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How to Make the Most of Your Website on Social Media

To get the most out of your social media efforts, you’ll want to make sure that your website links show up properly. So today, we’re going to talk about the importance of ensuring your website looks great on social media and provide the tools that’ll help enhance your posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

You’re likely already aware that each page of your website should have a title tag and meta description for SEO reasons. But did you also realize you can specifically customize how your website content displays on social media platforms? The customizations are called social media cards and they make your content more engaging by adding images and summaries when you (or anyone else for that matter) share your links on social media.

Similar to the meta tags that tell programmatic robots (like Google) about the pages on your site, social media bots scan the page associated with your link to determine what info should be displayed with it in a user’s newsfeed. If the bots can’t find anything, they take their best guess. The results can vary from boring to comical. But by enabling social media cards on your website, you can control these meta tags so social media platforms accurately determine the title, description, and image that gets displayed. 

The two main types of tags you’ll need are Twitter Cards and Open Graph

Twitter Cards

The difference between a bare hyperlink and an engaging Tweet is a small bit of code on your link’s website.

In order for these lovely link previews to display on Twitter, your website must have Twitter Cards enabled. Adding a few lines of markup on your website means links to your content will have a “Card” with photo, title, and description to help drive readers to your content.

There are technically four different types of Twitter cards, but the one we find most useful is “Summary Card with Large Image.”

Once the correct meta tags are added to your webpage (either by you or your website administrator), you can run the URL through the validator tool to test how the link will look on Twitter. This tool also works for any website if you’d like to see what a link would look like before Tweeting. This is helpful since sometimes websites use different images in their meta tags than appear on the site itself.

A few notes:

  • The most commonly recommended image size for social media cards is 1200×628 since this size fits on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For Twitter, you’ll want your image to be at least 300×157 and no bigger than 4096×4096.
  • Often, Twitter Cards are set to pull the first image on a page as a default. Be careful with this since Twitter will crop the image to make it fit the card. You might end up with a pixelated version or a vertical headshot where only the person’s nose is visible.
  • If you update the tags for your page (say you found a typo in your title or need to switch out the image), you’ll want to use the Twitter Card validator to force Twitter to do a fresh scrape of your page’s URL. This will cause Twitter to pull the new meta tag, ensuring that the most recent, accurate information is shared. Otherwise, Twitter might pull from an outdated cache instead. 

Open Graph

Facebook and LinkedIn both generate link previews based on Open Graph meta tags. Like Twitter, if these Open Graph tags are missing or incomplete, the link preview will also be incomplete.

Facebook Guide to Sharing for Webmasters
Making Your Website Shareable on LinkedIn

The Facebook Debugger is a great tool to see how a Facebook link will look before you post it. It’ll let you see all the information that the Facebook Crawler is pulling. Like Twitter, if you updated the image or preview text and it’s not displaying, click “Scrape Again” once or twice to force Facebook to get the updated information.

Recommendations from Facebook:

  • 200×200 pixels is the minimum allowed image dimensions.
  • The image file size cannot exceed 8 MB.
  • If your image is smaller than 600×315 pixels, it’ll still display but the size will be much smaller.
  • When content is shared for the first time, the Facebook Crawler scrapes and caches the meta data from the URL. The crawler has to see an image at least once before it can be rendered, which means the first person who shares your link won’t see a rendered image. You can pre-cache your images and avoid this by running the URL through the Debugger.
  • If you update the image, the original share will continue to show unless you refresh it in the post.

Since LinkedIn also used Open Graph tags, it functions much like Facebook. The LinkedIn Post Inspector works just like the Facebook Debugger. Paste your URL and select “Inspect” to see what your link will look like on LinkedIn.

So if your site doesn’t currently have social media cards, we’d highly recommend having them added.

How to Setup Open Graph and Twitter Cards for WordPress

If various reasons prevent the addition of social media cards to your website, you can still share your content on social media. It’s just a little bit harder. 

Our recommendation is to share your text with the link and applicable image. Make sure to use the correct image size for the social media platform. Also, to meet accessibility standards, you’ll need to add alt text to the image. This can be done natively in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but only a few schedulers (Hootsuite, Sprout, etc.) have this feature. And lastly, we do have a Duke-branded link shortener available through Shib login.

So in summary, it’s key to properly manage your website content and how it displays on social media platforms rather than letting Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn determine how it’s displayed for you. By optimizing Twitter Cards and Open Graph and validating the accuracy of your website content in how it’s displayed, you can curate your content specifically for each audience you have on different social channels.

Live Video: Higher Ed and Beyond

2016 was undoubtedly the year of live video. Although YouTube was one of the first social media platforms to introduce live video in 2011, Facebook’s introduction of Facebook Live at the end of 2015 was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of the live video movement. It didn’t take long for this new broadcasting medium to catch on with viewers, leading Instagram and Twitter to follow suit with their own live features a year later.

Live video is authentic, engaging, and powerful, demonstrated by its quick rise to popularity and high engagement rates among viewers and broadcasters alike. Compared to 2014, 81% of internet and mobile users watched more live video in 2015. Out of all of the social media platforms that currently have a live video feature, Facebook Live sees the most traffic of live video viewers. On average, viewers comment 10 times more on Facebook live videos than on regular videos. Viewers’ attention spans are also longer during live videos, with the average viewer watching a live video 3 times longer than a typical video.

How are people using this new portable broadcasting medium? Companies and organizations may broadcast live during news announcements, performances, behind the scenes tours, demos, interviews, and more – the possibilities are endless. Those that come to mind for many social media users are live videos by individuals that document their personal experiences, whether in a serious or casual setting. My personal favorite is Candace Payne’s Chewbacca Mask video, which holds the current record for the most viewed Facebook Live video at 160 million views.

