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Duke’s 2014 Social Media Mash-up

The Duke Communicator’s group gathered on Friday, Jan. 24 for our first meeting of 2014 to hold a “Social Media Mash-up.” This was our second meeting held in this format – see this earlier post for information on the inaugural event.

Our speakers were a number of colleagues who shared their own experiences and “lessons learned” working in social media, following a format similar to an Ignite session. The program included:

  • Tom Dominick and Audra Ang from university development on how Duke Forward has used social media on the road at fundraising events
  • Wendy Hower and J. Caldwell with the Nasher Museum will share how they use digital media for exhibits and events
  • Michael Palko, a Health System colleague, on self-teaching himself to become an Instagram sensation
  • Amanda Peralta from ONC discussed different approaches to social networks
  • Brett Walters from Alumni Affairs on the new LinkedIn University Pages
  • Aaron Welborn from Duke Libraries highlighted their extensive use of blogs

I know I walked away with great new ideas to try, as well as with renewed inspiration from our innovative colleagues.

Save the date for our next Duke Communicators event in Perkins Library 217 on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 3p.m., featuring Duke alumnus and founder of Ignite Social Media, Jim Tobin.

What’s Your Story?

This is a guest blog post by Michael Palko, an instructional designer with the Duke University Health System and a digital storyteller. 

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Duke Communicators at one of their monthly meetings.  That group is comprised of staff who are, in some capacity, responsible for getting news about Duke University and the Health System out to the masses.  Their work spaces were wide-ranging: from Duke Libraries, where the event was held, to the Office of Alumni Affairs to the Nasher Art Museum to Duke Medicine to the Lemur Center.

Mine was one of 6 presentations made, and each used the Ingite format: 5 minutes and 20 slides, which auto-advance every 15 seconds.  The format is a bit of a challenge, and in preparing I think I now better understand what Olympic athletes go through: years of preparation for 10 second dash.  Ok, I didn’t really prepare for 4 years, only a month, but you get the picture.

I was asked to talk about how I got involved in iPhoneography, how I became an “Instagram sensation” (their words) and how that path led me to the RAW Artists Raleigh event.

I talked about stumbling across an online course on mobile photography while searching for a work-related tutorial on and how, as a Duke employee, I had access to that resource, free of charge.  I mentioned the influence Richard Koci Hernandez had one me and how photography changed me and my path in life.

At the end of the meeting I received many compliments.  One person called it“inspiring.” Another told me he liked the way I “framed the story.”  Coming from a professional “communicator” that was high praise. But the one comment that stick out the most came from the event’s organizer.  She said, “I just love your story.”

I’d never really considered myself as “having a story.”   I’d always thought that I, like everyone else, was just going through life, experiencing the highs and lows and the mundane, going to work, coming home and trying my best to fulfill the responsibilities of a husband, father, friend and citizen and along the way trying to learn more about myself and the world.  But those words really resonated with me, and I realized on my way home that we ALL have “a story.”  Not one of us has traveled the same path.  We all have a distinct set of experiences that make up a history that no one else has.  The events of life, no matter where they have led you, are what make up your unique story.

I was fortunate to be presented with an opportunity to reflect on the events and people who have influenced me in the past year and a half, but I’m now going to look back further on my timeline and examine the larger story.  I want to encourage you to do the same thing and challenge you to be prepared to tell YOUR story.  Where did you start? Who did you meet along the way?  What did you learn? What did you see?  How did you get here?

Prepare to tell it, then tell it.  Tell it to yourself, your significant other, your kids, strangers.  I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by what a compelling tale it is and know that you will find people who say “I just love your story.” 

And don’t forget, you write your story every day. The exciting part of that is that while you are the author, you don’t know how the story will end.  There are plot twists and surprises ahead and that’s what make the story compelling.

So, what’s YOUR story?


Social Media Workshop for Faculty

This week, Amanda Peralta and I led a training workshop for Duke faculty interested in using social media to build a public presence.

The Office of News and Communications organized this session. We opened by introducing three Duke faculty members — Laurent Dubois, Robin Kirk and Peter Ubel  — who are regular users of social media tools such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They described their experiences with social media, including what has and hasn’t worked for them and how they’ve incorporated social media into their classes.

In the second half of the program, Amanda and I led a discussion about how to be strategic in your use of social media, review accepted best practices and related topics.

Here are some resources for Duke faculty following the discussion:

  • The slidedeck from the session.
  • A handout on tips and tricks for using blogs, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Visit and review the “Twitter Essential Training” webinar.



