Insights from Day in the Life of Higher Ed Social Media Managers

Higher ed social media leaders share tips about content strategy and collaborating with campus partners.

Screenshot of panelists in Zoom.

Getting to know the brilliant professional communicators within the higher ed social media community is a perk of this profession. I had the pleasure of moderating the panel, “A Day in the Life: How Higher Ed Social Media Managers Structure Their Days and Teams,” at the recent virtual Higher Ed Social Media Strategies Summit. It filled my cup to spend time learning from fantastic women leaders – Maria DeCabooter, assistant director of social media at Northern Arizona University; Liz Harter, social media manager at Notre Dame; Nicole Lossie, social media and digital engagement manager at Gannon University; and Eileen Reynolds, director of social media at New York University.

Read on for insights from our discussion:

How do you structure your days?

While of course the easy answer to this one is, “every day is different” and while that is true, Nicole breaks down her typical day at Gannon University which includes social listening, collaborating with the team, being a resource for others, and amplifying stories across campus.

She starts the day checking all the accounts – either natively in the app or in Hootsuite dashboards for messages, comments, questions and tags. For frequently asked questions, she has built out templated responses which come in handy. Next, it’s time to consult the content calendar (she uses Google Docs) to get the game plan for the day’s content while also preparing and curating content for future posts. A helpful tactic that she implemented this year to augment her content calendar is to include a running list of links of posts from university-affiliated accounts that caught her attention. These posts could be shared on the institutional channels that she manages.

The rest of the day and week is filled meeting with divisional and campus partners to understand their content needs for marketing, events, PR, social requests, and general updates. She also squeezes in time to snap photos across campus – no one can resist a pretty autumn campus glamor shot.

Best part of her job? Paying attention to what they should be sharing. She loves listening to the stories happening across campus and continuing to share them on social.

Social fun vs. Social important

Eileen talked about tension she is seeing in content strategy with pendulum swings of “social fun vs. social important” and “social plan vs. social in the moment.” Social fun was how it started years ago, and the profession has evolved to a place where social media strategists have a seat at the table for institutional messaging, major announcements, and crisis communication. While being very proud to be part of the decision-making and communications planning work at New York University, she expressed the need for creating the social fun content, too. “The stuff that makes people say, NYU is my dream school.” She also seeks the balance of “social plan” where they have specific content (research, student life, people spotlights, etc.) planned for each month and “social in the moment” where they look for opportunities to respond and be part of things happening in real time.

Collaborating with campus partners

At Northern Arizona University, Maria has helped build a strong community of folks who work in social media on campus. Her team works with the central HR team to provide social media resources such as social media 101/updates you need to know, and accessibility information to employees. Each semester, the NAU social team hosts social media office hours where campus partners can sign up for 30-minute sessions to ask any and all questions. It’s an informal meeting to talk through troubleshooting platform issues or dive into strategic work. Further, they have an internal closed Facebook group for the social media communications community on campus and it has proven to be a valuable tool for campus partners to be resources for one another.

Vertical video hack

Liz is a team of one (hopefully for not very long!) in Notre Dame’s strategic content unit and noted an approach that has worked well for her in capturing and creating content: “I’ve taken to standing next to my videographers. They are shooting horizontally for content for video boards at football games or commercials, and I’m capturing the vertical content that I need for social by standing next to them!” She also emphasized the value making meaningful human connection with her campus colleagues – simply cannot underestimate the value of relationships in the work that we do for our institutions.

I deeply appreciated the time spent with the panelists and could have spent hours talking shop with them. Thank you Higher Ed Social Media Strategies Summit for this opportunity!