Bio: Manages social media for the Office of News and Communications and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and leads social media strategy for the university.
Posts by Cara:
July 25th, 2014
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.
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July 11th, 2014
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?
A: 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+:
- Browse the “discover” tab and find interesting things Google+ is featuring.
- 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).
- Figure out what’s trending on Google+ and use the hashtags to share your content (as it makes sense).
- 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.
- 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.
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May 13th, 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.
From 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.
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April 8th, 2014
This is a guest blog post by Audra Ang, senior development writer and social media coordinator for the Duke Forward campaign.
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?
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.
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!
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March 28th, 2014
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.
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March 18th, 2014
This blog post by Jeremy Fern originally appeared on the Seventh Point: Media Street Smarts Digital Recruiter blog.
Do your prospective students really care what you have to say? Or how you say it?
In the early 2000s, I started my higher ed career as a rookie admissions counselor at a small North Carolina university. Those were the days of big monitors and Internet speed so fast you could literally watch your screen load like a PowerPoint swipe effect. I still remember the massive paper-cuts I’d get preparing colorful manila folders for each of my students, keeping handwritten notes of every minor detail down to their favorite candy bar and the name of their dog.
Back then social media wasn’t the hotbed it is today. Sure, most of us had a MySpace page and toyed around with AOL Instant Messenger, but we were focused on letters, postcards, phone calls, and emails. Let me be clear that there’s great and lasting value in these traditional ways of cultivating relationships with students. In fact, today direct mail print publications are still ranked as one of the most influential means of connecting with prospective students.
But let me challenge your thinking too. Do your prospective students really care what you have to say or is it about how you say it? AOL Instant Messenger was popular back then, and I used it to recruit students quite successfully. As long as I could match a real name with a username, I was good. Let’s face it, I have a good memory, but I couldn’t remember if “fuzzybunny25″ was Ashley or Courtney. I kept using phone calls, emails, and personal notes for a more personal touch. But by using the technology of the day, I cultivated relationships with these prospects by speaking their language. It wasn’t about what I said as much as it was how I said it, or what I used to say it. My students didn’t want the commitment of talking to me on the phone yet; they wanted to keep me at arm’s length. And using the newest way of doing that at the time, AOL IM, was just the fix.
Today, AOL IM might not be a powerhouse of recruiting students, and it was never really designed to be that. But that doesn’t stop us from using social media, texting, email, and other mediums as ways to connect. Yesterday’s traditional admissions counselor is today’s digital recruiter.
Duke University’s manager of social and digital media strategy, Cara Rousseau, can vouch for that. Her unique role at Duke finds her splitting time up between the media relations office and the undergraduate recruiting office. Here’s what Cara had to share about embracing new technology to help in recruiting and engaging prospective students at Duke:
Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) has been a huge success for us as it helps us connect prospects with our current students. The focus of using social media in admissions at Duke is to engage prospective and admitted students by connecting them with the piece of campus they care about (i.e., faculty, clubs, academics, athletics, etc.). We use Google+ as more of a social layer on top of other social media platforms. When we host a Google+ HOA event, we use different themes like “spirit” and “pride,” and we’ve chosen epicenter locations on campus such as Cameron Indoor Stadium, a residence hall lobby, and the Hall of Fame. To promote these events, we’ve really taken a cross-platform approach by promoting hangouts on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and e-blasts. Also, creating #hashtags specific to our HOA event and encouraging students to get on Twitter during HOA events can help drive awareness for Duke. In a given hour-long hangout, we might have 50-60 questions asked, and based on who is submitting those questions we see a higher conversion percentage of students matriculating to Duke.
A Big Week of Hangouts for Duke
Click on Video to Watch
The point is, Duke University is using social media as a means of community building – to help students get engaged, locked in, and committed. Social media sites such as Google+ are tools that can bring your campus to the bedroom of prospective students. Rousseau’s final thought was, “Prospects get to see what Duke students are like, our diversity. It’s really less about marketing Duke and more about providing a window into Duke’s culture.”
This is just one example of how Duke’s admissions recruiters have used today’s technology to become digital recruiters. The power and reach of social media give you instant access to an audience that just years ago was impossible to reach. Let’s see…where was I…oh yes, I was in the middle of a tweet, a Facebook post, revining, a text, and Yik Yaking. Hope my Klout score goes up!
Stay tuned for the 2nd part of the “Digital Recruiter” blog, in which I’ll share five tips for evolving into a digital recruiter.
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February 3rd, 2014
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.
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January 27th, 2014
I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Duke Communicators at one of their monthly meetings. That group is comprised of staff who are, in some capacity, responsible for getting news about Duke University and the Health System out to the masses. Their work spaces were wide-ranging: from Duke Libraries, where the event was held, to the Office of Alumni Affairs to the Nasher Art Museum to Duke Medicine to the Lemur Center.
Mine was one of 6 presentations made, and each used the Ingite format: 5 minutes and 20 slides, which auto-advance every 15 seconds. The format is a bit of a challenge, and in preparing I think I now better understand what Olympic athletes go through: years of preparation for 10 second dash. Ok, I didn’t really prepare for 4 years, only a month, but you get the picture.
I was asked to talk about how I got involved in iPhoneography, how I became an “Instagram sensation” (their words) and how that path led me to the RAW Artists Raleigh event.
I talked about stumbling across an online course on mobile photography while searching for a work-related tutorial on lynda.com and how, as a Duke employee, I had access to that resource, free of charge. I mentioned the influence Richard Koci Hernandez had one me and how photography changed me and my path in life.
At the end of the meeting I received many compliments. One person called it“inspiring.” Another told me he liked the way I “framed the story.” Coming from a professional “communicator” that was high praise. But the one comment that stick out the most came from the event’s organizer. She said, “I just love your story.”
I’d never really considered myself as “having a story.” I’d always thought that I, like everyone else, was just going through life, experiencing the highs and lows and the mundane, going to work, coming home and trying my best to fulfill the responsibilities of a husband, father, friend and citizen and along the way trying to learn more about myself and the world. But those words really resonated with me, and I realized on my way home that we ALL have “a story.” Not one of us has traveled the same path. We all have a distinct set of experiences that make up a history that no one else has. The events of life, no matter where they have led you, are what make up your unique story.
I was fortunate to be presented with an opportunity to reflect on the events and people who have influenced me in the past year and a half, but I’m now going to look back further on my timeline and examine the larger story. I want to encourage you to do the same thing and challenge you to be prepared to tell YOUR story. Where did you start? Who did you meet along the way? What did you learn? What did you see? How did you get here?
Prepare to tell it, then tell it. Tell it to yourself, your significant other, your kids, strangers. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by what a compelling tale it is and know that you will find people who say “I just love your story.”
And don’t forget, you write your story every day. The exciting part of that is that while you are the author, you don’t know how the story will end. There are plot twists and surprises ahead and that’s what make the story compelling.
So, what’s YOUR story?
This is a guest blog post by Michael Palko, an instructional designer with the Duke University Health System and a digital storyteller.
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January 8th, 2014
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.
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November 22nd, 2013
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 lynda.com and review the “Twitter Essential Training” webinar.
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