How to Go Viral on YouTube: Two Duke students share the secrets of their success

This article originally appeared in Duke Today. Story by David Jarmul. 

Move quickly. Be entertaining. Pay attention to what actually works online.

Those were some of the suggestions Thursday morning from two Duke students whose videos have “gone viral” on YouTube. They shared their experiences with campus communicators who manage some of the university’s busiest social media sites.

Rachael Nedrow, a first-year student from Oregon, has produced videos viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube showing her stacking cups at record speed. Jacob Tobia, a senior from North Carolina, has produced several popular videos on political and social issues, most recently in support of Nina Davuluri, the Indian-American woman whose victory in the Miss America pageant elicited racist comments online.

“People find me more intriguing when I’m really hyper and excited,” said Nedrow, who tries to keep her public identity as “speedstackinggirl” separate from her personal life. Her videos have been featured on numerous websites and TV shows, including Tosh.0 and America’s Got Talent. She has her own channel on YouTube.


Students, faculty and others who want to succeed online need to meet the medium on its own terms, she said, arguing that “it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with a camera.” Nedrow views herself as an old-timer in the world of sport stacking, saying “most of the really good stackers are 11 years old and I’m 18, so …”

Tobia said he produced and uploaded his video in support of Miss America with several other Duke students in just a few hours. It has now been viewed thousands of times online and sparked a Twitter campaign called #standwithnina. Davuluri welcomed the campaign and thanked the Duke students when she appeared on CNN, Bloomberg and other news outlets.


In 2012, Tobia produced a video describing how he planned to run across the Brooklyn Bridge in stiletto heels to raise money for a homeless shelter for LGBT youth. More than 10,000 people watched “Run for Shelter 2012,” which led to both donations and news coverage. In an earlier video, Tobia and fellow student Dominique Beaudry urged opposition to Amendment One, the subsequently passed North Carolina law that bans same-sex marriages.

“One thing I’ve learned as an activist is how you get people’s attention and get them invested in what you’re doing,” Tobia told the Duke communicators, who oversee the university’s main Facebook and Twitter sites and social media activities in Admissions, Athletics and other campus offices. “I’m really interested in taking social justice issues and blowing them up online.”

Tobia said speed is critical when responding to breaking stories such as the controversy involving Miss America. “I knew she would only be in the news cycle for one more day, or two if we were lucky. You have to get things out really, really, really quickly.”

Tobia said he has drawn on his theater background in the videos and has learned video editing fairly easily. He hopes more Duke students will produce and upload their own videos, whether on social issues or other interests, and urged them to share their best work with campus communicators who can help them reach wider audiences.

Cara Rousseau, Duke’s social media manager, led the discussion. Duke’s social media siteprovides additional information about the university’s online activities.

Social Media 2013: Internet users who use social networking tools

The folks over at Pew Research Centre recently compiled their annual research on the demographics behind social media users on different platforms.

The infographic below (courtesy of Adweek) takes Pew’s data and displays it in a nice visual, including these key takeaways:

  • Women are five times more than men to use Pinterest
  • City dwellers are significantly more likely to use Twitter than rural residents
  • Black people and hispanics are more likely to use Instagram than white people
  • The 18-29 year-old demographic is more likely to use Instagram than Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr


Duke’s 2013 Social Media Roundup

For our most recent Duke Communicators event, I organized a fun tour of what’s happening across our community in social media.

At our 2013 Social Media Roundup, my colleagues described how they are using social media to promote bloggers, share photos, reach new international audiences and much more. Each person spoke for five minutes, in a format similar to an Ignite session. Hopefully the Duke Communicators group walked away with lots of new ideas to try, as well as with information about colleagues to call for inspiration and advice.

Our presenters were:

Laura Brinn, Global Communications

Debbe Geiger, Duke University Medical Center

Wendy Livingston and J. Caldwell, Nasher Museum of Art

Orla Swift, Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Aaron Welborn, Duke Libraries

Ashley Wolf, Duke Athletics

(Tawnee Milko with the Nicholas School of the Environment was unable to make the presentation and her slides are at the end of the slide deck.)

You can view our entire slide deck from the event here.

What would you like to see at our next Social Media Roundup?

A Duke Faculty Social Media Workshop

Last Friday, about 70 Duke faculty and staff attended a two-hour workshop on how best to use social media tools in the classroom and beyond. The workshop was hosted by Duke’s Office of News & Communications (ONC), which holds a number of training sessions during the year for the Duke community, including ones covering such topics as how to write and publish Op-Ed articles or how to conduct interviews with the media.

