Episode 56: Using Social Media To Communicate The Power of Higher Ed with Nikki Sunstrum

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University of Michigan’s Social Media lookbook: https://socialmedia.umich.edu/yearbook/

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Shiro Hatori
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the higher ed to management podcast hosted by Concept3D. My name is Shiro. And today we’re going to be covering the topic of using social media to communicate the power of higher ed to the community, nation and world. And for that I’m very, very excited to introduce our guests today. She’s an award-winning communication strategy and social media, assistant vice president currently serving at Indiana University. But she also has a long history at University of Michigan as well. Welcome to the podcast, Nikki.

Nikki Sunstrum
Shiro, thank you so much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

Shiro Hatori
Awesome. And I love to ask this question as an icebreaker to all our guests, Nikki. So what do you love about higher ed?

Nikki Sunstrum
You know, this one is probably one of very few answers that have not changed over the last decade in this industry, because it is still my favorite day after day. And it is the breadth of expertise that higher ed offers for you to learn from, to work with and to share. There is nothing quite like an educational environment, when it comes to trying to tell really timely, relevant, impactful stories, because someone in some classroom is studying it, somewhere someone is learning it, and someone is eager to help build out resources that will really add value for everyone. And not just those that are within our classrooms.

Shiro Hatori
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. And you know, I’d love to jump into the conversation now. And a little bit a little bit about your background, from my understanding, you really climbed the social media ladder to start right when social media, I don’t know maybe like 15 years ago was really catching on starting probably with like Facebook, and maybe even a little bit on MySpace. That’s where a lot of your journey in social media started. And, you know, you’ve really climbed the ladder and progress your career, starting from that point. And I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about that as well.

Nikki Sunstrum
Absolutely. You know, it’s always kind of a funny narrative. Because I for a long time, I’ve called myself probably the only social media director or person that worked in social that would also tell people that they don’t necessarily need social if they can’t do it incredibly well. And that’s because I’ve never really looked at it is a a singular sort of solution to communications issues. It’s always just been one of the many tools within a toolbox. And that’s because I fell really into this industry, coming out of state government and working within policy development, Legislative Affairs, social media just started to emerge on the scene as a something that we could leverage to increase government transparency, to reach a broader audience to talk about resources, and to educate constituents across the state of Michigan, about different things that were occurring during the last sort of Great Recession era. So the first, the first actual social media account in state government for Michigan, oddly enough, you mentioned MySpace, which I was never personally on. But our Department of Community Health was, and it was to talk about STD awareness with youth. And that was clear back in like 2007 2008. So starting with things like that, you know, that’s where I found my niche. It was about aligning those resources and those platforms to penetrate really important key messages. And to proactively tell our story, as I call it these days, you know, we want to break our own news. We know that social media is such an incredibly powerful tool for information dissemination. And it’s also I think, the analogy we hear is like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube, which we all know is impossible, right? So how can you get out there and be the person encouraging people to brush their teeth first, and help to set the foundational dialogue rather than herd herd cats on the back end?

Shiro Hatori
Love that. And you know, fast forward 15 years or so. Right? And you’re, you’re in a position at the AVP level now, right? And you come from a social background? Why do you think that, you know, in this leadership type of position now, why social media needs to really have a seat at the table?