While it may be obvious for some individuals and organizations of what they should use live video to broadcast to users, higher education institutions have differed in their experimentation with live video. The most popular live video platform used by universities remains Facebook Live – although many have not yet stepped into the realm of live video at all. However, over 85% of universities have a presence on YouTube, demonstrating that the vast majority of universities understand the importance of video in engaging their audiences. It’s exciting to see more and more institutions use live videos on social media to reach new audiences and provide a different and immediate digital experience for their viewers. The majority of higher education institutions use Facebook Live in a way that reflects the type of content they publish. This is frequently demonstrated by live streaming of lectures, speeches, and notable events on campus. Duke recently streamed it’s 2017 commencement ceremonies (above) and the first press conference by Duke President-Elect Vincent Price.

During these videos, many of the videographers utilize Facebook Live API, allowing them to broadcast using a professional camera rather than through a mobile device. While using live video for these types of events can be effective, live video provides an avenue to do something different than what might normally be done through video. Since live videos in essence become regular videos once the live stream has ended, live videos should sometimes take the opportunity to distinguish themselves through content and style. Broadcasting live events can draw an audience, depending on the anticipation of said event and whether it is time-sensitive or crisis related. However, in order to truly make the most of what live video has to offer, making use of all of its features, such as live chat, will be vital.

Live videos can be used to allow social media users across the globe to glean an intimate and personal experience of life at the university. Social media is increasingly becoming a space where brands are expected to be authentic and expressive, while social media in and of itself is a place where corporations and individuals alike can let their personalities shine. I hope that universities will be at the forefront of using live video in creative and innovative ways to captivate their audiences. Vanderbilt has used live video to bring prospective students on virtual tours on campus while fielding questions using live chat. Here at Duke we have used live video to allow online viewers to ask questions to professor and author Dan Ariely during a Q&A with students in Perkins library.

Watch live: Duke professor Dan Ariely runs a demonstration of his new book, "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations." The book reveals insights into motivation and what drives people — how it works and how we can use this knowledge to approach important choices in our own lives.In this Facebook Live, Ariely is asking students to participate in solving a puzzle for money … or pizza, demonstrating the complexity of what motivates people.Leave questions for Dan in the comments.

Posted by Duke University on Sunday, November 20, 2016


The world of live video combines the immediacy of live TV with its ability to immerse millions into the same place and moment, the omnipresent and immediate nature of social media and mobile phones, and the ever-transforming landscape of technology. With live video, the sky’s the limit and you’re the director. I’m looking forward to seeing how this versatile and immersive tool will empower higher education institutions and individuals alike to create, engage, and connect.






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.


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!

Video: 2014 Social Media Toolkits

In celebration of Social Media Month, Amanda Peralta and I joined a roundtable web chat with HigherEdLive. The focus of the discussion was the “secret weapons” in our 2014 marketing toolkits.

The program was hosted by Stephanie St. Martin, Social Media Manager for Boston College Alumni, and the other panelists were Erin Supinka with RIT and Sean Casey, video producer with Boston College.



Google+ for Admissions

Ashley (Hennigan) Budd hosts Admissions Live with guest Cara Rousseau, Manager of Digital and Social Media Strategy for Duke University. Tune in as they discuss the Google+ platform and its uses in college admissions.


Taken from the live broadcast, October 15, 2013.

Topics discussed during the LIVE broadcast include:

  • Google+ Features
  • Content Strategy
  • Teens online
  • College information online
  • Tips for growing followers
  • Duke projects
  • #AskAdmissions on Google+
  • Strategy recommedations

… and more


Connecting Students and Colleges through Google+ – NACAC Presentation Slides

Google in Education –

Learn more about Google+ –

Higher Education and Google+

Have you tried this? Bring up Google+ in a room of marketers and communicators. Just mention the social network and see what happens.

You will hear mixed reactions. Some will sing the praises of search engine optimization  and network influence, while others will look at you like you’re a cat speaking Latin on TV.

Our social media team at Duke University is among the Google+ believers.

Duke’s main Google+ Page has grown to over 65,000 followers (as of Aprili 2013) and we’re continuing to see value in our presence on Google+. For one, the more people who follow Duke on Google+, the more we positively influence search results for people in the Duke community. Secondly, we see Hangouts On Air as a huge benefit for student-to-student connectivity and a great tool in our media relations toolkit. Finally, it’s a quirky and fun place where we can share content that is attached to Google trends and a niche science community that is super active on the network.

I’m working on a full blog post on all of the benefits and joys Duke sees in Google+. For now, check out this Hangout On Air I did last week with the Higher Education Google team discussing the power of highered on Google+. Enjoy!


Getting Some PR For Duke

Today I had the pleasure of speaking at a meeting of the North Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of American (PRSA). Joining me were Jill Carlson, marketing manager with Argyle Social, and James Wong, former marketing communications marketer with iContact. Our PRSA panel covered “A Digital Dive: What’s New and Hot Right Now” as a topic and we each offered our observations and examples of where digital and social media are headed.

For my part of the talk, I shared what Duke University is doing in the established social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and our involvement in niche communities (Pinterest, foursquare and Tumblr). I quickly covered our social media networks in China (Sina Weibo is the main one right now) and ways for brands to utilize internal resources and brand ambassadors. We finished with a quick highlight of the 903 and Counting campaign Duke ran this past winter. There was a bit of Twitter chatter during the panel.

After the talks, we had some rich Q&A and I met a number of the association members one-on-one after the program. Thanks to the NC PRSA for hosting a great event!

Please click on the slide below to view my entire presentation.