Last week’s program began with David Jarmul, ONC’s Associate Vice President of News and Communications, welcoming participants to the workshop and setting the scene for the morning.

David Jarmul welcoming Duke faculty at our social media workshop

For the first hour of the workshop, I led a panel of five Duke faculty and staff members who have been using social media tools. Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, Mark Anthony Neal, David Schanzer, Tawnee Milko and Peter Ubel all did an amazing job describing their experiences with tools like blogging, Twitter and Facebook, including what has and hasn’t worked for them and how they’ve incorporated social media into their classes. Here is a link to all of the sites and examples we shared during the first hour.

In the second half of the program, workshop attendees divided into two groups. I led a discussion among people familiar with social media about how they can more effectively use blogs, Twitter and other tools and reviewed accepted best practices. Here is a link to my Prezi outline.

Jonathan Lee, ONC’s social and digital media fellow, instructed those new to social media on how to set up a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog, among other things. Here is a link to Jonathan’s presentation and a quick handout we prepared on tips and tricks for getting started with these tools.

Attendees live tweeted during the workshop using the hashtag #DukeSocial.

Finally, Jonathan and I are happy to follow up with attendees on any questions or comments they have about the workshop. We also want to do a quick commercial for Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology, whose great folks do regular training sessions on getting started with social media and blogging tools. They also offer free access to online courses (which include TONS of options for learning more about social media) for anyone with a Duke NetID.

We hope to see you at ONC’s next workshop! Stay tuned to Duke Today for information on upcoming opportunities.

5 Blogging Tips For Newbies

This is a guest blog post by Fenella Saunders, managing editor at American Scientist, who attended the Back to the Blog conference at Duke University on October 13, 2012.

If you’ve opened this post, you’ve probably already seen the attractiveness of one major blog tip for newbies: Use a number in your title that will give people a list they can scan quickly and take away some pithy information about how to do something. (And apparently odd numbers are more attractive than even ones.)

That was one of the points brought up at the “Back to the Blog” workshop held at Duke University on October 13. Anton Zuiker and Cara Rousseau organized some great information and guest speakers for those who don’t know much about blogging. (See more links and details).

And, another source.

1. Sticking Around

Dave Thomas of talked about why one should blog in the age of social media. As he says, “Blogging is for Google, Facebook is for friends.” Their blog traffic is 2:1 from search engines over social media, even when they share posts over all the networks (Twitter, etc.).

The point is, social media is ephemeral, but blog posts last. They are resources that are still accessible and you can link back to things you have previously written when they are relevant.

On a related note, Thomas says that organizations who blog need to understand their own business goals. For example, his company’s blog has the main purpose of driving people to their ebooks.

(Their most popular blog post?)

The stream of information is so great, Thomas says, that you can “recycle” posting on social media about the same blog post several times and get the same number of hits each time.

Thomas also pointed out that Tumbler is a blog platform with a built-in network of people, making it more like social media, and something that WordPress lacks.

Copyblogger and Problogger are good sources for blog questions. For example.

2. Show Me

Thomas pointed out that video is currently the way to share with the world, and that’s easier on a blog. But the skill is to make a 3-minute video that is interesting, more than one that is of top-notch video quality. There is a 10-second dropoff time after which most people stop watching. Have a YouTube channel and link to it, as that’s the second largest search engine after Google. He gave an example of the Mayo Clinic as a place that is great about getting up video quickly, without spending weeks on editing.

Other resources: to make instant animations of a script you provide.

A boom mic for an iphone to get better sound with quick video.

3. Style Matters

Anton stepped in to bring up some resources next. and have premium blog themes for $35-70 that include tools built in to embed video, audio or pictures. They also are responsive so they look good on mobile or big screens.

Speaking of style, a lot of blogs are moving from cluttered to clean. See for an example. It’s one single column of text, without a lot of links and distractions. Most blog readers find a post from a search engine, and all they want to do is read that one post, not everything else. So you want landing pages without a lot of distraction. Use a different stream (FB/Twitter) to conglomerate all of your posts into one index. Twitter is now more about linking to other content rather than firsthand posting.

Another example is where there is a nav swipe on the left to pop out a menu but it drops off for mobile size screens.

Which is another point: Design for mobile first. WPTouch is a plugin that will make any WordPress blog mobile-ready.