Nikki Sunstrum
You know, that actually truly that that mantra of ensuring social media has a seat at the table, I think, is directly attributed to the accomplishments that I’ve had over the last nearly two decades and what earned me a portfolio worthy of an AVP title. It is been a constant battle of Advil To see for these global reaching tools that instantaneously allow us to tell stories and to reach target demographics, to mitigate risk to our businesses and organizations, to identify ambassadors and advocates for our messages, and also to regularly engage and provide customer service, which is so vitally important. And along along the way, right, what I’ve done is through social, right, not just on social, but through leveraging, whether it be Snapchat and the University of Michigan being the first, you know, really large scale institution to leverage that channel. And in turn the the first third of higher education institution to also shut down that channel, when we saw that it wasn’t really providing any more value to the institution. From a resource allocation standpoint. Two years down the road, I’m really rehashing and reevaluating how we leveraged Instagram, and then eventually hiring the first sort of, of its kind vertical video specialists solely dedicated on my team at Michigan to create tech talks and reels. I could not have done any of that if I didn’t have that seat at the proverbial table, and report directly to a VP level, and to route all of the content creation strategy in the overarching goals and objectives of the institution. And that’s where, where social really becomes a game changer, right? If you can make all of those alignments, if you can, say, Yes, we’re using this trending audio, but we’re doing so to double down on our commitment to diversity, equity inclusion, and ensure that we’re helping prospective students see themselves reflected, and have a sense of belonging at our institution, that’s a heck of a lot different than creating a potential viral video, which is, you know, sort of where I think a lot of people tend to still view social, and why and maybe they struggle in the long run, to have a holistic, broader understanding from their leadership, and those around them about the power of social media.

Shiro Hatori
I’m so glad you mentioned that, because I did just talk to Rob thinking over at rhp yesterday on a recording. And, you know, he, he’s all about strategic planning his research with his team was based on reviewing and researching others schools and institutions strategic plans. So we talked up a full hour around strategic plans from institutions. And, you know, one thought I had just from your conversation just now is that, you know, institutions can maybe tie some of those plannings, or those planning goals, to some social media strategy and bring that, you know, a level higher or two levels higher from just that, hey, let’s create a viral video to hey, we’re we’re aligning our social media strategy to our institution’s strategic plans. So I love Absolutely,

Nikki Sunstrum
yes, if you’re not yet doing that, I would highly recommend that you that you start now, it really makes all of the pieces fall into place. You know, so, so many times, I feel like we see this not just in higher ed. But with brands in general, particularly as trends have driven, so much of the content distribution, the platform algorithms, they want you to use this audio, they want you to design in this dial, but you still have to stay in your swim lane. And you have to stay true to your brand, to the tone to the personality and to your key audiences. I mean, every every presentation we see anywhere about a brain going wrong is because they moved outside of where they should have been. Because they tried too hard. Right? We’ve seen a lot of that particularly recently. And so it’s important that we have those strategic conversations and utilize those functionalities, if you will, right, if you think of a platform as robust as Instagram, when people were really wrapped up in at the beginning, primarily up the COVID pandemic in 2020. You know, everyone really felt the need to like jump onto Tik Tok. It was it was viral everything there was growing so quickly. And at Michigan at the time, we actually held off and it’s because we didn’t have the resources to create the content that that platform requires. I mean, it’s so intense. And we took a lot of a lot of time, right to get our sort of ducks in a row if you will. And, you know, some people could, you know, judge that differently, like, oh, no, you should have just done it, but it’s got to be about the Quality and other quantity when it comes to content. And what we had, at that point was an incredibly robust and very, very large Instagram audience that had a platform functionality that was already vertical video, and incredibly similar. So it didn’t make sense to fracture the brand. And to try to create content in a space where we didn’t, we weren’t adequately resourced. And so we did so instead, within an existing environment. And, and that’s one of the things that still to this day, I so frequently have conversations with about people that are interested in social media, which sort of blows my mind that anyone you know, in today’s day and age, when I’ve been at this for so long, still thinks that they need a Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn and Instagram. Recently, someone even said, Yeah, we need a Pinterest, and I was like, Wait a second, what decade is this? Um, you know, Pinterest still has an enormous amount of functionality, but from a brand perspective, or a unit perspective, doesn’t always necessarily make sense. And so you’ve got to sit back and really look at what you’re trying to accomplish, what you have to offer, and how you’re gonna align those two items before you dive into social because the thing that’s so different about the platforms today that we weren’t dealing with back in 2008, is that they’re really saturated from a an audience standpoint, right? Like, the uniqueness about tick tock was that nobody was there and people wanted to jump on. But there’s not a bunch of people running to get onto Facebook at this at this day and age, right? So what why would we want to necessarily create it if our audience doesn’t already exist there, and we can already reach them? Because the odds, even today of like, pulling a million new people to a Twitter account, or next to none? Right? Like, they’re not really coming in droves the way that they used to?

