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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.


Q&A on Duke University’s Google + Presence

This interview originally appeared as a CASE blog post by Janna Crabb.

As part of a series of blog posts around Google +, I talked with Cara Rousseau, manager, digital and social media strategy at Duke University, about the school’s use of the platform.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the Google + presence your department manages and related goals. Does your institution have other accounts not managed by your department?
A: Duke University has a very active Google + presence with more than 280,000 followers and more than 2.5 million views. The main Google+ page is managed by our social media team in Duke’s Office of News & Communications. Duke Athletics and Duke Men’s Basketball also manage a very strong presence on Google+, with combined followers exceeding 500,000 and almost 2 million views, respectively. Our goals for Google+ are to reach niche communities (research, science, medical, health, etc.), to optimize search results and to leverage the Hangouts On Air video streaming platform to connect our audiences.

Q: Why is your institution on Google + and how do you find it valuable? Who is your audience?
A: Duke uses Google+ primarily as a place to optimize search results and for the Hangouts On Air feature. We first started using Google + in August of 2011 when pages launched, but we were really not sure what to do with it. Then, in April 2012, Hangouts on Air launched in beta, and we decided to explore the application, holding eight video chats for prospective and admitted students in the month of April. We used venues across campus, selected based on the theme of the chat. For example, we held our chat on “Duke spirit and pride” in the Cameron Indoor Stadium, which also houses our Hall of Fame. We held our “Duke research in the world” chat at the Duke Lemur Center to show how hands-on research happens for students. By connecting admitted students to current students in spots across campus, we were able to open a window to campus culture and student life.

Because Google+ is a social layer, it spreads across other Google applications like Google search, YouTube and Google Maps. Because these platforms all talk to each other, things that are posted on Google+ (and have good engagement and reach!) also perform better across other Google products like search. This is important if you are trying to boost the visibility of a small department or if you are promoting a faculty member who doesn’t otherwise have a public presence.

We also use Google+ to reach certain communities that are more active there than in spaces like Facebook or Twitter.

We’ve found that Google + is strong in niche areas of research and science health; it’s a cerebral place so we focus less on pride and sports and more on geekier content. Because Duke is a leading research university, we have a lot of stuff to share that is interesting to those users.

Q: What are some of your Google + successes? What have you learned? Any tips for other institutions?
 Hangouts On Air have been my favorite thing that we’ve done on Google+. In addition to our student web chats, we’ve also done office hours with alumni and faculty for events such as the Oscars. Christoph Guttentag, our dean of admissions, moderated a debate between two high schools in California via Hangouts On Air. Duke’s Class of 1984 held aseries of Hangouts On Air with its class for months leading up to the 30th reunion. We have even held Hangouts via mobile devices live fromBlue Devil Days, our main student recruitment events. We are really excited to keep pushing the envelope by trying new things on this platform.

Tips for using Google+:

  1. Browse the “discover” tab and find interesting things Google+ is featuring.
  2. Search communities to see if there is a community already existing for your school (hint: it probably already exists, so it’s a good idea to find out who is active there).
  3. Figure out what’s trending on Google+ and use the hashtags to share your content (as it makes sense).
  4. Try a Hangout instead of a phone call the next time you have a virtual meeting. Using the tool will help you get much more comfortable with it.
  5. Keep it visual! Google+ has more visual space in posts and cover art than Facebook does. Make sure you are posting beautiful things with captions that sizzle.

Q: How does Google + compare with Facebook at your institution?
A: Google + isn’t a replacement for Facebook; it is a very different space. We find that our audience on Facebook (and Twitter) is more interested in school pride and sports. Our engagement on Google+ tends to be lower than on Facebook, even though we have more followers on Google+ than on Facebook. However, engagement is growing, and we get an especially good response to posts when we use keywords that are “trending” and apply that trend to our content. Google+ also has a “communities” feature that is more searchable than Facebook groups.

Q: What Google + projects would you like to focus on in the future?
A: I’d like to leverage it for more departments and uses on campus. For example, we’ve started thinking about how our career center and global education departments can use Hangouts On Air for advising and information sessions. We’re also excited about continuing to explore how we can use mobile devices to host video and connect with audiences across the world.

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!

Five Things to Know About Duke’s Social Media Fellow


As your new Social Media Fellow, I’ll be tweeting, instagramming, and sharing news and content through Duke’s social media channels. I am a recent December 2012 graduate, and as a student I was involved in campus leadership through Amnesty International and Duke Student Government’s Intellectual Climate Committee. Now I’m ready to build on that passion by growing Duke’s social media presence to the next level. But first, here are five important things to know about me so you can get acquainted with the person behind the tweets:

  1. I love beautiful things. Like my predecessor and colleague Jonathan Lee, I really enjoy design, photography, typography, you name it. When you share a beautiful Duke photo with us using #pictureduke, I’ll be happy to repost your contribution and share it with the rest of our community.
  2. I follow pop culture. Television, film, and what is going on in pop culture says a lot about our society. I’m excited to be an advocate for professors who can speak to these phenomenon through the lens of their academic fields.
  3. Conversation is key. My favorite kind of night ends in a great conversation with an old or new friend. I love one-on-one connection, and social media makes this possible across all kinds of barriers. I’m looking forward to engaging in conversations with Dukies who talk to @DukeU on Twitter, and through our “Join the Discussion” feature.
  4.  I can’t get enough of Durham. The more I learn, the more I love. The amazing growth of the arts, culture and food scene in Durham over the past few years has made this city a great selling point for Duke. I’m excited to share this with the new and prospective members of our community.
  5. I welcome feedback. Whether you’re a student, faculty member, staff, or other member of the Duke community I welcome your thoughts on our social media presence. Do you find our content useful or engaging? Want us to try something new? Send me an email at and let’s talk.


Thanks for staying connected to Duke!

Amanda Peralta

Duke Admissions Launches New Site, New Mobile Platform

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

Read more here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A refresh for Duke’s social media website

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

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

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

Duke University Social Media Website

Duke University Social Media Website

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

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

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