Some blogs have gone the opposite way and have a long front screen with a very long scroll. Because of touchscreens and FB/Twitter, people now have less of an aversion to scrolling down and down a page.

A platform to watch is from the creators of Twitter. It has a simple design and a network effect. There’s also, creating a network around a tool or topic.

Blogs can help to make event coverage highlight your interests. Take Newsjacking by David Meerman Scott. The idea is to have the first paragraph talk about the event, but the second paragraph is the angle that you can inject into a story, and it’s possible that others will pick up that content—as long as what you say adds value to the story.

4. Other Voices

How to deal with comments and possible trolls? Two mentioned plugins are Disqus and Gawker’s Kinja, which aims to “make intelligent comments easy to read.” Example:  You can also use to set up a moderated/invited conversation that others can ask to join.

Several speakers pointed out that it’s ok to have a blog and not allow comments. If you do allow comments, it’s important to set up clear boundaries (no threats, harassment, racism etc.) and to remind people that this is your living room, not a public square, so they don’t have the right to comment. They can go off somewhere else on the Internet and set up their own posts if they want to have their own say in a way you don’t want on your own blog.

As a side note to the communication issue, regarding email one of the speakers, Paul Jones of UNC’s j-school, says “email is a horse and social medial is a car” so he’s completely given up on traditional email.

5. Join the Crowd

So how to get the world to even know your blog exists? Enter Bora Zivkovic, who runs the blogs at (a network of 47 different blogs). Blog networks such as can provide an index where people can go to see what’s new (but make sure you know the history of PepsiGate about the perils of corporate intrusion into blog networks.)

Bora emphasized that successful networks are ones where each blogger has an expertise and passion about a topic, but NOT an obsession. The difference is that in the former case, the posts are informative and are within a particular topic, but in the latter case the posts are always on EXACTLY the same thing. Blog posts are more in depth, but not manifestos. Bora advised potential bloggers to focus on what you understand well, but don’t spend days on it.

Getting contributors or guest bloggers for one post or a series is also a good way to network.

Connect with people who are already well connected, and follow early adopters to learn new tools.

Henry Copeland of (who was such an early adopter of Twitter that his handle is simply @hc, giving him massive tech cred) pointed out that another way to use crowd assistance for mutual traffic driving is to add topics to a debate going on online, which is kind of like joining a team.

Henry’s final comment is a great summation of why blogging is still relevant: “If you think you’re late to blogging, there’s another train leaving tomorrow, and you can get on the new train while we’re all still on the old one.”


Join us for Back to the Blog – 10/13/2012 at Duke University

It’s never been a better time to be a blogger.

Yes, Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and a slew of other social networks and apps are getting most of the attention in 2012, but 15 years into the world of blogging, there are exciting trends and threads that make being a blogger fun and interesting.

Back to the Blog

Explore these trends and threads with us on Sat., Oct. 13, 2012 at Back to the Blog, a review of what we’ve learned about using blogs to communicate and a look at the trends that are taking blogging forward.

Here are some of the things we’ll demonstrate, discuss and debate:

Style and Design – As we said back in 2005 at the Triangle Bloggers Conference, a blog is like a pencil, and you can use it to express yourself in any way you wish. We’ll feature some of our favorite blog styles, and look foward to your examples, too. And, blog design, using responsive design and simple themes, are getting back to an emphasis on making your words the focus. Rapid-design frameworks such as Bootstrap by Twitter and Foundation by Zurb offer new ways to quickly create a page. There are dozens and dozens of WordPress theme companies developing frameworks and families of themes. We’ll tour the design trends and review some of these tools.

Comments and discussions – Whether written by one person or a team, most blogs aim to start discussion. Blogs that band together can attract more attention (for example, there are many science blogging networks). New networks (see Mediumand Svbtle) are popping up to help bloggers focus on their ideas and writing. We’ll share examples and ask for your strategies for promoting your blog. And, new commenting and conversation tools – such as Disqus and Branch and OPML Comments  – are giving your readers better ways to discuss your ideas and take the conversation to new levels (yes, we’ll also discuss the depths of online conversation, and strategies to avoid the vitriol).


Here’s what you need to know:

Who’s in charge?

Back to the Blog is being organized by Cara Rousseau and Anton Zuiker. We welcome your help – contact us today.

Eventbrite - Back to the Blog Conference

Questions? Contact Cara Rousseau ( or Anton Zuiker (

It’s really a good time to be a blogger.

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.