Shiro Hatori
Got it. Yeah, I love that. I love what you’re saying, you know, you articulated much better than I did, but you know, don’t have that silver with shiny toy syndrome, right? Yeah. And if you are going to start a channel, or try a channel and come with it at a strategy, doubling down on, if something’s already working, you know, no need to kill that, like continue that progress. Love to hear. In our previous conversation, I loved what you said, this has been a constant pain point on also an opportunity with social media. It’s like there’s a vast difference between a personal user and a business user. Right. And so articulating that I know, I don’t know how to articulate it. But how do you go about articulating that?

Nikki Sunstrum
This one is always kind of challenging to discuss, because the ease of use with social media is what for those of us in the professional space, sort of struggled with a lot, because you can’t really, at least with SEO, or with a website creation, the tools are hard enough that the average person might not I mean, today, it’s a little bit different, you could pop up a WordPress pretty easily. But social media, everyone already really kind of had profile already or, you know, was friends with their their family and their colleagues from college or whoever they graduated with. And so from a communication standpoint, to them, they feel like it’s an easy space to get into on behalf of the brand. And also dabble with connecting with people, which also makes it really hard because there is that personal connection, when we need to streamline and consolidate accounts that are underperforming on behalf of a brand to get them taken down. Because it feels again, very much like a community that you have built, regardless of how impactful it is. And over over the years, I’ve had many challenging conversations with various, you know, professionals and, and units about the needs in the spaces for official channels that carry a branded logo that have to meet content requirements that need to meet ADA compliance, that really are looked at and subjected to freedom of information act like all of these things that are not what you’re doing on your your personal sort of Instagram or the Tiktok videos that you’re making on the weekend. To blend those two worlds and to start to establish guidelines and best practices and policies is one of the best ways that I have found in these spaces to create educational resources and tools to walk people through. I mean, still, I think it’s more there’s more awareness around the work that it takes. Now that cap cut and things are out there to either either create a tick tock video Let alone leverage a trending audio and get it to perform really well in the algorithm. It takes a lot of time. And people I think, are just shocked by that sometimes. So in opening yourself up to dialogues and saying, okay, also you’re going to need to create, I think Tik Tok at one point was saying, you should, you should post like 10 times a week or even more frequently. But you also have to take high quality images for your Instagram account, you also have to cultivate a community on Twitter that has multiple tweets a day, and then also not only a Facebook page, but probably if you want to be successful a Facebook group, and people’s minds just start to go, oh, well, no, we’re going to allocate this role to as a portion of some person’s job. And, you know, I have to remind them like, yeah, that that’s probably not gonna work. Um, so those types of dialogues can be really valuable. And in looking to peers and doing evaluation, just knowing and kind of understanding the broader context of the platform’s, not to mention a crisis communication strategy, or a moderation and response strategy. I mean, it’s one thing to meet target goals for content creation. But then who’s going to be looking at it to make sure that if a question comes in, you’re responsive, to make sure that if there is a harassing comment, that you’re there to attend to it, to make sure that if somebody direct messages you and says, Hey, so and so in a association with your audience is doing such and such online, and you need to be aware of it, that you know, how to mitigate that risk institutionally and elevate it, potentially to law enforcement? There’s a lot that goes into this that I think still unfortunately, goes missed.

Shiro Hatori
That and yeah, I love everything that you’re saying, you know, it sounds like from what I’m hearing, you know, making that clear distinction of hey, like, this isn’t your Instagram that you look at on your phone as a personal user, like, there’s a lot more that goes in to a business user and communicating that properly at your level, or at the manager level, or even maybe as a social media intern, as a student turn is communicating that it’s like, hey, like, there’s this huge distinction in the amount of work it takes to manage a user versus a business user brand. And so, you know, I think that all those points you made are really valuable. And I think you kind of jumped on this a little bit already, as well. But you said that social media often gets looped into one part of someone’s role, right, like, maybe it’s an eighth or a fourth of someone’s role. You know, in this kind of ties back to our first part of the conversation, where there’s a misunderstanding of the value out of social media, social media, and I think you did a good job of explaining the value add, but what do you see like, in higher ed, in terms of people who do manage social media? Like, is there just a unclear expectation of rural roles or unfair expectation of roles?

