Developing a Social Media Strategy for University Presidents

Last summer, Kimberly Stern blogged about welcoming new CSU President Joyce McConnell on social media, and the exciting opportunities that our team could take part in as a result of President McConnell’s openness to social.

Six months later, President McConnell has a Twitter and Instagram account, and is crushing it on social media.

If your university president, dean, or anyone in leadership is interested in starting a Twitter or Instagram account, here are some tips for them, based on our own rockstar, President McConnell.

Check out (dare I say…follow) President McConnell on Twitter and Instagram 👇

Twitter logo  @CSUMcConnell

Instagram Logo  @PresidentMcConnell

Build a strategy

When President McConnell came to CSU, she was excited to create a social media presence, and asked CSU’s Division of External Relations for a little help to build a brand and social media strategic plan for her. Although our social media team had never developed such a robust strategic plan for a university president before, we paired our knowledge and expertise with a ton of research to create a guiding light for President McConnell.

The social media strategic plan includes goals, audiences, voice, content buckets and SWOT analysis, along with very light analytics to track success, and is broken down by social media platform.

Through our research, we found a recent study by Campus Sonar that examined the Twitter influence of campus executives in 2018. Here are some key insights from the findings by Campus Sonar that we also included in President McConnell’s social media strategy:

– Self-managed accounts have the highest impact and influence

– Consistency matters: Top executive influencers in the study tweeted 2-3 times per day on average

– Tweets about a day-in-the-life and the higher education industry typically resonate more with the audiences of the executives in the study

– Authenticity is key

– Tweets with images receive the most retweets

It’s important to note that while we helped develop a social media strategic plan for President McConnell, her dedication to having a social media presence is what’s driving the success of her accounts.

Be authentic

If there’s one thing President McConnell is great at, it’s showcasing her authentic self to her followers.

As mentioned above, Campus Sonar found authenticity to be of particular importance for a successful Twitter account. The study mentions campus executives who are too big of fans of the university may be viewed as disingenuous by their followers. That being said, it’s okay for a president to be a fan of their university. President McConnell is, of course, very involved in all things CSU. So, it makes sense that she shares that on Twitter.

Below is a great example of how President McConnell strikes a balance between celebrating the partnership between CSU and the National Western Stock Show, while also adding her playful personality and voice into the tweet. She’s being a fan of CSU in an authentic way.


President McConnell started her Instagram account in December, and hasn’t looked back since. She utilizes the platform to connect more with students, promote campus events, and share more of who she is with campus.

Thought leadership

Through her social media accounts, President McConnell can be more accessible to the CSU community, as well as share important initiatives and build thought leadership within higher education. Tweets like the one below create more transparency throughout her presidency, and showcases how she is leading change within higher education.



Have fun with the social media team

This is my shoutout to anyone trying to get their university president to do fun videos for social media. We are fortunate that President McConnell is up for our wild ideas, and even luckier that she came to CSU with the willingness to have fun on social media. However, we also understand that social media isn’t of interest to some university presidents, which is also totally fine.

If your president is interested in social media, but just a little camera shy, consider sending a few examples of videos from other universities, or starting slow with a simple Instagram story during an event. Maybe send examples of nice comments on posts that feature a picture of the president to show how much the community enjoys seeing them on social media.

Over the last six months, we’ve captured President McConnell’s first day on the job, handing out coffee on the first day of classes, her inauguration ceremony, and even filmed President McConnell during a lonely day on campus over winter break (we’ve seen a few other universities create videos like this in the past, and were so excited to try it out on #CSUSocial).


President McConnell Hands Out Coffee On The First Day Of Class

Thanks a latté, President McConnell ☕️

Posted by Colorado State University on Monday, August 26, 2019

Influential Executives on Twitter 

The strategic plan we developed for President McConnell also includes a list of Top 10 Influential Executives on Twitter, which was compiled by Campus Sonar. This list is a great one to share with executives at your university who are interested in creating a Twitter account and are looking for examples of other university leaders who are doing a stellar job.

  1. Walter M. Kimbrough, President of Dillard University | @HipHopPrez
  2. Kevin W. Cosby, President of Simmons College of Kentucky | @KWCosby
  3. Santa J. Ono, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia | @ubcprez
  4. Marcia G. Welsh, President of East Stroudsburg Univ. of Pennsylvania | @PresidentWelsh
  5. John J. Rainone, President of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College | @dslcprez
  6. Chris Del Conte, Vice President and Athletics Director of the University of Texas | @_delconte
  7. Makola M. Abdullah, President of Virginia State University | @makolaabdullah
  8. David Rosowsky, Provost and Senior VP of the University of Vermont | @UVMProvost
  9. Bob Driscoll, Vice President and Athletics Director of Providence College | @PCBobDriscoll
  10. Bruce McPheron, Executive VP and Provost of The Ohio State University | @medflygenes