This story was originally posted in Duke Today by David Jarmul.
The nearly 210,000 people who follow Duke on Facebook comprise the university’s biggest community on social media. At least they did in 2013.
As 2014 began, however, Duke’s Google+page claimed the top spot, climbing above 217,000 followers.
The statistics are only for Duke’s main presence on the two sites and do not include other Duke social media sites whose “likes” and “followers” total more than 1 million people.
Duke remains an active user of Facebook but expanded its presence on Google+ during the past year because of the social network’s large impact on Google search results, according to Cara Rousseau, the university’s social media manager. “We focused on Google+ initially to boost the university’s presence in search results, but we’ve found a lot of other good uses for it.”
Rousseau and others in the Office of News and Communications (ONC) organized Duke “Hangouts on Air” during the year to enable viewers to interact with campus faculty and students. In one Hangout, professors discussed why they participated in “Moral Monday” protests in Raleigh. In another, Duke’s Steven Churchill and a colleague at Boston University described their findings about recently discovered African fossils. Duke’s undergraduate admissions office held a series of video chats where applicants asked questions of current students.
Duke also tracked the “What’s Hot” and trending features on Google+ and highlighted faculty active on the network, such as Robby Bowles, a Duke medical researcher and photographer who posts regularly to #ScienceSunday. ONC also posted its own stream of colorful content to Google+, as it does on Facebook and, increasingly, on Instagram. Duke is also active onTwitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
“Social media keeps growing in importance but it changes so fast that we need to constantly experiment and adjust to where our audiences are going,” Rousseau said. “We’re like most universities in devoting a lot of attention to Facebook and Twitter, which remain central to our strategy, but we’re a bit unusual in seeing our numbers skyrocket with Google+. Google has regional offices in Durham and Chapel Hill and we’ve made the most of their proximity, collaborating closely with the Google higher education team.”
Rousseau and Amanda Peralta, ONC’s social media fellow, maintain the content on all of the university’s main social media sites. Their blog on Duke’s central social media site highlights recent developments and topics such as which hashtags to use and how to create viral videos for YouTube.