Nikki Sunstrum
For the most part, yes, and it’s not unique to social media. And I always acknowledge, personally, in my career journey, the immense privilege that I have had to have that seat at the table to have the ability to advocate for social media, and its its value to institutions and to society as a whole. But, you know, we lack an enormous amount of digital literacy from a daily societal perspective. And at Michigan, you know, I was able to allocate some of my research and now also serve as, as faculty there to, to talk about, you know, online accountability and responsibility, which I know is, is unique. And so for those that haven’t even gotten to that point in their career journey, when you work in social media, you know, it’s still not even completely understood, where socials should sit in an organizational structure. I talk to people every day, and sometimes it’s in marketing, and sometimes it’s in communications. And sometimes in higher ed, it’s like, within admissions or, you know, alumni, or it’s just sort of all over the place. And it can be everywhere and nowhere. And everyone is treating it a little differently. And it’s because as an industry, it’s really so new still, even even though it’s two decades old, at this point in time. And this is where really rooting it in traditional communications become so valuable, right? And this is something I’ve always told interns and staff and people that I work with, is that you know, you can’t build a portfolio that hinges strictly on social media, because it is still so vastly misunderstood, and what it can do and what it can’t do. And so what you need to do instead is focus on the campaigns that you’re building, the communication strategies, you’re creating the graphic design that you’re doing, the video concepting and production that you’re doing. And, you know, those things that make sense still to people, because they’ve been industries for many, many years. And therein lies the other issue with working in social that causes not just in higher ed, but across the industry. So much strife and burnout is that even if you do acquire a full time social media role, you’re being asked to do the job of, of anywhere, I think, statistically, I’ve seen like, five to 12 different industries, where, you know, I cannot undervalue enough, the fact that in any given day, we’re pivoting from writing really specific, inclusive strategic captions that are short, witty, and engaging, and you know, meet a certain character length also are copy edited, and then creating an animation or illustration, to go with those, maybe it’s a graphic, maybe you’re capturing a vertical video style of that, too, you’re turning it around in a ridiculously quick timeframe, then you’re responsible for optimizing it, and analyzing it, reporting back out on it. And in other industries, those those are 17 different people that are responsible for that task and a team that’s coming together. And I’m looking at somebody that’s, you know, probably underpaid at a specialist level to do every single one of those jobs. And we have to continue to advocate and educate leadership and those around us from an industry perspective, about just what we are doing when we make social look so easy. If we’re ever going to change the way in which we’re perceived, treated and rewarded for the valuable, incredibly valuable work that we’re doing on the front end, right. Social media is the front door to organizations, websites, people have to seek out, we are on platforms where people are already following us. They want to be involved, I dream of going to this institution, I love this brand. And we have that connection and those keys, we have keys to a branded kingdom. And that’s really not our responsibility. You want to give an intern?

Shiro Hatori
Absolutely. I love everything you just said, I think it ties back to the theme of this podcast as a whole where I cover topics around creating and capturing demand. And websites, I consider more of a capture demand engine, right, you’re capturing whatever demand is already out there. And maybe you can create a better fishing net of a website. If you have better SEO right. And so those things help. But there’s already a limited amount of demand out there. And so to create that extra demand, like you just mentioned, social has the ability along with maybe patent paid advertisement, to go beyond that and make more than what’s already out there. Right. And so whether that’s creating awareness for your institution’s brand, or creating awareness, specifically for you, for programs that your institution offers for students, prospective students, there’s just that’s how you really expand on your current channels. Right. So

