Tough Talks: Making Hard Conversations Social

College students will most likely face many difficult challenges throughout their college careers. Sometimes their new path can be a difficult one to walk. Whether it’s the pressure of acing an exam, struggling with roommate relationships, facing sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault, or talking about the sensitive subject of suicide, it’s our job as social media professionals to keep our students – our #Ramily – connected to the resources and information they need to make informed decisions.

Talking about sexually transmitted diseases isn’t particularly sexy on social media. Neither is sexual assault. Or suicide. But discussing these tough topics are incredibly important. At Colorado State University, we not only realize the importance of having these social conversations, we embrace them. It’s not easy, but it’s important. Here’s how we do it.

Determine the Best Platform to Communicate With Students

For us, Snapchat is that platform. It’s true, Snapchat is struggling (disastrous redesign, continuous lack of relevant analytics, users on the decline) but it’s still a valuable avenue for us to communicate directly to students. Snapchat also presents students with a safe, private social media space where they can ask questions, get answers and find help for difficult situations they might be experiencing.

Connect with the Right Partners

It is a personal and professional goal of mine to create the very best relationships possible in the workplace. Investing time and energy into developing campus relationships really pays off. Especially when it comes to the relationship #CSUSocial has built with the Colorado State University Health Network (CSUHN). These talented, dedicated folks at CSUHN are passionate about educating students and helping them navigate through difficult situations. When we partner with CSUHN for Special Edition Takeovers on CSU’s Snapchat account, their medical and mental health professionals offer personal and insightful “Ask the Experts” Q&A sessions for students to participate in.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Tough Stuff

If it’s happening in the world, it’s probably happening on your campus. And if it’s happening on your campus, it needs to be discussed. Suicide is one of those sensitive subjects. But be mindful about the way you talk about it (see tips below). Unfortunately, there are some pretty tough statistics around student suicides on college campuses:

Tips For Starting the Conversation on Snapchat

  • Connect with campus partners and professionals who are experts in the subject area.
  • Work together to storyboard the content. Keep in mind that the most engaging stories are short and succinct.
  • Find students who can help share your message. Read more about why it’s best for students to talk to students HERE. 
  • Start the message with a clear outline of what will be discussed in an effort to prevent any surprises or triggers for unsuspecting viewers.
  • Provide easy-to-access resources by utilizing Snapchat’s link feature to link important information to websites with resources, phone numbers and contacts.
  • End the takeover with a message that informs viewers that what they just watched was a special message brought to them by a specific group on campus, and include contact information for that special group in the event that questions or concerns after the takeover is completed.
  • Coordinate with your takeover specialist to create a list of replies to have on hand in case questions come after the specialists have signed out.
  • Be thoughtful and sensitive when sharing information and resources on tough topics.

As always, thanks for reading. If you think you or someone you know could be suicidal, please call 911 immediately. If you are concerned about yourself, don’t wait. Talk to a caring CSU professional by calling CSU Health Network Counseling Services: (970) 491-7121 Mental Health Crisis Intervention (CSU): (970) 491-7111.

Suicide Infographics via