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State of Duke’s Social Media: Summer 2015

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

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


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

DukeSocialMedia_Summer2015.pdf (1)

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

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

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

Social Media Trends 2014

  1. Post-Facebook Strategy Conversations

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

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

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

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

Duke Implications:

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

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

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

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

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. LinkedIn Growing as a Publisher

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

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

Duke Implications:

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

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

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. Trendjacking

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. Video Marketing

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. Contests and Campaigns

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. Brand Ambassadors

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

Duke Implications:

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

  1. Taking Social Media Seriously

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

Duke Implications:

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


2015 Social Media Mash-up

Duke Communicators: mark your calendar for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, in Perkins Library 217.

Our first program for 2015 will highlight Duke communicators with interesting social media projects and campaigns. They’ll share their experiences and “lessons learned” in a format similar to an Ignite session. Among other topics, you’ll hear how the Fuqua School of Business is encouraging ambassadors to engage with social media, how social media advertising has benefited the Annual Fund, what Snapchat could mean for Duke Athletics and strategies from two Duke seniors who manage the @DukeStudents accounts.

This will be a content-packed hour that will provide you with great ideas to try in your own office, as well as information about Duke colleagues you can call for inspiration and advice. Please RSVP to Sakiya Lockett if you will attend.


Duke Launches New Tumblr: Site uses social media platform to highlight Duke experts

It’s a new website where Dan Ariely discusses the new Apple Pay system, Peter Feaver considers the threat of ISIS, Priscilla Wald asks why Americans are so scared of Ebola and Karla Holloway ponders a post-racial America.

Launched earlier this month, the Duke News Tumblr has begun sharing the views of these and other university experts with journalists and other subscribers. Duke’s Office of News & Communications (ONC) designed the site on the increasingly popular Tumblr platform with rich graphics, video clips and other material.

Other recent posts have focused on fracking, LGBT issues and climate change, as well as on less-publicized topics such as free samples at Costco or California’s plan to ban plastic bags.


A recent Duke News tumblr post

“Social media keeps growing in importance as a source for how people get their news,” said David Jarmul, associate vice president of news and communications.  “Over the past few years, we’ve shifted our strategies to keep pace on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Now Tumblr is emerging as a player, especially with journalists and young people.”

Duke’s news office remains active on other social networks – more than 240,000 people have “liked” the main Duke Facebook page – and through more conventional approaches such as news releases, research reports, op-ed articles and video stories, as well as the Duke Today website.

“We’re constantly watching our audiences and experimenting with new platforms to reach them,” Jarmul said. “We quietly started our Tumblr a few weeks ago and solicited feedback from Duke alums active in the news media. They offered some excellent suggestions, and we tweaked the site accordingly. Now we plan to reach out to more people who might enjoy the material. Tumblr just keeps getting bigger, especially on mobile devices.”

Danielle Nelson, ONC’s social media fellow, is running the site with Keith Lawrence, ONC’s executive director of news and communications, and Cara Rousseau, its social media manager.

This post was originally published on Duke Today.

A Social Media Glossary

Last month, I traveled to Lenox, MA to co-present on social media in admissions with Ma’ayan Plaut at the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) 2014 Retreat. As part of the presentation, we created a quick handout to provide a quick glimpse at social media strategy and definitions for some of the most commonly used social media terms. It’s a handy thing to keep around, especially for educating your faculty and leadership. Download the full PDF of our COFHE Handout

Included in the handout are short descriptions of popular social media platforms. What else would you like to see here?

Facebook – Currently the largest and most popular social media platform: users create profiles, post status updates and friend other users to follow their posts. Facebook is most commonly used to communicate personal information among family and friends.

Foursquare – A platform that allows users to check-in to their current location and connect with other users.

Google+: A platform where users create “Circles” of contacts in order to share posts selectively. Users post status updates in the form of text, photos, link, video, or events. Google+ is also heavily integrated with Google Hangouts, Google Chats, and YouTube profiles.

Instagram – An exclusively visual platform where users share filtered photos or short videos for followers who view and “heart” posts within a feed.

LinkedIn – A professional social network that allows users to connect to potential employers and business associates. LinkedIn profiles act as online resumes and can feature users’ skills, academic and career history, leadership roles, and more.