Nikki Sunstrum
thank you. Yeah, the the uniqueness of higher ed to go all the way back to the beginning of our conversation and what I’ve loved about this industry, so much particular public institutions, right, you think about the limited amount of people that have the privilege to attend a premier institution, right. But as a publicly funded institution, or an institution that receives public funding, you have a duty and a mission, to share the expertise that you are comprised of. With everyone, right? We all want to increase accessibility. We all want to create a more equitable, accessible educational environment. And social media allows you to do that. I think I think back to a story from one of my might have been my first year at Michigan, in one of our schools and colleges, actually, our law school was posting a guest speaker and the guest speaker just so happened to be you know, former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and you know, this was around the time that RBG was, you know, first becoming a really big sort of internet sensation and everyone was Looking to her just not only for her opinions that she was making with the court or the the opinions that she was writing, but her story of accomplishment and experience is just profound. And I found out that the event was closed to law school students. And so, you know, that’s great. That’s how a lot of events are created, you know, therefore, you’re brought in by a certain person, they’re accessible to a certain community. Right? And so I asked, I asked the question, I said, Hey, you know, I’m kind of new here, maybe the social media director card, can I attend the event in live tweet? And again, this is like, 2014. Right? So live tweeting was a different ball of wax than still wildly popular people were doing weekly chats all the time and things. And they said, Yeah, sure. And that actually gave birth to what we call you, mish chat. And it went on for years at Michigan, where our content manager at the time, would attend various talks by prominent people that were being brought in to the university, and sharing the key points and dialogue and behind the scenes, with everyone within our online communities, and we just felt like that was such a pivotal part of our mission, and an opportunity that we could give to allow people who may never attend, you have them. They don’t even have to be a fan of the given institution that you work at. But you’re broadening horizons, and you’re leveraging the tools to increase our understanding, and share resources, right, it’s not at the end of the day, our prerogative to make people think one way or another, but we can provide them access to education, so that they can be more informed global citizens. And that is the mission of many institutions for their students. And I think truly, it should be for every one as a whole. And, you know, that’s, again, I’d say, if there’s a second thing that I really love about social that’s, that’s probably it.

Shiro Hatori
That’s an amazing story. Thank you, for sure. Do you do you see like live channels still at prevalent force in, in marketing strategy and communication strategy today? I know this from NASCAR. So

Nikki Sunstrum
yeah, like live channels, I think have really evolved, right, we’ve seen a lot of people, I feel like it slightly terrified. What could potentially go ride and alive what we actually used lines a as recently as 2020, at the University of Michigan, when I was there, because every one was sent home right associated with a pandemic. And that also meant that prospective students couldn’t do their summer sort of walk through visits. It also meant that orientations were not being conducted for students that were going to be coming to campus and were already committed. And when you think about out of state students, you know, that might have been their only opportunity to come and actually figure out where their room was going to be or learn about campus landmarks and events that were going to be happening. And so what we did with our content at the time, was created, weekly live Instagrams, where our student interns would take sort of turns hosting dialogs, answering questions, and even bringing in resources from campus and asking them questions and saying, like, Hey, what are five things that an incoming student should need to know? So there, there are still spaces in which live makes a lot of sense. But across the board for social media content at this point in time to really penetrate the the plethora of content that we consume on a daily basis. It might not need to be live, but it needs to be incredibly timely and relevant. And I think that’s where a lot of us focus our efforts. And then we use live kind of as a supplemental.

Shiro Hatori
I love that. Yeah, I personal observation near my podcast used to be like 10 episodes out, and I was posting two a week as much as I could just like a catch up so that it didn’t feel like the conversation we’re recording today is going to be posted, you know, six to eight weeks later. I feel like it just loses some of its steam. So in the context of social media, it has to be much faster, right? Yes. Love that. Yeah. No. And in I actually had a conversation that I posted yesterday on conversation with Andrew castle for a Middleburg. Yeah. And he’s a social media strategist. They’re super awesome guest and he, he and his team learned that you know, focusing on the students story, which is a learning now Um, out of the pandemic, he actually found that there’s actually continuing that strategy of telling students stories and focusing on the student journey. And that’s actually having compounding effects on other audiences, like prospective students, alums community as well, community building and parents as well, parents are actually checking in on their students because they won’t reply back to them. Like, oh, this is what your college or this is what your school your unit is up to. And so that was a funny observation or interesting observation that came out of that conversation as well. So yeah, it’s interesting to hear

