’re sitting by your computer to hit the tweet button when it’s time, or worse, tweeting randomly when you have a few minutes between phone calls and meetings, a tool like this will help you plan out your day or week of content and will send out your content when you schedule it to go out. You’re not off the hook on monitoring any responses, but at least you don’t have to remember to press Publish each time!

If you’re working with a team, some kind of social dashboard also helps you keep track of what everyone else is doing. You can share a login and all take turns, or if you have a little money, you can buy multiple “seats” on a platform like Hootsuite.

Another advantage to using something like this is that it gives you a monitoring/listening dashboard. I like to use mine to look at several Twitter lists at once, all in columns next to each other.

Get an editorial calendar.

Again, I’m not here to sell you software, and it doesn’t matter what tool you use as long as you’re using it properly and getting the other members of your team to use it properly. An editorial calendar can be as simple as sticky notes on a whiteboard or as complicated as a big project management system.

The goal is to let everyone on your team see what content everyone else is producing and when it will be published. As a social media coordinator, having other people show you what their content is and where it will be published will save you so much time! After all, it’s your job to share all of that tasty content.

At University Communications, we use Trello, but you can use whatever works well for your team.

Trello has a nice calendar view that’s helpful to see, too.

Get quicker about image sizing.

If you’re working on social media, you’re probably spending a fair amount of time resizing images for use on your different platforms for posts, banners, profile images and all kinds of other things. Check out the always up-to-date social media image sizes cheat sheet from Sprout, and keep in mind that if you have a horizontal image already, you’ll be mostly ok.

I’m also a heavy user of, which is a whole ton easier to figure out than, say, Photoshop.

You can make pretty, professional-looking graphics like this in just a few minutes on Canva.

Use tools to make your life easier!

Here are some of my favorites:


VSCO – Photo editing app
Plotaverse – Animate your photos
Flixel – Animated photos
Snapseed – Photo editing app (iPhone or Android)
Werble – Animated photos
MaskArt – Using a video, make a still photo with a little motion on it (called a cinemagraph).
PICOO Camera – Another cinemagraph creation app.


Open Broadcaster Software – Free video recording and live streaming software                 
Filmic Pro – Video recording app with more functionality than the native iPhone app
LumaFusion – video editing app (like FinalCut, but on your phone)
CutStory – cut video into 15-second chunks for Instagram Stories (iPhone app)


Google Analytics – free website analytics
CrowdTangle – track social media activity on a website/article
Tweriod – figure out when your Twitter followers are online

If you’re at Duke, we also have a big, huge, crowd-sourced list that we add to all the time. (You have to join the Duke Communicators Facebook group to see the doc.)

Hope that helps create some more space for your other job functions or even just a few minutes to be more creative with your content during the day! Feel free to comment below with your own tips and tricks for social media efficiency.

How to Get Your Social Media Strategy From Zero to Running in One Month or Less

I had the opportunity in November to make a trip to China to consult with my colleagues at Duke Kunshan University. The university itself is in its infancy– only a few years old– and so the communications strategy is ramping up, too. The team at DKU is smart and lively and they work reallyhard, but they needed a little help adjusting course on their social media and coming up with some processes to make everything more efficient.

Just look at these adorable colleagues from Duke Kunshan University!

Here at Duke I stepped into a well-oiled machine set up by my predecessor, so it was a new challenge for me to create a well-oiled machine. The experience gave me a lot of helpful knowledge and tools to use in consulting with people who want to get their social media set up in the future.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer you some of my lessons learned:

1. Start by cleaning up.

You probably already have some social media floating around that someone, at some point, started with good intentions. Begin your process by gathering and evaluating everything you have.

  • Make sure you can log in to everything. If you can’t, you may have to do some sleuthing and support calls.
  • Store your passwords somewhere secure, where multiple people can access them. (Duke recommends LastPass for this.)
  • Facebook is different! For Facebook, you shouldn’t be using shared login credentials. You should make sure that your personal profile is added as an admin on the page, and that any other people who need access are also added. Don’t use a fake account for this! (Facebook will shut it down if it finds it.)
  • Make sure you have business accounts (rather than personal accounts) where appropriate, like on Instagram and YouTube.

This whole process could take a while. I spent most of my first week hunting things down, writing things down, setting up systems to keep track of everything, and making sure the right people had access to everything and were trained on how to get passwords and log in.

Colleagues Janet and Snow White get a lesson from Yangyang on the new camera.

2. Create a strategy!

You can do this in a less formal way, but I eventually created a social media strategy document template to use.