Pinterest – A platform where users “pin” visual content to themed “boards.” Popular content includes fashion, home decor, food and how-to’s. Users can follow other users or individual boards and can “pin” posts to their own boards.

Tumblr – A multimedia blogging platform used primarily to post pictures, short text entries, and GIFs. Users may follow others and “note” posts by “loving” or “reblogging” in their dashboard from other Tumblr users. Tumblr has been the foundation of many subcultures and communities around like-minded bloggers.

Twitter – A microblogging platform where users post short (140 characters or less), often news-related, text updates and links. Users follow each other to see their real-time tweets in a chronological timeline. Users often follow a combination of influencers and news sources along with acquaintances and friends.

Vine – A social media platform for seven-second-long videos made within a proprietary mobile application. Similarly to Twitter, users may view and “revine” videos of users they are following. Vine also tends to skew to a younger population and is popular among teenagers.

YouTube – A video-based publisher and platform where users upload original content to share with viewers and subscribers. YouTube is also commonly embedded on websites across the web.


I Can Haz Photo Contest? Boost Your Facebook Engagement with Crowd-Sourced Photos

People love seeing photos of themselves online. “Selfie” was word of the year for a reason, after all.

But if there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s that as much as people love seeing themselves, they love adorable pictures of animals even more. And if you turn that into their adorable animals, well, that’s a perfect storm.

After several years of running a successful Halloween photo contest that solicited snapshots of dressed up coworkers and decorated offices, Duke’s Office of Communication Services decided to see what kind of response we’d get from organizing a pet-themed photo contest on our Facebook page in February.

Instead of finding the most creative costumes, we wanted to find “Duke’s cutest pet.”

How we did it

We promoted the contest through our Working@Duke social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) and on Duke Today, having entries submitted to us through a Qualtrics form in order to easily capture participant contact information and photo submission.

In all, we received 39 photos and tallied nearly 1,200 votes over the course of a week. Winners were determined by public vote, but we also had “judge’s choice” selections to spread the wealth of pet-themed prizes.

We asked that entries try to focus on a Duke-related connection when possible, which included shots of a turtle in “Cameron Indoor Aquarium,” a hamster sitting in a Duke hat and even a dog wearing a Blue Devil cape.

Why we did it

While the goal was to offer a fun way to engage our community, it also benefited our presence on Facebook. All voting was held on our page in the form of likes and people were allowed to share their pictures however they saw fit to drum up support.

With so many people coming to our page to vote, here are some of the stats where we saw increases from January to February:

  • 204 percent increase in monthly likes
  • 270 percent increase of views of our Facebook page
  • 306 percent increase in the number of people clicking on our content

All this was boosted because people were voting in our contest, but even after we announced our winners on Feb. 18, we saw sustained engagement with all our posts through the end of the month, whether it was related to the contest or not.

Should you consider a contest?

Since Facebook changed its terms of service to allow for these types of contests, it seems like a goldmine for potential engagement, if only because you’re creating the opportunity to show off something your fans are passionate about. In our case, their furry (or slimy) loved ones.

Once people submit photos, the heavy lifting is uploading them and their information. Since voting is done through likes on your Facebook page, the platform does the work for you.

Most important, you’re likely to see an uptick in your monthly stats and grow your Facebook fan base. In the months since the February contest, we’ve seen increased engagement to go along with our growing number of page likes.

This is a guest blog post by Bryan Roth, senior writer/producer with Duke’s Office of Communication Services.

The State of Social Media at Duke, Spring 2014

Correct Cover SM Report Spring 2014
The social media universe has seen many changes this semester. WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $19 billion. Snapchat usage blew up. Google+ lost its founder. Facebook changed their algorithm again and again and again …

Here at Duke, we’ve been busy over the past few months. Our social media team created a Duke-styled 2048 game. We hosted a #DukeSpring photo walk in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, resulting in hundreds of crowd-sourced seasonal images of campus. The Office of News & Communications produced a fast-paced video guide on using social media effectively in higher education. Current students held a number of online chats using Google+ Hangouts for admitted students.

We also did some data crunching. Amanda Peralta, David Jarmul and I prepared a short report/infographic showing the state of social media here at Duke this spring. Below is a snapshot of the data our team compiled.


A quick glance at some of the aggregate numbers for all of Duke’s institutional accounts reveals a vast presence on social media.