Nikki Sunstrum
makes, you know, you’re it makes a ton of sense. Yeah. Andrew, and I’ve been connected, you know, the higher ed social world is kind of small, for for quite some time, and he does phenomenal work. But I’ve always been fascinated by generational studies, which I think is one of the reasons in which I’ve been able to help content creation stay sort of timely and relevant. We saw with Gen Z very early on this lack of trust in brands and businesses. And I think, an acknowledgement of that, we saw a lot of brands start to take positions on issues, right. And then you started to see the content shift, so that rather than a brand or visit, saying something, you would get these ambassadors, right. What many people didn’t know behind the scenes was that not all of it was user generated, some of it was but then influencer culture swooped in, and nobody just wanted to give out free UGC anymore, they all wanted to be you know, compensated. But we were able to, we were able to build narratives, were truly the analogy I use is like, you probably share, get your hair cut, potentially, like where your friend who had a good haircut told you that this, this Barber, this stylist is phenomenal. It likely doesn’t come from like a billboard that you saw on the highway or even a TV, commercial or social media advertisement, right? Like, we want that personal touch, we are the era of Yelp reviews, and Reddit threads, like we want to see a community that weighs in and justifies a decision that we will then feel good about. And that’s what student generated stories do. Right? You find someone that can say what you would say is as a business, to say it for you. And you empower them, to say it in ways that are authentic, which we know Gen Z and Gen a really love. We empower them to offer their own unique creativity, or depict a space in which perhaps is a marketing team or comms team, we don’t represent, right? To be really good in this space, especially in higher ed, where you’re surrounded by all these experts we’ve talked about. Now a couple of times, you have to acknowledge that you’re not an expert in everything. Even in social media, most days, it’s changing so frequently, that you have to continuously educate yourself. And you’ve got to bring more people in to say, What’s your perspective on this? What do you think this? How will this resonate with your target demographic? Are you a part of this community? You know, again, like I might not be, but I know, it’s important that we talk about it. So let’s talk to those that are and see if it makes sense. Or they want to help us shape that narrative, or they want to participate in that narrative? Or they want to tell us, yeah, this isn’t the space that you need to be in. And I’m sure just in saying that everyone can kind of think of one of those instances where a brand stepped into that space. And it didn’t go well. And so it goes right back to strategy, right? Like how, how are we thinking deeply and broadly about the needs of our consumers and industry, and not just the needs of our business and organization? Because that is not how social media works.

Shiro Hatori
I love that it as a manager, you know, managing team of content creators, does that mean, you know allowing a little more flexibility and autonomy for the team, but maybe just as a manager, just pinpointing, like, certain brand guidelines that you need to meet right or certain accessibility needs, but leave leaving some flexibility for the actual content itself? Is that helped kind of create that culture of creativity and ability to shift and try new things?

Nikki Sunstrum
Absolutely. I think, you know, one of the things that is so critically important when you look at an ad campaign, right? If you think of something like Nike, or Apple the way in which it’s constructed might be different but it probably has a similar look and feel. And that’s that’s applicable in a lot of different spaces, right? Apple video for many, many years. He’s always had like the stark white background and a talking head, right? Like you knew it was them, but they didn’t need to hit you over the face with it. And that’s what I’ve tried to imply as well within the higher ed space, like, how do you route it within your organization and your brand? How do you ensure that people walk away knowing it was Indiana University, or knowing it was the University of Michigan, but nobody had to overtly say it, so maybe it’s it’s a small Triton or logo, it’s a, you know, crossing of an iconic space. But the dialogue can be anything that you want it to be the execution can be creative, or immersive or emotional, but it’s all rooted foundationally in what you represent, as a brand business or organization. Like, that’s, that’s where things get really interesting and honestly, really difficult. Like that’s, that’s where you need a robust team, that’s where you need a really great strategy, or you sort of find yourself lost in the throes of trying to chase the trends that are within the social media space, rather than drive the objectives of of your brand itself.