3. Get into the nitty-gritty.

Once you’ve got a strategy in place, you’re going to want to think about your step-by-step process and schedule, and maybe a weekly checklist so that you know what should be happening on all of your channels every week. You’ll want to cover:

  • Posting frequency and type (video, image, link, etc.)
  • Password access and other ways to get account access
  • How-tos for scheduling content (Think about using some kind of scheduler like HootSuite or Buffer to help with this.)

If it helps, write all of it down! This is less important if you’re a one-person operation, but very helpful if you have a team of people working on social media or helping out, or you’d like to have documentation for future hires.

Before I left, the team took me out for hot-pot! It was delicious. (And hot!)

4. Don’t forget your other communications!

It’s really important to remember that social media is just one part of your communications strategy, and a lot of what you use can be stuff that you are re-using or sharing from your colleagues. The easiest way to keep track of what everyone else is doing is to have an editorial calendar that everyone looks at and contributes to.

I’ve set up both our Duke communications team and the communications team at DKU on Trello. I find it pretty simple and intuitive to use.

Hope that helps you out if you’re struggling to get your social media headed in the right direction! Start small and just keep plugging away, and always feel free to contact me if you need some more help.

What kind of content does “Big Duke” share?

If you’re in social media at Duke, “big Duke,” i.e. Duke University branded social media, is probably looking at your content and deciding what to share. For Ashley and me (the voices behind “big Duke”), your content makes our jobs fun, and a lot easier than creating all of the content ourselves!

We hope that you get some benefit when we share your content, too, in the form of an expanded audience.

But what types of content are we looking to share? I’ll give you some tips on our favorite stuff, and ways you can create shareable pieces.


Our audiences for the big Duke accounts are many and varied, but we’re generally looking for content that will speak to a wide range of people who love Duke, who live in the community or in North Carolina, or a general public who might be interested in your content based on their personal, relatable experiences.

I know that’s sort of a topical non-answer, but if you have a specific question about your subject matter, you can always feel free to get in touch!

Made-for-social video

We love video that’s meant for social media, like vertical video for Instagram Stories or horizontal videos with caption files for YouTube and Facebook. If you have the caption files already done and saved as an .srt, we love you even more!

Beautiful graphics or portraits

Anything we share, whether a web link or an Instagram post, needs to have beautiful visual assets either as the centerpiece or accompaniment. If you’re sharing a web link with us, we’d love to have an original, high-res version of your hero graphic, and extra images if you have them, too. Graphics, portraits, and beautiful photography give us the options we need to share your content on the appropriate channels.

Vertical slides

Instagram Stories and other stories-format platforms are becoming more ubiquitous in our line of work. If you have vertical assets already created, please share them with us! They make our Instagram Stories look a lot more interesting and high-quality.

We hope that gives you some ideas to get your content flowing! Feel free to contact me if you’d like to brainstorm or get more specifics!

Social Media Analytics for Beginners

If you’re a beginner in social media for higher ed, you may have gotten as far as setting up your social media accounts, but now you have to report on your success. That means… DUN DUN DUN… analytics. If you’ve never done reporting with analytics it might sound a little scary. Let’s break it down so that you know what to measure and then how to measure it.

What should you measure?

This is an important question because you can’t measure everything, and if you try, you will spend all of your time on it, and probably go a little nuts. What you measure in social media will be based on your goals for social media (which are probably also your general marketing and communications goals for your entire unit or department). Here are some common goals in higher ed:

  • Referral traffic (to a website, maybe)
  • Engagement
  • Info capture (like email addresses for a newsletter)
  • Sales funnel (or admissions funnel) — getting people to buy or do something
  • Eyeballs on stories
  • Brand and reputation management

You might have two or three of these goals, but you probably won’t have all of them. (If you have more than two or three, I’d encourage you to pick your top two or three anyway, and focus on those.)

Now that you have your goals in mind, you have a general idea of what you want to measure.

  • If your goal is referral traffic, you should measure traffic to your sites from social media.
  • If your goal is engagement, you should measure the percentage of users who interact with your social media content.
  • If your goal is info capture, you should measure how much info you can capture starting with social media CTAs. (CTA is just a fancy abbreviation for a Call To Action, like “read more,” “click here,” or “apply now.”)
  • If your goal is to get people into a sales funnel, you should measure how many sales you make (or applications are started) starting with social media CTAs.
  • If your goal is eyeballs on stories, you should measure how many clicks you get on links shared.
  • If your goal is brand and reputation management, you should measure sentiment.

How do you measure?