A look at growth and engagement on the main Duke social media accounts. One of the things we are watching very closely is the explosion of engagement on Duke’s Instagram presence.

metrics_graph1From the data, it’s clear to see social media continues to grow in importance as part of Duke’s news, communications and marketing efforts. We’ll be updating this report every semester here on Duke’s social media blog to keep you informed of our social media activity and trends.

Want more? Here is a link to the full PDF.

Using Social Media Effectively in Higher Education

Do you work with social media in higher education and wonder whether you should focus on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram … or something else? Which investment will give you the biggest benefit? Which matches best with the content you typically produce?


A new video from Duke’s Office of News & Communications, “Using Social Media Effectively in Higher Education,” helps you think through your options.

I originally delivered this presentation at Duke’s 2014 social media mash-up a few months ago. This spring, I worked with Cara Rousseau, Carson Mataxis, James Todd, Sonja Foust and others to capture it in video format. We’ve also prepared a helpful PDF checklist that you can use as a reference.

We hope you find the video helpful. Share your thoughts on using these different social networks in the comments below!

Moving #DukeForward on Social Media

It’s been a very interesting—and a very humbling—process trying to establish a social media presence from ground up for the Duke Forward campaign. Building a following across channels is only one key piece of the puzzle. Keeping people engaged is another. Both are contingent on a willingness to experiment—and fail.

We’ve had a measure of success with content that informs (e.g. gift or campaign milestone announcements) and content that features our donors, the face behind giving at Duke (e.g. Q&A with donors). Working with our more established partners like Big D and Duke Athletics has helped us grow our reach with new audiences.

Duke Forward’s On the Road events—which bring Duke and Duke Forward to alumni communities around the world—have been particularly fertile social media grounds for us. The events give us great content like Facebook photo albums of attendees at academic sessions with top faculty and students, and alumni writing three things that they love about Duke—securing likes, shares, tags and comments. Here’s one example and another. Twitter has also been another very interactive space for us.

During our most recent event in Miami in February, we ramped up our efforts with a new trivia contest connected to Coach Cut, who was a speaker at the event. We hoped it would build some excitement, get attendees engaging with us more—and reward them for it. Who doesn’t like swag?

Tweet and Win

We wrote up promotional content on the table tents that were placed around the event space.

The question was: “In which year did Duke play its first Orange Bowl game?” and the first three people who Tweeted us the right answer won footballs autographed by Coach Cut.

Trivia question

We got our winners very quickly and even had a fourth person Tweet that they had gotten in their answer in in a timely fashion. Luckily, we had a couple of extra footballs so we gave one to her as well. The most rewarding part of the contest was how happy everyone was about winning and how excited they were to get their picture taken with the coach.


We’re planning on continuing the contest through our next few events, with different prizes depending on who our speakers are.

**Footnote: The Annual Fund liked the idea of the contest so much that they did the same thing at this year’s Big Event!

Twitter for non-communicators (Hint: you can tweet the same thing twice.)

Duke Twitter Profile
Twitter can seem overwhelming when you are strapped for time with other obligations. And the fact that the university’s @DukeU account tweets between 10-30 times in per day is probably pretty intimidating.


But Twitter might still be worth pursuing. The truth is you won’t offend your audiences or lose your followers because you haven’t tweeted in the last hour (or even the last couple of days).


Although it is acceptable to tweet dozens of times a day like the New York Times, it is definitely not a requirement. In fact, it’s better to tweet just a couple of interesting pieces of content than to bombard your followers with content they don’t want to see. (That’s when you may be unfollowed.)


For those of you who are still testing the waters, you should know another tip: you can tweet the same thing more than once. In fact, if your content is interesting and relevant, you should tweet it multiple times because it’s likely that not all of your followers will see it the first or second time around.


A couple of ways to make sure followers don’t tire of seeing the same thing over and over again:

  • Frame the content in different ways. Maybe you cite an interesting quote in one tweet. Maybe you deliver the salient takeaway the next time. Maybe you include an image in another tweet.
  • Try the tweet at different times during the day. Different people tend to be online at 7:30 am versus at 9:00 pm.


You can use this as an opportunity to test the way you present your content. You may see patterns emerge that teach you what your followers like the most. For example, they may be more responsive to tweets with images, or tweets framed as questions. Let us know what you find out!


Remember that you can always tweet us your questions at @DukeU or using #DukeSocial.