Shiro Hatori
I love that. Yeah, everything ties back to strategy. And I think that’s, if I had to pull away one theme for this whole conversation, it’d be that. Switching gears slightly here. The one last topic, I did want to talk about, you know, kind of tying things back to the first part of the conversation, which is having a seat at the table, right? A lot of leadership and executives might ask, well, what’s the ROI, ROI, right? Return on Investment? And so what can you do to really start communicating that value and value out of social media, and I liked that one example you gave of tying social media, because it is a new channel, to more traditional lines of communication. One example is crisis communications or content creation from like a video perspective, or a story perspective, right. And I know another thing you’ve done this, at your time at University of Michigan, as well. But could you share something about how you communicate the value out there?

Nikki Sunstrum
Absolutely. I always feel like my expression here is that we tried to do it seven ways to Sunday, I should Google at some point and see what it actually truly means or where are derived from. You can download reports and numbers. And you know, social media data has always just been so arbitrary. Like, what do impressions really mean? What, what is your reach? And I’ve seen and I think this is true to many industries, a lot of manipulated data, a lot of people that will report three second views instead of what your YouTube channel actually accomplished. And it’s because of that digital literacy piece, right? It’s because you can throw large numbers out. But if you can’t back them up, and really convince people that you’re making that, that difference to drive the ball, the proverbial ball forward, you struggle in the end, and you have to know who it is you’re reporting out to you and what their foundational understanding is, and shape your reporting around that. So we would do monthly reports, weekly reports, visual graphics infographics, right, like what’s your year end look like? Previously at Michigan, we would do a year end summary wrap up video, you know, two minutes or less of punchy scenes and content we’ve created throughout the year that says, you know, 4600 pieces of content were authored. This is how many people were engaged with. During the pandemic, we tracked the over 900 pieces of content and messaging that we created and disseminated just around public health guidelines, including, you know, faculty interviews and interviews with medical experts. You have to categorize it, and package it right with your audience in mind the same way you create social media content. As part of my five year anniversary, in my previous role as director of social media and public engagement at U of M, we actually created a lookbook, if you will, in the way that when you’re a prospective student, you’re sent a mailer, or used to be right, a lot of it has gone digital now. And you’d be able to flip through the pages and experience what it was going to be like to be at a collegiate institution and learn about their programs. And so we did that, including with print copies for OUR YEAR IN SOCIAL review. We had pages that were laid out that looked like each of the social media platforms. We had examples of posts, right so many times when you talk to somebody that doesn’t At Work and Social daily, they don’t really necessarily, nor should they probably understand the volume of just app mentions or concerns or direct messages. Things that you’re tagging might not actually be you, or everything behind the scenes that goes into creating what it is that you publish, and then track. And so we went through this process and made these print materials, and then actually ended up creating a digital online lookbook that many other higher education, institutional peers, modeled and adopted. And, you know, I think that one we saw profound success. But even coming into the Indiana University environment, one of the things that I’ve been encouraging them to start to do, too, is not just report on the numbers, but talk about the reasons why you’re creating the content, right? And it should be associated with, here’s, here’s why, because we just launched a 2030 strategic plan to carry the institution forward. And it is rooted in three pillars of success, that are transformative research, student success and state impact. And so if you’re going to do social media, well, let’s talk about how on a daily basis, we’re talking about transformative research. On a daily basis, we’re showcasing students success. And on a daily basis, we are demonstrating and visualizing the partnerships that we have throughout the state of Indiana, to really not only educate in state students, but help attract out of state students to come here and stay and work and help our economy thrive. And that’s a different sort of thing than just putting out a report out of you know, sprout or meltwater, or wherever else and saying, Hey, look at how many impressions we got this month.