Depending on what you’d like to measure, a lot of it can be pulled from social media platforms themselves. There’s Twitter analytics, Facebook Insights, and YouTube analytics (which are super beefy because Google owns YouTube). Instagram has analytics, too, although you can only get them on your phone, and you’re going to want to make sure you’re a business account so that you get the most analytics possible.

You’re probably also going to want to get familiar with Google Analytics, which will give you information on where your website traffic is coming from, including referrals from social media. Google Analytics can also help you manage your sales or admissions funnel if you use their tagging system faithfully. The best news is that it’s all free, of course.

Sentiment is the hardest piece that you might have to measure. Some social media platforms will have a sentiment measurement built in, but they’re notoriously inaccurate because they’re based on keywords, and can’t accurately measure the emotion behind a tweet or a post. You can track the changes in your sentiment score over time, though, and dig deeper into any anomalies. That way, at least you have a baseline to start from.

As with all things that seem overwhelming, start small and work your way up! This week, learn how to find out how your audiences are engaging on Instagram, for example. Next week: CONQUER THE WORLD!

5 Graphic Design Tips for Social Media (and Everything Else!)

So you want to be a graphic designer? It’s much more than just combining texts and words. It’s about using those texts, fonts and colors to design a brand.

American Apparel has their clean, Helvetica Black look. Unicef has its official, purposeful cyan. And Starbucks has their earthy tones that showcase their handicraft style. There is no way to paint a perfect painting, and likewise there is no way to craft the perfect graphic design, but every time I work with the Duke Office of News and Communications, from designing an Instagram story or an official Chinese New Year card for the university, I think about what story I want to create. What is the Duke that I want people to see?

Here are a few ways to get started:

Have a Consistent Look

There has to a be a point in our life when we all thought we were artists creating WordArt masterpieces with rainbow block font combined with circular text and wavy fonts. To create a brand, one must start with a consistent look that readers will view so that part of their brain will immediately register what they’re seeing as ‘Duke.’ This includes working with a one or two select fonts with a similar look, staying within a certain color palette, and making sure to align objects on the page. You can use Duke’s StyleGuide to get an idea of what these are for Duke.

Negative Space

Contrast is everything when it comes to making things stand out. If you have a light colored graphic or text, use a dark background and vice versa. A good way to do this is by increasing the opacity of a photo to create a lighter background or decreasing its brightness to create a darker background.

Here, I used a consistent font (official Garamond, Duke scholarly feel) and used contrast between dark navy words and opacity and brightness-adjusted background.


Be creative with your fonts and make sure they reflect the vibe you are trying to create! For originality, I like to use very distinctive fonts for big titles and more standard, easily readable fonts for subtitles and smaller text. Online free font databases include, fontsquirrel, and urbanfonts.


This is a useful site for fledgling graphic designers. It allows you to select from a library of different templates for different needs, ranging from flyers to posters to social media posts. Everything is designed and aligned for you – but if you’re an artsy one and want to tap into your creative edge, it is easily navigable with drag-and-drop features: allowing you to customize fonts, colors and search for certain shapes and images. Free, easy and quick.


Here, we’re scaling it up by a little notch for the Photoshop beginner.

  • Rule of Thirds Grid

Sometimes a little cropping or moving objects around by a little goes a long way! You can easily display the rule of thirds grid on Photoshop and make sure that objects you want to highlight lay on one of the gridlines or at one of the intersections. This makes a photo’s composition more appealing to the eye.

Go to the crop tool and a toolbar will appear where you can select ‘Rule of thirds’

Design: Chinese New Year card to Duke’s Chinese audience

Here, you can see that I aligned the dog’s face, “Duke University” as well as “Dog” onto the gridlines.

  • Magnetic lasso tool

Want to cut something out from a picture? Most people use the lasso tool. Sadly, our hands can be shaky and most of us simply don’t have the patience to cut with surgical precision. The Magnetic Lasso tool is the solution to all your problems, especially when you have a bold contrast and well-defined edges. Click and hold your mouse over the Lasso tool until a fly-out menu appears, and select the last one with a tiny magnet on its icon. Click once on the edge of the object and just run your mouse along the edges of the object you want to select (like when you are using scissors to cut something out). This is how I cut out the turkey and gave it to the Blue Devil for Thanksgiving!

  • Play with opacity

A layer with 1% opacity is close to transparent, while a layer with 100% opacity is opaque. Whether you are brushing something over with the paintbrush or inserting another layer, you can adjust the opacity to make sure things blend in more naturally or so that certain objects do not stand out as much.