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How to Enhance Links to Your Webpages in Social Network Shares (Hint: It’s All in the Metadata)

A media-enhanced Twitter link, powered by Twitter Card metadata in the library website.

A media-enhanced Twitter link, powered by Twitter Card metadata in the library website.

We all have great content and we love to see it tweeted, liked, pinned, tumbld, and otherwise shared in whichever social media platforms people fancy. These platforms are all getting smarter, and are increasingly doing more to find and distinguish the truly shareworthy stuff that lives at the other end of those shortened URLs.

With just a few easy additions of code to our sites, we have the power to trigger media-rich shares, including nice photos, accurate attribution, and the text snippets of our choosing. These enhanced links can stand out in a monotonous stream of social media updates, compelling readers to click (and/or re-share), and driving more traffic to our sites.

Here are just a few tips for getting webpages to play nicely when shared via social media. They all require the simple addition of a few <meta> tags in the HTML.

1.  Open Graph tags (for Facebook & More)

Have you ever linked to a webpage in a Facebook post? Facebook selects a default thumbnail image (which might be something irrelevant like a button icon) and what it thinks is a representative snippet of the content you’d like to share. But you don’t have to leave it up to chance. Facebook created the Open Graph protocol as a standard that any social platform can use to give webpage authors the power to remove the guesswork. FB looks for these tags for guidance, and other tools do as well.

2. Twitter Cards (for Twitter)

With its 140-character limit, it can be hard to tweet a link to a page and also find some free characters to attribute the source or provide a taste of the interesting content. Twitter Cards help solve that problem. In the library, we recently added Twitter Card metadata to all of our digital collections and our blogs. Almost instantly, all tweets linking to our pages were enriched, and the change even enhanced previous tweets retroactively.

3. Rich Pins (for Pinterest)

Pinterest is also on board with using page metadata to enrich shares. It currently supports distinct pins for articles, places, products, movies, and recipes.

How to Add Metadata for Social Media Optimization

You probably don’t want to manually add these <meta> tags to every individual page. But chances are, you’re using a CMS like Drupal or WordPress to manage your website, and if so, you’re in luck. These platforms have plugins and modules available that make this setup a cinch:

If you have a blog, the WordPress SEO plugin isn’t currently enabled there, but you can request the plugin through this form.

I highly recommend adding this metadata if you can. You could see big improvements in your content’s representation in social media platforms, and it requires only a few simple steps to get it going.

Happy sharing!

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!

Remembering a Duke fan on Twitter

embedded tweet


Grieving via Twitter. Maybe your knee-jerk reaction to the thought is confusion. Usually, people ask to be left alone to grieve in private. But not everyone. And public grieving—even on Twitter— can actually be touching.

Take what happened to me a couple of weeks ago: The account I help manage (@DukeU) was suddenly barraged by tweets of a kind usually reserved for celebrities and way-too-famous people. A twitter campaign had been started by a girl named Brooke begging us to mention Duke fan Dylan Coen. It turns out that earlier that week, Dylan had died. And high school girlfriend Brooke decided she could honor him by bringing together her small Brunswick, Georgia community around a tweet.

@DukeU please mention Dylan Coen tonight!!!! He was a #1 fan. We had his funeral today. We was 18 years old!! #sadday

“please RT this too show brunswick some support!”

“We. Will. Not. Stop. @DukeU

“it would mean the world to us if you could RT @broookayee ‘s tweet. We are fighting for our angel”

At first I was shocked (and impressed with Brooke’s dedication). We don’t really consider the Duke twitter account to be highly in-demand. But there are many fans out there who feel extremely connected to Duke because of the powerhouse Duke basketball program. And ultimately, fans just want to be recognized for their dedication. I think this drove Brooke to seek that recognition that Dylan would have enjoyed so much, as a way to honor him. One last big romantic gesture.

embedded tweet

embedded tweet

We were glad to be able to play a role in the town’s grieving process.

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.

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.

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.



@DukeFedRel #iMarch #NC Twitter Town Hall Recap

Guest blog post by Alyssa Dack.

A few weeks ago, Duke University participated in the iMarch for Innovation, a call from across the tech, government, and higher education sectors for the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The virtual march brought out supporters from North Carolina to Idaho to California and connected individuals from the Republican, Democratic Parties – and even some Independents – to demonstrate the importance of immigration reform to our economy, our universities, and — as the name implies — our nation’s ability to remain on the frontline of innovation.

Today (ICYMI) @DukeFedRel hosted a Twitter Town Hall to talk more about how immigration impacts the students and faculty at Duke University. Here’s a recap:

Right now, international students who come to study at Duke don’t have a choice of staying in the country after finishing their degree.  Their visas automatically expire, meaning they have to return to the home countries. The “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill has a provision that would give graduates in many disciplines a choice to stay in America and contribute to our economy. According to studies by the Center for American Progress, immigration reform would help create 1.4 million jobs and add $329 billion dollars to the economy by 2030.

As Dick Brodhead said in a statement last June, ““Each year, bright, talented students from around the world come to Duke to pursue graduate degrees. Along with their academic training, they absorb an American approach to thinking, problem-solving, and innovating, and they graduate with skills that can lead directly to new companies and jobs for our country. It’s in our national interest to keep them here.”

The Gang of Eight bill also includes the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which offers a path to permanent residency for those individuals brought to the country illegally as children.

A recent study, conducted by Jiali Luo and David Jamieson-Drake, the assistant director and director of Duke’s institutional research office found that Americans who engaged with international students while on campus are more likely in later life to appreciate art and literature, place current problems in historical perspective and read or speak a foreign language. They also are more likely to reexamine their political and religious viewpoints and their beliefs about other races or ethnicities, according to the research. These findings apply to U.S. students who actively interacted with international students in classes, dorms or elsewhere, as opposed to just sharing the campus with them.

We were pleased to join the iMarch for Innovation in highlighting the support for immigration reform across North Carolina. Thanks to those who joined in the conversation, sent us questions, retweeted our remarks and helped us get the word out: don’t miss this chance! Duke University urges the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

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