Shiro Hatori
I love that it you know, as a marketer, myself, like part of our job AST is to report and it’s probably one of the hardest parts of the jobs because, like you said, you know, a lot of it is anecdotal or hard to understand, right? There’s numbers coming in from so many different places. And it’s a difficult job. But I think, you know, we still have to continue at it. And I love this lookbook or yearbook example you have from University of Michigan, I’ll actually share this out to the audience in the podcast footnotes, as well as the web page will create for this episode. So for those of you who have not yet got a chance to look at it, you’ll have an example of how you can maybe do a look back and report all the successes and all the hard work that your team has done in communications and marketing over the last year. So I’ll make sure to add that in. Thanks so much for sharing that with me too. By the way, the key I actually mentioned it to my manager and say, Hey, this is like a cool way to portray our data over Europe. And that’s great to hear about that. I’m wondering where our audience could connect with you, I know you have a lot of speaking engagements outside of just Indiana University, and there’s a lot going on in the world. So wondering if you have a good place for people to connect with you.

Nikki Sunstrum
Sure. Yeah, I was I was one of those real early advocates of personal branding. So just about anywhere, you can find me at Nikki Sutton or Nikki Sundstrom. But certainly also have a website, Nikki sundstrom.com, that provides both past and present resources, links to videos and narrative that I built, even tools and resources, the medic calendars, and some of that branding, sort of best practices and guidelines, video examples, reports in you know, utilize that to do some, some consulting, so always happy to help or speak or present. It’s one of the things that I think is so important, when you’re embedded in this space, as I mentioned, is to advocate for that value, as well as create that value. And so I really take that role very responsibly. Most recently, after I took my role at Indiana, I attended and was moderating, serving as host or co host at a Reagan conference. And when I announced my departure, and my new position, title, the whole the whole room erupted in applause. And I think it’s because for many of them within the social media space, we’ve been on this journey for so long together, and frequently feel maybe stuck in trying to go from a content manager to a Director of Social, you know, let alone move into a space where, you know, for a while people are like, there’s going to be Chief Social Media officers or, you know, how do I get from being a social media person to a comms exec or marketing exec and I was able to To demonstrate a path. And that is something I want to continue to do for everyone across our industry is to give back in ways that I can to mentor or help them further succeed. Because the talent that we have, when you think back to my response about how many different jobs and social media person does, they have a lot, they have a lot to offer. And it’s time that as businesses and organizations, we recognize that value, and we report our reward and retain our employees in ways that will help continue for all of us to be successful personally, and professionally.

Shiro Hatori
That was amazing. I wish I’m gonna take that whole clip, your exit paragraph there it because that was profound. And I think a lot of our audience will resonate with that as well. Thank you so much for joining us today. Nicky was Thank you conversation. And thanks for a lot of fun.

Nikki Sunstrum
I appreciate it.

Shiro Hatori
Yeah, it’s so much fun. It’s honestly my favorite part of my job as a marketer. So, love it. Great. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for audience for tuning in. And we’ll catch you on the next episode.

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We want Rice to be a welcoming destination for art, music, lectures, food, athletic events, lectures – a great place to visit just to enjoy the beauty of our campus. [The Concept3D] mapping system will help people find those amenities and explore those opportunities.

Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public Affairs, Rice University

The new virtual campus map is particularly helpful to showcase our campus to prospective students and families who are not quite ready or able to physically visit campus. International students are a great example of a group who typically do not visit our campus before enrolling, but really value getting a birds-eye view of the place they’re considering calling home.

Admissions Director at Boise State
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The CMS makes integrating our data feeds a simple, easy process. We can update our content feed once and it updates within the CMS and our map simultaneously.
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The biggest challenge for [Claremont Graduate University] was lack of a centralized map system entirely. Roughly 30 different maps existed on our website pre-[Concept3D], created by various departments to meet their own needs.

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Concept3D’s photospheres really allow us to show rather than tell what separates our studios from others.
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